Get Set for the Best Year Yet!
Each August signals a fresh beginning for teachers and students. How lucky we are to have a fresh start each year! Here's how to choose a positive mindset and make this year your best one yet!
by Sue Gruber, M.A.
Barbara Gruber Courses for K-6 Teachers www.bgrubercourses.com
Regular contributor to the Gazette
August 1, 2008
There’s no doubt about it—the beginning of a new school year is exciting but can leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted! Do the laid back days of summer seem like a distant memory? Are you already in overload mode? Take a moment to sit back, relax and regain that summertime glow. Here are my favorite tips to stay upbeat, positive, and energized all year long!
Relax your standards a bit.
It’s a fact—you will never have enough time to accomplish everything you want to do at school. Set a relaxed tone for your school year now. August is a great month to take a deep breath and make a vow to let some of the little stuff go this year! There’s no way you can have a perfect classroom AND have a life beyond teaching. Promise yourself to focus on the things that really matter this school year instead of getting caught up with lots of picky details. Your classroom will still be an incredible place where lots of learning takes place even if your supply cupboard is a mess! Your students won’t notice or even care if some of the books in your classroom library are in the wrong spot or the borders on your bulletin boards are crooked! Your students will remember and respond to your enthusiasm. Opt out of feeling guilty and give yourself a pat on the back for the good job you do.
Choose your level of involvement!
It’s easy to volunteer to serve on committees and take on extra duties at the beginning of the school year when you still feel relaxed. Before you know it, you can find yourself at meetings almost everyday after school. Decide right now which committees and extra duties you are willing to accept this year. You might find people begging you to continue a duty you’ve done for years. Don’t let yourself get pressured into doing more than your fair share. Calmly state that you’ve enjoyed your time in the position but now it’s someone else’s turn to serve. Consider sharing an extra duty with a teacher friend. Sharing a duty or committee position is a great way to stay involved and still have time for yourself. Don’t feel guilty about putting your needs first! Take care of yourself!
Make a "To Do List" at the end of each day and leave it on your desk.
Start each school day by glancing at your "To Do List." Instantly, you’ll know right where you left off and be focused on the most important things that need to be done right away. Do you love the feeling of crossing things off your list as they are accomplished? Make sure to always put a few "easy" things on your list to tackle first! Don’t let your "to do list" make you feel pressured. You probably won’t get everything crossed off your list every day and that’s perfectly okay. There’s only one thing to do on those days when nothing has been crossed off your list—make like Scarlet O’Hara and declare that "After all, tomorrow is another day!"
Make a set of Parent Communication Folders.
At the beginning of a school year it’s easy to remember the conversations you had with parents. By the middle of the school year, everything begins to blur! Make your life easier by keeping track of communications with parents during the school year. It’s so easy to make a set of parent communication folders—simply label file folders with the names of your students. Staple a few blank sheets of paper inside each folder. Use these folders to keep details of important conversations and notes organized. Inside each folder jot the date, name of the parent with whom you spoke, and any actions that need to be taken. Make sure notes that you receive from parents are dated before you file them. If you respond to a parent’s note in writing, make a copy of your response and staple it to the parent’s note. After making phone calls to parents to discuss problems, take a few minutes to record any important information that was discussed. Parent Communication Files come in handy if you ever need to document how you’ve involved parents after an incident at school. These records can be invaluable if parents claim you have not kept them informed! It’s an easy way to cover your anatomy! Keep these important folders inside the front of your desk drawer so they are at your fingertips.
Allow time everyday for some peace and quiet.
Life is hectic! Force yourself to take the time to slow down and reflect. Every day find some way to give yourself some quiet down time, even if it’s only for five minutes. Take the time to close your eyes and listen to your favorite music, soak in the tub, or take a walk. Give it a try for a week. We bet you’ll find yourself looking forward to your daily quiet time!
Reclaim your weekends!
Working on school-related projects could take every waking moment, if you let it happen. It’s hard to remain upbeat and energized when you live and breathe your work 24 hours a day! Weekends are your time to have a life beyond teaching. Think back to your favorite teachers. Do you remember certain teachers because their classrooms were beautifully decorated or because of the way they related to you and the other students? What really counts is how you relate to children and how much they learn. Realize that you are choosing to donate personal time when you work on schoolwork or in your classroom on weekends. Opt out of the weekend-work team and treat yourself to time off. You deserve it and you’ll be more enthusiastic about teaching if you treat yourself well.
