By Sarah Miller, High School Teacher
East Chicago Central High School in East Chicago, IN
On the Mode Again!
While I’m a high school teacher during the school year, I spent this past summer outside as a camp director at a day camp. I got to “play” all day, and I was outside—two very different activities from my role as a teacher. This director role let me relax more over the summer; yes, I was definitely working, but the pace, pressure, and priorities were very different from my high school teaching responsibilities. As the summer continues to wind down and school commitments begin in earnest, I know it is time for me to officially transition back into teaching mode—and making this transition isn’t always easy.
Sometimes, even just thinking about going back to school can make me a little nervous and anxious. I now suddenly have to be up and moving much earlier each day. I have to focus on lesson plans and dig deeply into data, and so much more. In short, I have to completely adjust my brain from playing at camp to teaching at school. I definitely need to make a significant shift from “Summer Mode” to “School Mode”.
Capture Your Transition Process
As I approached this change this year, I decided to capture the steps I take each August in hopes it will help other teachers who may be in similar situations to find your back-to-school mindset more easily this year. It takes a lot of hard work to transition our minds from being relaxed on summer break to hitting the ground running back at school.
As you begin your transition, capturing your process can be a big help. Think about the activities you do each year to get back into school mode. Jot them down. You might even recognize a few tried and true activities that you’ll greet like welcome, dear friends.
Here are some tips that work for me and will hopefully to help you find your particular back-to-school mindset.
As a teacher, I’d love to know what you think of these strategies, if they work for you, and if you have other ideas to share with me.
Plan First Days Lessons NOW
As soon as I begin to refocus on school, I consider my objectives, what I expect will be strong ways to connect with my students, set the tone for the school year, and begin to tackle the rigorous curriculum, I begin to get inspired. I also quickly recognize that I’ve indeed gotten a good rest over the summer; I’m excited to get started!
As I consider the lessons I know I’ll want to teach, I quickly slip back into teacher mode. Planning lessons also helps to calm my nerves about what is going to happen on those first couple days of school. (Yes! It’s never just the kids who stress about back to school, is it?)
I prefer to first map out lesson plans in my plan book to ensure my big picture plan is taking shape. Then, I “go deep” by formally writing the lessons out in detail. When I formally write out a lesson, I am careful to incorporate the many key terms I need to use as well as the processes required to write viable, formal lesson plans. Writing the formal lesson plans helps me to transition to “Teacher Mode” because these terms and ideas haven’t seemed to be on my mind all summer, but the minute I begin, I realize they’ve been percolating just below the surface all summer long.
As soon as I’ve finished the first couple of lessons for the year, I’m ready to tackle the other aspects of school like how I’ll want to set up my classroom, the approaches I plan to take with my students, and I also consider my own routines. I know that if I am prepared for school with my lessons and classroom set up, my students will get into their routines faster, and ultimately be more successful in my classroom. Lesson plans are important first steps for me to help ensure my students get off to a successful start. Writing out these lessons carefully also helps me to quickly reconnect with my teacher mindset, getting my year off to a successful start as well.
Plug Back In to School and Faculty
I am an organized and prepared person. I like feeling well prepared for whatever I’m doing, as is true of so many teachers I’ve met. One thing I do in order to get myself ready to be back in school is get in contact with my school and administrators, starting a week or two before I’m to be there and continuing through the first weeks of school. After all, my administrators are also transitioning; they need to know where I am in my transitioning process as they do the same. I let them know I’m ready to be back.
By re-establishing my relationship with my supervisors I’m better prepared for the upcoming year: I have the right schedule, know about new information, etc. Administrators like to know their teachers are on board and are thinking how they can be their best for their students. When everyone is in the same mindset, the school year runs more smoothly.
Sometimes, I’ll even jot a note to my administrators and peer teachers just to say welcome back. It helps us all feel connected. Check out these two sets of greeting cards from Teacher Peach. The inspirational Quote Cards send powerful messages to peers, friends, families, and of course to my students. I can’t even begin to choose my favorite sayings. With two cards of each quote, I don’t really have to; instead, I match the right quote for each recipient. Take a look. If only there were time, I could even make an entire lesson out of each one!
I also really like this new Black-and-White Greeting Cards and Postcards Set. There’s something for every occasion. This set even has a greeting card and postcard that read, “fresh start” and show fresh, new pencils as the graphic image.
6 Greeting Cards
As you go back to school this year, savor the connections you’ll be making with friends, colleagues, faculty, and new families and students. These connections and relationships can make all the difference. Where you connect by handwritten note, a shared cup of coffee, or simply a quick wave in the hallway, you’ll feel grounded and much more ready to begin.
I also hope you’ll connect with me here at Teacher Peach. Share your re-entry ideas, let me know what works for you, and if you take a peek at the many products Teacher Peach creates for just us teachers at teacherpeach.com, let me know your favorites! Here’s to a terrific start to your school year. I’ll be back online later this week with Part 2 of this article with tips about making these earlier morning back-to-school wake-up times easier to handle as well as anchoring your return to school to your core teaching values and why you embarked on this incredible profession of ours in the first place. Until then,