You are on the downward slope of summer and each day you are thinking more and more of the school year ahead. You see school supplies in stores. You are starting to surf Pinterest again for classroom ideas. And you may also be feeling a mix of emotions: excitement, hope, dread, resentment, fear, and insecurity to name a few. You are not alone!! Here are some of the tips I give my teacher clients…
Tip #1: Extend Yourself Some Self-Compassion
First, let me just reinforce this point – anxiety is completely normal at this time of the school year – even for teachers who really like teaching. It doesn’t mean that you should leave teaching or that you hate your job. It’s a normal part of the cycle of emotions that teachers go through. OF COURSE you would be anxious – it’s a new year and you don’t know what it will be like. You may have changes at your school. You may be at a new school or new grade level or new subject area. You definitely don’t know what kids you’ll have or what the classroom chemistry will be. No matter what, each year is a little different; and that can be scary.
So my first tip is to extend yourself some self-compassion. Look at what you are experiencing as normal and understandable. Be kind to yourself. You may even want to go so far as to write yourself a letter from the perspective of an unconditionally loving friend. What would you say to a friend feeling how you feel? Write it down. And then read it back to yourself as if it were from a friend to you!
Tip #2: Journal about what specifically you are feeling anxious about
When a client of mine shares that s/he is anxious about the year ahead, I usually first ask: What are you most anxious about? I recommend journalling your answer to this question to see what comes up.
I had a client that shared that she was zoning out during pool time with her husband and daughter. While they were splashing around, her mind drifted to thinking about what she would teach in her yearly evaluation this year. Probably like you, her evaluation isn’t for MONTHS, but it was on her mind. She quickly judged herself for not being in the moment with her hubby and sweet daughter. But when I asked, what about your evaluation made your mind drift there, she shared that she has a new principal this year, and that she wants to impress the new principal by having a great eval. (Makes total sense!) And once she heard herself say this out-loud, she was immediately able to extend herself more compassion in place of judgement. Additionally, we realized in that moment that there were some unresolved anxieties about having a new principal that we needed to do something about.
By really digging in to WHAT you are anxious about, you may (a) be able to release yourself from judgement about your anxiety, and (b) actually work through those anxieties to release them.
Tip #3: Determine what you can and can’t control.
A helpful way to work through your anxieties about the new school year is to simply categorize your worries into “Things I CAN control” and “Things I CAN’T control”. A simple T-chart can help you start making sense of this.
Here is a real-life teacher example you might be able to relate to:
“I know I’m going to have a very ‘low’ class. I’m worried about my students not passing their state tests this year.”
|Things I CAN control
|Things I CAN’T control
|– I can go to trainings offered by my district for supporting students with high needs
– I can put forth my best effort
– I can make time for test prep
– I can ensure students get the appropriate supports and accommodations the need and deserve
|– I cannot ensure they will pass their tests
– I cannot control how they perform
– I cannot be FULLY responsible for their learning. I am only one piece of a larger puzzle.
By teasing out what you can and can’t control, two things emerge: the things you can control list becomes an action list for you to focus on for the year ahead; and the things you can’t control list becomes things you can actively decide to let go. I actually suggest to my clients that they rip their list down the middle, glue the “Can Control” side into their lesson plan book for the year and throw the “Can’t Control” side into the trash! This act will symbolize that you will do ALL you can this school year, and let go of the rest!
If you like this exercise, you’ll love my Beat Teacher Burnout Bundle. It’s a bundle of my best exercises for PREVENTING and overcoming burnout as a teacher. It’s a great time of year to pick that up so you have it when you need it during the school year! Check it out here.
Tip #4: Seek Support
Reach out to other teacher friends for support on how they are coping with the anxiety. Careful here though: reach out to teachers that you know won’t make your anxiety worse. I’m sure you have some teacher friends that you know will get you more wound up than when you started. Other teacher friends have a way of just smoothing your feathers down. Call those ones.
If you don’t have any teacher friends like that, then call me! We can do a 30 minute call for free to help you out. I can also share with you how coaching could support your journey to your happiest and most peaceful teacher life.
Here are the tips again:
- Extend self-compassion
- Journal about your anxiety
- Make a can/can’t control list, and
- Seek Support
I hope you’ll begin finding your happiest and most peaceful teacher life today! What is your next step?