Many of us are currently looking at the calendar wishing it would just slow down. Summer flies by and soon we will all be back in our classrooms ambushed with lesson plans, grading papers, and tracking students‘ progress. Here are 10 tips that I believe help keep the stress down throughout the school year:
Most outside of the education field envision a teacher’s summer as relaxing poolside, sipping a cold beverage, and smiling gleefully at everyone else slaving away at their 9-to–5 jobs. However, we all know this is less than true. While we do take time to relax and refresh, summer is a great time for us to pre-plan for the upcoming year. Those lessons that did not quite work last year can be tweaked; new books can be found at thrift stores; and let us not forget countless hours of personal and professional development. It all comes down to not overdoing it, but rather finding those natural times where you can fit it in and not feel like you are still working.
Once that school bell rings, life gets crazy. I use a calendar to schedule my day in my Outlook calendar. By doing this, reminders will pop up to keep me on task. One caution – allow yourself to be flexible. We all know that in this type of environment things do not always go as planned and we need to be willing to change things around at the last minute.
To Do Lists
This is one of my main secrets to keeping my sanity during the school year. Every evening before I close the “door” to my office, I start writing down what I need to do the next day. I prefer to use paper and pencil for my to-do list, but for those that love technology, Outlook has a built–in Task List feature. Remember that not everything you put on your to–do list will get done in a day, so try to keep it as short as you can. What is leftover starts my next day’s list. In the end, my productivity goes up and I become laser–focused on what I need to accomplish throughout the day.
Anyone who is in the education field, especially teachers, knows how easy it is to just keep working. This is especially true in the virtual world because we live where we work. It is so easy to forget that there is a life outside of our “office.” On my schedule, I mark out two days a week that I allow myself to work past my normal school hours. If you are sitting in your office thinking about working longer, ask yourself if this task MUST be done before the next day, or if you just WANT it to be done before the next day. You will save yourself a lot of stress if you finish your MUST list and close that office door for the day.
Just Say No!
Throughout the day, we are bombarded with requests from all sides. Sometimes there is no way to say “no” because it has to be done. There are times, however, when you can and should say no. Overextending yourself does not help anyone, especially you.
Get Your Heart Pumping
I am not a fitness junkie, but I have found that over the years, when I work out, I feel so much better and ready to take on the world. Studies have shown that working out for 20-30 minutes boosts your endorphins and allows you to react to stress differently. I know for many of us, a quick exercise is welcomed after an hour-long class connect.
Find a Hobby
I can hear you laughing at me right now… “Wait, she expects us to have TIME for a hobby?!?!” Find something you enjoy and then find some “you” time, even if it’s only once a month. Hobbies don’t have to be involved – you can find many quick and simple things to do, or just read – who doesn’t want more time to actually sit down and read a book!
Selfish Family Time
Let’s face it, when school starts up at the beginning of the year, family time slowly starts taking a back seat. My son and I came up with a great solution. Once a week (usually Friday evenings), we have family movie night. We will either make dinner or order pizza and then sit down to a movie or game.Put all your electronics away. If you have your email on your cell phone, put it on do not disturb or turn it off (WHAT?)! Be selfish with this time. Your kids are only young for so long and then they are off in the world, and your spouse needs to know that you remember you are actually married to him or her! Make time for the people that are important to you!
Just like getting your heart pumping, eating healthy doesn’t mean revamping your entire diet (unless all you eat is doughnuts, cookies, and soda); I mean be aware of what and when you eat. If you are like me, you forget to take time for lunch and then you end up snacking all day long. Pack your house with healthy snacks – nuts, raisins, Greek yogurt, fruit and veggies, etc. – but also allow yourself to have a treat. Don’t forget to up your daily water intake. Investing in your diet is a huge step to keeping the stress down in your life.
Just Keep Breathing
My final piece of advice is to just keep breathing. Life gets crazy during the school year, but we will make it through. Summer will come again and we will get to take a step back and refresh. Don’t give up! To all of our first–year virtual teachers, you have a huge team of support that is there to help you; all you need to do is reach out. We all know how you feel, so do not think that you are the only one that feels as if you are barely treading water. Sometimes you need to take a step back from the computer, take a deep breath and remember… YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
I hope this has been helpful to you! Enjoy the rest of your summer and see you all on that first day!
Melissa Rathbone teaches high school history at Insight School of Oklahoma (ISOK)