Updated: Jun 19
I’ve seen lots of tweets this last week about back to school anxiety and I just wanted to say that new school year nerves are completely normal. Hence why my A-Z on the back to school realities started with it.
There are very few teachers I’ve met both since I’ve been teaching and whilst growing up around my Mum’s primary school that didn’t get the back to school jitters. You’ve had several weeks off to enjoy yourself; to use to toilet when you wish, to eat when you’re hungry, to relax and recoup from the previous year, it’s no wonder you’re feeling a little anxious.
I get it EVERY year! The nightmares, night sweats and moments of sheer panic in the remaining days of the school holidays. However there are also moments of inspiration and excitement for the year ahead. Why? Because…
Teaching is Awesome
Teaching, whilst fulfilling is a tiring job. You are performing every time you teach to an audience that can sometimes be unpredictable. What will you have to juggle whilst trying to teach them x, y and z? Who’s going to burst into tears? Who can’t sit next to who because they’ve just had a falling out? Why aren’t they getting it? Who needs a helping hand and who has whizzed ahead of the rest of the class? As a result by the end of the school day you are pretty tired and some of you will have further work to do before you can relax.
Don’t panic about your to-do list!
Your to-do list may go from a few points to multiple pages in seconds of being back in the school grounds…. but you will manage it! Start by breaking down the tasks into compulsory-must do and desirable but not necessary. So often we strive for the perfect classroom, resource, activity etc. and in doing so we make more work for ourselves. So I’ve started thinking along the lines of is it required or just desirable by me?
Then apply my to-do list tasks to the Eisenhower Matrix
I use this as a mental guide to organising my to-do list and I find it really helps. Often many of the tasks on my list are those I want to do rather than need to and so get deleted.
Do you need to do it?
Do your displays really need changing or could they just do with a bit of tidying up? Do you really need to spend ages looking for the perfect font or could you just use one single font for everything? Do you need to create a whizzy powerpoint or could a slide with just the instructions on do? Do you need to differentiate that task multiple times or could you scaffold it instead? Do you need to use a wide variety of activities or could you develop a bank of templates that you frequently use? This year, aim for less is more in your teaching practice, I highly recommend it.
Avoiding Back to School Burnout
If you’re concerned about the approaching workload, here are some tips for avoiding back to school burnout over on BBC Teach –https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/teacher-support/top-5-tips-for-avoiding-after-school-burnout/zkdsxyc
Still worried? Support is available
If you are feeling extremely anxious and worried about the school year ahead consider making use of the services provided by the Education Support Partnership, the only UK charity dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the entire education workforce. The helpline (08000 562 561) is open 24/7 and from my experience I can tell you they are helpful, reassuring and encouraging. Speaking to them back in Spring 2016, helped me to find the confidence to take time off, to apply for a job at a different school and to open up to my family about my mental health. In doing so, it kept me in teaching!
It’s perfectly natural to feel anxious about something you care about, but even after a negative experience there breakthroughs to be had. Here’s an insight to 5 of mine https://www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk/blogs/5-breakthroughs-made-me-better-teacher
Remember why you teach
So when the workload starts to increase, whether it’s meetings, marking, planning, data or whatever else try to remember why you wanted to become a teacher.
To help you why not try one or two of these ideas from an extract of ‘Making it as a Teacher’
Remembering the why
Draw up a list of all the things you love about teaching for regular review and reflection
Write your ‘why’ on a postcard and keep it on your desk or wall as a reminder
Note down and keep messages of gratitude from students
Keep a positivity box or journal and record happy moments from your classroom and school day
Create a positive mantra for yourself, for those days when you feel you just can’t do it anymore
Strive to thrive, not just survive!
For more advice and ideas to inspire and empower you through the next academic, you might like to grab a copy of ‘Making it as a Teacher’. Although aimed at early career teachers there is plenty in there for the more experienced too.
Don’t forget to reach out if you need to! Whether it be your colleagues, friends or family or maybe those you find online. Don’t bottle up your anxieties and worries, talk about them, get them off your chest and work on them. Speaking from experience, hiding them away only leads to problems down the line.
Best wishes for the new academic year, make sure you enjoy it!
p.s. This isn’t a sponsored post, I’m just a really proud ambassador for Ed Support and teacher mental health and wellbeing.