By Katie Hernandez
The dreaded (and anticipated) email arrived in my school account last week. It was the one that informed us that the floor waxing was complete and that teachers were now able to go back to their rooms. This is the point in the summer that I begin to acknowledge the school supply stands popping up in Walmart and when I have to start thinking about classroom set-up, bulletin board designs and lesson planning. I’ll be waiting and waiting for class lists so I can make color-coded name tags and labels for everything in my classroom.
This is our new start, a new year to try out a fresh type of behavior chart, a different color scheme, and don’t get me started on the new teacher planner! With all the excitement, anxiety can creep into my nightly thoughts, even stealing the joy out of the last weeks of summer. An ambivalence emerges as I realize that my classroom is still in boxes, and yet I still want to pretend school won’t be starting anytime soon.
By taking a few simple steps, I have found that my back-to-school stress starts to dissipate. Doing these things require a conscious choice, but I can tell you from experience, the benefits gained greatly outweighs the energy spent!
1. Start with a blank calendar.
Write all your required professional development days, meetings, days off, half days, etc. This will help you to not only see how much time you have left (no more denying the summer is at an end), but it will help to ensure that you show up to your meetings. The beginning of the year can be chaotic and confusing. Don’t let it be
2. To-Do Lists.
Now that you have figured out how many days you have left before a single child enters your classroom, start making goals (even small ones) for each day. Don’t feel like you have to go back to your classroom and work for 6 hours straight! Do a bulletin board one day, arrange the desks another!
3. Don’t feel like your room has to be 100% when the kids arrive.
I never realized this until last year and it saved my sanity! The kids are excited to get back to school and see you! Yes, everyone loves a nice, organized room, but it is equally important to prioritize and not let this need for perfection ruin the last few weeks of summer.
4. Try an app like ClassTag and download it now before school begins.
This gives you time to play around with the features and to be ready for the beginning of the year contact. The best part about ClassTag is the simplicity of the program as well as the broad spectrum of parent communication it covers. You can email or text the entire class, email or text individual families, set up events (like back to school, meet the teacher, etc), ask for volunteers or supplies, share pictures of student progress, and much more, all in the language that the families are most comfortable communicating in!
1. You are worth the time.
Yes, we all want our rooms to be perfect, but like I said before, your sanity is important too. Don’t feel guilty if you choose to spend the day with your family instead of going in and working on your classroom (before the required days of course).
2. Figure out what self-care is for you.
Someone once told me that self-care is when you choose to do something that you know you will enjoy, just for the purpose of enjoying it. This could be meditating, taking a walk, coloring a picture, playing with your kids, driving around, shopping for new school clothes, watching 12 episodes of Golden Girls, or cooking out with your best friends. Anything that you do intentionally to refresh yourself.
Practice self-care as often as you need it. There is no right or wrong on how much self-care is too much. If you’re feeling that slow creep of anxiety (and possibly panic) sneaking in, it is time for some self-care!
Finding the Support You Need
1. Find support at school.
I have found that when I am working in my room, the janitors can be very helpful when unloading my car, hanging items from the ceiling (where a ladder is required) or moving heavy furniture around. Obviously this differs from school-to-school, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Trading other teachers’ time is also very helpful if you need help hanging décor items. I’ve worked in another teacher’s room for an hour and then she came and worked in mine. We got so much work done and I wasn’t bored while doing it! Be creative with who you ask for help.
2. Find support from your students.
I am starting a new tradition this year where a few members of our student council are coming one day for a few hours to help me in my classroom. They get the volunteer hours and I get a bunch of helpers! This would also be beneficial to high school students who need community service hours or even your school scouts’ troops.
3. Find support from your community.
Support can come in many ways. At the beginning of the school year, community groups, like firehouses or non-profits, pass out school supplies by the backpack full! Take advantage of this and get supplies for the school year. We all know there will be a few students who cannot afford their supplies. By taking advantage of supplies give-a-ways, you can help support your students as well as saving money out of your pocket for supplies.
4. Find support at the ClassTag Marketplace.
ClassTag will be launching their new Marketplace on August 3rd, just in time to support teachers setting up for a new year. Once you make an account and begin using the ClassTag features, you earn points for every interaction! This can be communicating with parents, creating announcements, submitting a volunteer or supplies request, or any of the amazing things that ClassTag offers. Once a month, these points turn into coins that you can trade for things like Amazon gift cards, Lands’ End, Renzo Vitamins, ABC Mouse, Kiti Co STEAM kits, Speakaboos, Kids Academy, Adventure to Fitness, Miss Humblebee’s Academy, StoryBoardThat, Better World Education, ThinkCERCA, InsertLearning, among others! Basically you earn points/coins for things that you are already doing!
With the beginning of the year, we can all start to anticipate the mountains of paperwork, endless meetings, and stress galore. I want to challenge you to be proactive and take steps to organize yourself, work in self-care practices, as well as finding support wherever and however you can. By doing this, you can start your school year with confidence, knowing that you are taking care of yourself, the people you care about, and your students!