Approaching the End

Waking up, I check the time on my phone.  I would be late to work if I woke up this late, even though the sun has barely been up.  A sense of relief washes over too as I realize that tomorrow is a day off from work.  In 23 days, at 12:30pm, I will be free until late August from work demands.  In that time there are 15 work days remaining (1 of which is a workday and two are half-days counting the last day).  It’s the end of the year, crunch time and I’m certainly counting down the time until what has been my most challenging year of teaching.

I didn’t anticipate the volume of paperwork required for the end of the year.  Progress reports (I’m a SPED teacher) and grades were things I knew and anticipated in advance.  However, I didn’t anticipate student yearly summaries, awards, checkout logs and my own paperwork to turn in before checking out.  The good thing is many things are due 2 weeks before the end of the year, with the last things due four days before.  I’ve turned in some early, but there’ll be many late nights for the other things!


Lesson plans have been thinning out since I’ve covered most of what needed to be done in advance.  Since grades stop a week and a half before the end of the year, I plan on reviewing concepts and introducing activities and subjects students are interested in.  Once I turn in my paperwork, things should be smooth sailing, at last!

With the end near, I’m also getting into heavy planing territory with my summer plans.  I haven’t had a ‘free’ summer, without work on classes since…ever?  High school?  Do teen years even count? I have plenty of things mapped out during my months of wandering (and paid, woo!)  Planning said travels does make for a good reinforcer for completing end of the year work!


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!

A mindful, bumpy week

“NONONONONONONOO!” my mind screamed right before the inevitable ‘bump’.  I pulled my car into my parking spot and prayed the guy who had just hit me was nice.  The events of what just happened played over in my mind.  I’d backed up, stopped and was getting ready to turn, when a guy backed into me without looking.  The damage done to my car was a decent scratch and the damage to his van, a loose bumper.

Some may consider this past week of work (a novel of vents), losing one of my closest friends of 20 years and a car accident a pretty awful week.  Yet, when I got to work, the stress, overwhelming me, made me laugh.  A younger me would have felt defeated, but instead I laughed it off and began to see little things as a sign, a ‘bump’ if you will.

It started on Tuesday.  I had a heartfelt conversation with a dear friend and I finally admitted the words I’d been struggling to vocalize–“I’m burned out.”


I have been in the Special Education field for over 4 years now.  Last March I got a job in Northern Virginia, wanting to be closer to family and due to poor staff treatment and burnout.  A year and 3 months later, that feeling is here again, for some of the same reasons, with new reasons in the mix.  We’re year round, so there’s no real break (minus the two weeks off we have for summer).

“You know what, it’s good you admitted that, that’s the first, most important step,” she responded.  She recently left a teaching job due to burnout and has fond a school and environment she loves and is growing in.  I can’t say that changing schools is going to fix this problem and seems to follow me.  I’m tired of the poor work/life balance, not having any downtime (I’m an introvert, albeit a social one), no breaks etc.  Every job has its pitfalls, but the pitfalls are affecting my health.

If you do a google search for ‘teacher burnout’ or ‘teacher career change’, you’ll stumble across a slew of search results and websites containing research and tens of thousands of personal stories from teachers burned out in their profession.  The ‘bumps’ of the past week and conversations with family and friends have made me feel God is trying to say something and that I shouldn’t keep covering up the truth.

Don’t get me wrong (and not to brag), but I’m a great teacher.  My students and other teachers love me, my evaluations have always been 4-5 in every area (out of 5).  I went into teaching to change lives, to be that person for my students, to teach, but with the way education is changing, there’s more and more demands.  I want my life back.

This has left me with a lot of decisions to make before signing my contract for next year (2 months).  I’m living in an expensive area that I’m growing weary of, but the less expensive areas are 30-40 minutes out and its a painful drive. If I broke my lease later in the year after I decide what direction to go, it’ll cost me around half my salary for the month, if not my whole salary.

If only I could live up to my name of ‘Wandering Rin’ and ‘wander’ for a bit ala “Eat Pray Love” style!