Blink! It happened again. You blinked and summer is winding down. You stopped checking your school email, you enjoyed a hobby or two, you binge-watched every season of The Handmaid’s Tale, all while strategically ignoring the school supplies that began to fill up the aisles on July 5. But back-to-school season is really here now, and whether you’re feeling ready to storm the classroom or you’re still running from school as if the bulls in Pamplona were chasing you, there’s one thing all teachers know: the beginning of the school year can be overwhelming and scary, but it’s a crucial time. So take a breath—try not to panic—and focus with these three things in mind:
1. Practice gratitude
Teachers work so hard and deserve every single second of summer. It’s during this time that we get to unwind, travel, relax, drink coffee out of mugs that aren’t to-go, and spend time with those we love. Summer is meant to be soaked in and enjoyed, especially by teachers. What are you thankful for about this past summer? Reflect on your days and weeks off and remember what filled you. Can you name five things? Write them down and bring your list to school with you. Print a few pictures and post them on your fridge. Say them out loud as you reconnect with your colleagues. Have your students do the same! (Idea: Doing this icebreaker in the target language would be a great first week activity!) Choosing to practice gratitude takes effort but focusing on the good over the bad shifts not only our own perspective but encourages those around us to do the same.
2. Think medium
Every new school year can be daunting: 180-something days; dozens of students to meet and push, each with differing needs and learning styles. Teachers are leaders and doers and go-getters. This year don’t think big. Don’t think small, either. Think medium!
What are one or two things that you can adapt this year to make a bigger difference for your students? Is it incorporating IPA-styled assessments as your department seeks to become more proficiency based? Can you aim to find one new interpretative reading or listening activity per unit? Spend 10 minutes at the beginning of each class period interviewing different students in the target language with different questions that the class brainstormed. How can you help students set a language goal for the semester and then celebrate their success? Set a goal to push you further, but choose one that you can manage. Growth and development are as imperative to the teacher as to the student. Thinking medium may help to find balance between apathetic and burned out.
3. Leave room
Soon, you’ll be drinking from the fire hydrant of the new year, and if (when) you find yourself being carried away by the rush of the water, remember to leave yourself room. Leave yourself room to look at those pictures you printed or read your list of grateful moments from the summer. Leave yourself room to go to bed early or to have frozen pizza for dinner again. Leave yourself room to walk your dog or talk to someone you love or drive one more time around the block before pulling into the driveway. Leave yourself room to make a mistake when you try something new or if you accidentally call a new student the wrong name. Remember that this is hard work, but it is good work. And ultimately, it is people work. These classes full of new faces sitting in front of you need you. Show yourself grace and leave yourself room.
Teacher, the beginning of the year doesn’t last forever. Whether you’ve taught for two years or 20 years, be encouraged! The effort is so worthwhile. You can start strong and make a difference. Have a great year!
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.
Looking for support for your language class? Learn more about HMH’s World Languages programs.