Keep parents educated and informed.
You want parents to be informed about all of the happenings in your classroom. Set up a simple communication system from school to home. Here’s an easy way to prepare a weekly newsletter on school. Create a generic newsletter form with a heading on the top, sections for Monday through Thursday and Next Week as shown below. During Monday afternoon, or during the last few minutes of the school day, wrap up the day by discussing what happened that day. Write a dictated sentence or two about happenings of the school day. Do this Monday through Thursday. On Thursday after school, fill in information about next week and any announcements. If you ever need more room, add space by running off your newsletter on legal size paper. Run the newsletters off on Thursday so they are ready to send home with students on Friday. Consider consistently using the same bright color of paper for your newsletters so they are easy for parents to spot!
There are thirty-six weeks in the school year. Run off the generic formats and each Monday simply fill in the date and get that week’s newsletter going! Why not pop a copy of the newsletter in your administrator’s mailbox each week? Be your own public relations expert and spread the word about what’s happening in your classroom. Good publicity helps you, your students and your school!
Surround yourself with positive people.
Do you have a few chronic complainers at your school? Are they masters at bringing school morale to new lows? Steer clear of negative, whiny people. Life is too short to be miserable! Make every effort to spend time with people who are upbeat and know how to have fun.
Get ready to roll with the demands of a new school year.
Doesn’t it seem that once you really like the way you teach a certain subject, you’re expected to use a whole new approach? It’s stressful to constantly be subjected to change. Rather than throwing away an approach that works well for you, see if there is something you already do that can be slightly tweaked to meet the new requirement. Don't fret over every new demand! When you catch yourself getting upset and feeling stressed, ask yourself how important this will be next month or a year from now. It’s a good idea to remember these two rules:
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
It’s mostly small stuff.
Optimists look at every situation and know they can figure out how to make it work or make it better. Get in the happy habit of being an optimist! Know that you can make things work out for the best!
Maximize Your Earnings, Gain New Ideas
Teaching is challenging, difficult work—maximize your compensation by investing in yourself. Teachers deserve to be well compensated. Take a look at your salary schedule and start earning units to move up the scale. Determine how many units you need to advance so you earn the maximum based on your length of employment. It is satisfying to know you are earning maximum compensation for your work as an educator.
We know how busy teachers are once school begins. If you’re looking for courses that offer incredible flexibility while you gain new skills and ideas, consider taking them online. Online courses are designed to fit your schedule without losing valuable time commuting to and from classes. Of course, we encourage you to take a look at our 100% practical courses for teachers at www.bgrubercourses.com.
Our courses are self-paced and affordable—perfect for teachers who want proven classroom activities and to earn units.
Each August signals a fresh beginning for teachers and students! It’s an exciting time and a busy time of the school year. How lucky we are to have a fresh start each year! Choose a positive mindset and make this year your best one yet! Here’s to a wonderful school year!
Sue Gruber taught the upper grades for years. In a moment of wild abandon, she decided to take the plunge and teach the grade she feared most—kindergarten! Sue just wrapped up her eleventh year in kindergarten and loves it. Who knows, the next grade level change might be to sixth grade!
Sue Gruber and Barbara Gruber, a mother-daughter writing team, have created dozens of products for Frank Schaffer Publications, Scholastic, The Education Center and other publishers. Barbara is a former teacher who was employed by Frank Schaffer Publications from l980 to l996. She developed and presented curriculum seminars nationwide for K-6 teachers.
Sue and Barbara launched Barbara Gruber Online Courses for Teachers in 2002. They personally write each course with today’s students and busy teachers in mind. Teachers can do coursework completely on their own, or, if they wish, interact on line with others. They can earn one, two or three semester units from University of the Pacific. Barbara and Sue provide practical strategies and ideas that can be put into action immediately without creating more work for teachers. Barbara and Sue have created exactly what teachers are looking for—teacher-friendly courses at affordable prices. You can find out about their courses at www.bgrubercourses.com
Sue teaches full time, manages Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers and loves writing for the Teachers.Net Gazette. She lives in Sonoma County with her husband and son. Barbara consults for Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers; however, she has “retired” from the business. Retirement for Barbara means she’s busier than ever in Healdsburg, California on a 25-acre working farm called Healdsburg Country Gardens. She and her husband are grape growers for local wineries, have three guest houses for visitors and host wine country weddings.