How I plan on staying sane this school year


Tomorrow is the first day of school.  I have spent a lot of time over the last three weeks working on my classroom (we didn’t have to go in until two Fridays ago for training).  The room hadn’t been cleaned out in 6 years, so it was long overdue.  This has put me behind on other things, but a lot of work now means a smoother year in the long run!

Like most teachers the first 1-2 weeks of school, my stress level is high.  I’m going in for no more than 3 hours today, then just resting.  Day 1 plans are done and I’ll finish the rest tomorrow during planning.  Week 1 is a introduction week and we’ll start getting into material later this week, but mostly it’ll be assessment based.  Week 2 will be the official jump in week.

I have one planning period a day (45 minutes) with two extra 45 minute periods on Tuesday and Wednesday.  This is amazing!!!  I plan on getting into school an hour or so before students arrive (plus eat breakfast and fuel myself with coffee) to make things smoother.  Which leads me to the title of this post–how I plan on staying sane this school year.


  1. Remember what matters most and don’t sacrifice it

A job isn’t always going to be there.  Cutbacks happen, things change at work, anything could happen.  You know what will be there if you wind up losing your job?  Family.  Friends.  God.  Is that lesson plan really more important than spending time with those who matter most to you or focusing on your health and spirituality?  Nope.



2. Planning ahead

This is true in the classroom as well as in your personal life.  You should have back-up plans in your classroom because things happen and yes, you will need them.  Spending 5-10 minutes planning out your week and 5 minutes adjusting it each day will make your day run smoother and prevent tension headaches later!

In terms of personal life, plan ahead as much as you can be it making doctor appointments ahead of time, making freezer meals or packing your lunch the night before.  Little things can save you a lot of stress later.


3. Know yourself

Are you someone who gets stressed easily?  Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  What helps you relax?  This isn’t something you learn overnight, but comes with age and maturity.  When you know YOUR limits and when to stop, you are well on your way to a successful school year.

Example:  I’m an introvert so I need down time.  I go into work early and make sure I have time in the evenings or a full free day during the weekend to be ‘people free’ or ‘people light’ (I’m a social introvert).


4)  Use reinforcers and don’t forget yourself!

Microsoft may not think ‘Reinforcer’ is a word, but if you’re a Special Education Teacher, it should be a word you use daily in the classroom…and outside the classroom.  We give students reinforcers for doing well and you should do the same with yourself!  It requires some self-monitoring (and maybe taking data on yourself!) but you should use it too.

Don’t focus on just food items or drinking (for those who do), but focus on things that you like.    For me it could be a number of things from it’s spending time with the people I care about, having alone time, playing video games or window shopping (to name a few).

Remember your health-mind, body and spirit are important and shouldn’t be forgotten!  An unwell teacher isn’t a good teacher!


5) Remember, it’s ok to feel like you failed

Maybe that wasn’t such a good lesson.  Maybe your classroom management isn’t as good as you wish it was.  That’s ok.  Teaching is a dual learning experience and you will make mistakes.  Even veteran teachers make them.  If you’re a relatively new teacher, don’t be afraid to utilize your mentor teacher too!


6) Have fun

What should be the most reinforcing thing in the classroom?  YOU!!  Your students should want to be in the classroom because YOU are teaching them things and making it fun.  I have an unquenchable desire to learn myself and I want my students to share in that.  Sure, school isn’t going to be the most enjoyable thing for everyone, but there is something every child can enjoy and love about school.  If you have fun with it, your students will see that and remember the most contagious thing (aside from yawning!) is a smile.


I have a very good feeling about this year!  I just need to get over the beginning of the year hump, the one that all teachers dread.  I have my ducks in a row in terms of the hours I’ll be working, a strong support system and a ton of materials and ideas.  Let’s get started!


You Look like a Gamer


For as long as I can remember, my hobbies and interests have navigated towards what society would say are ‘nerdy’ or ‘geeky’.  Of course, being interested in hobbies that are ‘nerdy’ or ‘geeky’ has become the ‘in’ thing.  Everywhere you look someone is sporting a marvel shirt or talking about a popular video game.  The culture is viewed differently by those who 10-20 years ago would have judged its participants negatively.  How the tides have turned.

Two weeks ago a new Teaching Assistant at my school approached me and asked me if I was a gamer.  Which led into a conversation about Pokemon Go.  I’ve avidly been playing the Pokemon games since 1999.  It ended up being a conversation about what Pokemon Go was.  I dare say, a coworker and I went on a few excursions after the students left to track down nearby Pokemon.

