How I plan on staying sane this school year

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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.

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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!

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5 Important Life Lessons I’ve learned as a Teacher

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Last May, I stepped into a Special Education classroom as a first year teacher.  As an undergraduate, I’d had very successful placements and worked part-time as a substitute teacher starting my junior year of college.  However, after a rather traumatic student teaching experience, I decided that a general classroom wasn’t for me.

Then, I started subbing in a Special Education classroom the year after I graduated college. I was in that awkward post college transition year and being in that classroom was one of the best things that could’ve happened to me.  Flash forward 3 years and I became a Special Education Teacher.

The opportunity presented itself and I rose against self doubt which had been placed in me during student teaching and subbing.  My first year hasn’t been easy, but its been a transformational year and one that has brought me opportunities to change lives.  To me, that makes all the hard days worth it.

As I reflect on my first year (as summer moves along towards an upcoming year), 5 big lessons come to mind.

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Lesson #1: Your life is more important than a job.  It will not always be there nor give you a hug when you need it.

Often I was told, after deciding to become a teacher, it would be a lot of work.  I was used to working, but I also knew the importance of a healthy life/work balance.  Student Teaching had stripped my life away and I vowed to never do it again.  Granted, some of the last year has been crazy and required weekends, but if I have to choose a day with family or finishing a lesson plan, the lesson plan can wait (isn’t that what sub plans are for??)

 

Lesson #2: Haters gonna hate

Most people can think of someone at work who seems to thrive on negativity or belittling other people.  I’m sorry to say, my school has more than a few individuals like that.  Truthfully, you have to look at the people doing it as people and remember it’s a reflection of them, not you.  As terrible as it seemed at the time, they really toughened me up and helped me to stand up for myself a little more.  So thanks haters for making me a better person!

 

Lesson #3:  Stepping outside your comfort zone

I talk to my students parents on a daily to weekly basis.  When I first had to start, it was hard partly because I’m introverted and suck at phone calls.  The other part, it was new and I wanted to do my best (hello anxiety).  Now, I can call a parent without feeling anxious, conduct big scale meetings and my articulation (which is quite good) has gotten even better.

This is just one example.  There are many ways you step outside of your comfort zone and grow as a teacher.  Regardless of whether you have a good or bad experience as a teacher, you will walk away a better person.

 

Lesson #4:  You will dramatically change someones life for the better

This year I had a student who we’ll call Axel.  I work in a private school that is an alternative/private school.  He was ready to go back, but some people fought me on it.  I didn’t back down and said he was ready.  Guess what, I was right!  He’s grown so much more than I could do given my resources and I often think of him.  I’m glad I became a teacher if only to see him succeed and go further than what others thought he could.  Of course, the same could be said for many of my students.  I love them all.

 

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I could add hundreds of lessons I’ve learned as a teacher, but those four stand out because they’re the lessons I didn’t expect to learn.  While I don’t plan on being a teacher long-term, the experiences I’ve had and students I’ve had will last me a lifetime.  Good or bad, I don’t regret a second of it.

 

Weekend Thoughts on lost skills

 

As early as Middle School, the push to determine what you want to do when you grow up becomes stronger. Already we are picking classes or electives based on our intention as Spanish, higher math classes, agriculture, art and other courses take on a new level of intensity.  In high school it becomes more pronounced as by electing to take AP classes as early as our sophomore year, we are preparing ourselves for college.  Admirably, the push isn’t as strong in the United States as it is in other countries.  In Japan, for instance, the push can begin as early as Preschool.

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I knew in middle school that I was going to go to college.  What for I wasn’t sure, but I knew that my education would continue for an indefinite amount of time.  Once high school started, I took courses that would transfer into college credits or prepare me for more advanced college courses.  Still, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, even once my senior year hit. Here’s a small sampling of careers I seriously considered;

  • Psychologist/counselor
  • Japanese Translator
  • Game designer
  • Web developer
  • Librarian
  • Teacher

If I were to go back and choose my career again (teacher), I would cross teaching off the list .  I’m an excellent teacher, based on my evaluations, student success and what have you, but it wasn’t the right choice.  Do I regret my experiences?  Of course not!  The lives I’ve changed and the changes I’ve had thanks to teaching I wouldn’t change.  Would I opt to change and see what another career could’ve been?  Absolutely.

Here I sit, in my late 20s, not in regret, but in renewed aspiration for something new.  I haven’t just been thinking, however.  Instead, I’ve been developing skills I have lost and gaining new ones.  It hasn’t been a passing fade as over the last three weeks I’ve focused myself to study outside of work and this is only the beginning.

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Japanese

One of the things I’ve been restudying is Japanese.  In high school I knew Hiragana, Katakana and some kanji like the back of my hand.  Almost ten years later, I still know quite a few, but some have been lost to me.  I’ve been really enjoying going back and restudying it for 10-30 minutes everyday and hope to enroll in a class sometime in the future (for credit and authenticity).  I’ve been doing tracing for writing, using an app and playing a game through Steam called “Hiragana Battle” which is quite good.

 

Audio/video editting

In my freshman year of college, I started to study how to make videos.  I even did some decent beginner videos which are still on youtube.  Then…I transferred colleges and gave it up.  Recently I’ve been playing around with video editing and the audio program Audacity. Random trivia: I was involved in theater for 12 years and enjoy doing different voices (to the amusement of my students).  I know your voice is supposed to sound strange to you, but I definitely sound like a kid.  Thus my dreams of being a twitch streamer fade…

 

Writing/editing 

I’ve always wanted to be a writer and love to do any kind of writing.  Heck, I wrote my first mini novel in third grade!  However…its been something on the back burner for a long time since writing is a saturated market.  Despite this, I’ve been doing more writing as of late and working on my editing skills more.

 

Moving forward…

It’s only been 3 weeks since I started this journey of rediscovery and I’m excited to see where it goes.  In the future, I have a running list of what I want to work on next in addition to fine tuning the above.  Next up-I’d like to work on HTML5, data entry (which I do at work surprisingly) and brush up on my German.