Stressed about going back to school?
Simple teacher wellbeing tips for a smooth start to the year.
Back to reality!
If you are feeling apprehensive about going back to school after the summer break, you are not alone. Many teachers find it daunting returning to school after a break to face the whirlwind demands of planning, managing, teaching, marking and reporting.
And you know that once you are into the swing of the term it can feel like you never had a holiday at all!
Take some time to consider how you really feel about school and whether your fears are just nervous excitement or if they are something more sinister. It is natural to feel disappointed that the holidays are ending, but if you hate your job and are becoming anxious about returning to work, you may have a more serious issue.
Here are some things you can do to prepare yourself for the onslaught of the school year and return to school feeling confident and relaxed:
1. POSITIVE MINDSET: Give yourself some time to think about what you enjoy in your job and what gives you pleasure. Incorporating daily gratitude practices can give you a sense of optimism so that you don’t just see the end of the holidays, but the start of a new year.
2. FRESH START: There are not many jobs where a new year means a whole new beginning! Teaching gives you a whole new set of experiences with different students and parents to get to know and work with. Thinking of the beginning of the year as a fresh start and new experiences makes it seem like a great adventure!
3. TEACH WHAT YOU PREACH: Think about using some mindfulness practices with your students that will also help you. The Smiling Mind has great exercises for all ages that can be easily incorporated into the classroom. Journaling is another way to help you connect with the present, achieve goals and improve communication skills. Continuing the practice by introducing it with your students will benefit you and them.
4. ADJUST YOUR BODY CLOCK: If you have spent the holidays sleeping in and binge watching ‘The Walking Dead’ or ‘Game of Thrones’ till 3 am, it’s a good idea to start going to bed and getting up earlier for a week or so, so that it’s not such a shock when you go back to school. It might seem like you are making the holidays last longer if you keep doing the same thing, but your body will thank you and you will feel less tired and so less stressed the first week back if you reset your body clock.
5. SOUND SLEEP: Speaking of going to bed, if you are having trouble sleeping, try practising some mindfulness techniques or relaxation exercises at bedtime. There are some great free apps that can adjust poor sleep habits. One that I have had life changing results with is Sleep Well which incorporates hypnosis and relaxation.
6. WHAT WORKED: Think about what was successful with your students last year and how that can work for you this year. You may have come up with an awesome way to do novel study or an inspiring method for learning times tables, so let’s do it again!
7. WHAT DIDN’T WORK: What would you like to improve? Have you read any interesting blogs with ideas that you want to try, or listened to a podcast that made you think about doing things differently this year? Do your classroom routines and procedures need an overhaul?
8. BRING THE HOLIDAYS BACK TO SCHOOL: Think of ways to keep that holiday feeling alive by incorporating some of the holiday activities to your school day. During the holidays, most people spend more time outdoors so go for a walk with your students or use playground duty to enjoy the sunshine and greenery. Bring some fun into your classroom by using some of yours and your students’ favourite music.
9. BUY NEW STATIONERY: Some teachers love stationery! While others may not understand your obsession with writing materials, you know that stocking up on colourful pens, luxurious paper and a spanking new diary makes you drool. Give yourself a gift!
10. GET IN EARLY: Going in to school the week before school starts and getting organised can help you feel calm and productive. And it is much easier to get work done when the students aren’t there! Move the desks, get displays ready, get books organised and look at your class lists. You will feel much more prepared than if you turn up the day before school starts.
11. CATCH UP WITH COLLEAGUES: If you have good working relationships with your colleagues, get together for lunch and some planning. Brainstorming ideas and getting your creative juices flowing can inspire you for the start of the year as well as reducing your workload.
12. MANAGE YOUR WORK LOAD: Decide in advance that you will leave work early one day a week and commit to it. You don’t have to stay late every day and you do have control over your work hours (though you may not always feel that way!)
13. PREPARE FOR BEHAVIOUR: One of the major causes of stress for teachers is student behaviour. If you are concerned because you know that you are going to be teaching a student or students with difficult behaviours, do some research to increase your toolbox of behaviour strategies. Talk to colleagues, surf the net and look for courses that might help.
14. TREAT YOURSELF: Give yourself a relaxing treat before school goes back in the form of a massage or spa treatment. If your budget doesn’t allow, have a do-it-yourself treatment at home. Put on some peaceful music and pamper yourself with some lovely body products.
Teaching is a very autonomous profession that gives you lots of scope for creativity, that is, finding new ways to do things. So tap into your inner artist as you head back to school and discover ways to reduce stress and improve your wellbeing for the new year!