Where am I going with this?  Simple.  My previous entries have revolved around thoughts and reflections.  Talking about my hobbies is a topic I haven’t hinted at (though my “About Me” page discusses it).  My interest in Marvel/comics, video games, board games, card games (looking at you Magic the Gathering), Doctor Who and others give me joy.  My ‘geeky’ hobbies give me joy, but they don’t define my life, that’s left up to friends, family, helping others etc.

….I mean my living room is decked out in movie posters, geeky decor and a shelf of video games.

IMG_0287 (see?)

Reflecting back on my coworkers comment, I’ve had others who meet me and claim they get the same vibe.  At my school, multiple coworkers shared the same interest and it made me feel at home.  How many times did I use my classroom smart board to watch new movie trailers?  How many times did I have to force myself away from a conversation about video games?

When I lived in Charlottesville, the opposite was true.  Charlottesville has a different culture than Northern Virginia, if that makes sense.  I could dedicate a book comparing the two!  In Charlottesville I never found my niche.  I still talk to my best friend in Charlottesville and her husband several times a week and a few other friends on occasion.  Perhaps the reason I never found my niche (aside from being far from close friends and family!) was that I never found a group to fit into….only 5-6 people shared my interests.

In Northern Virginia, its different, not just in my workplace, but several college friends live here.  In college, we had multiple game nights a week and that’s still true.  Listening to Zelda music while we game?  Check.  Making references to shows that most people wouldn’t get?  Check.  Outside of work and friends, there are more places to enjoy things like board games, comics, video games etc. than Charlottesville could ever offer.

megabytes (there is a video game themed restaurant after all!)

…I’m not even going to talk about my hometown which is cow central.  My friends and I were the geeky kids who hung out in the corner talking about Zelda and Pokemon.

While my geeky hobbies are important to be, they don’t define me.  I have plenty of outside interests, but I wouldn’t trade my nights of playing Magic the Gathering, going to a midnight showing for a Marvel movie, playing board games until the dead of night OR my memories of meeting celebrities who played my favorite characters for anything.  They’ve grown with me and without my love of ‘geeky’ things, I wouldn’t have met or befriended the people important to me (outside family).

Thanks geeky life for making my life great.  I wouldn’t trade my interests for most things and not for the memories and joy it has brought me.




Regret in a Photo

There was a safeway in my hometown (the only grocery store other than food lion) and since it was cheaper, that’s where we shopped mostly.  A classmates mom worked there and I was 7.  She made a comment about how she didn’t know what to get her son and I made a snide comment about him being a bully.  All I remember after my words was that my mom scolded me.

I remember regretting it from the comment I said it. It was the second moment that I can distinctly remember feeling regret.  The other time was when I ran to pet a job with my grandfather watching and he AND the owner of the dog scolded me.  As an adult, I give both the ‘things you do and say without thinking’ card, granting myself forgiveness.


Mistakes are different than regrets.  Mistakes are the things we did not knowing better, but learn from.  Regrets are the things we didn’t do and wish we had or did knowing it was a mistake.

Regret is a strange thing.  It changes and evolves as you get older.  When you’re younger, you are more likely to do or say things that you wish you could take back. As an adult, I think of the things I didn’t do as my regrets.  Sure, there are still things I regret saying or doing, but they’re few and far between. Most mistakes we make are part of the learning experience or prove that we’re human.

Earlier today, I saw a picture that reminded me of something I still cringe at.  In my early 20s, I was not as articulate as I am now and public speaking was a weakness (now, not so much!)  I was the maid of honor in my best friends wedding and wrote a speech which wasn’t bad…but after hearing the best man speak, I realized errors I’d made in my own writing and I completely flubbed up my speech.

Now that I think about it, I did sit in the wrong spot at another friends wedding (and the rest of the wedding party followed suit).  For the record, the other two weddings I was in I didn’t goof up!


There are things that I regret not doing that continue to haunt me.  Going back in time to change things is impossible–but that doesn’t mean one can’t learn from it.  Maybe parallel universe theory is true and there’s a pocket universe version in which you made a different choice.  Though, believing that could be a skewed coping mechanism.

I’ve always been a strong believer in what is meant to be will be, but lately I’ve been questioning it.  Do people have free choice or is everything we do already determined?

At the end of the day, even the best of people make mistakes and have regrets. How to internalize them is what counts.