It’s time to head back to school. There are two types of teachers in the world. There are the ones that cannot wait to get back into the classroom and spend their whole summer break planning and prepping. And they’re the ones who squeeze every last drop of summer out before heading back.
It doesn’t matter which one you are. You can even be a little of both. Loving your students and your free time doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. You are allowed to have mixed emotions.
But, if you’re like us, you can’t wait to get the new school supplies and open the new plan book. You like to make all the new labels and organize your perfect classroom.
So, if you’re reading this just prior to a brand new school year, you might not really need the message (yet). Make sure to book mark this post so you can refer to it later when you’re crying in your car or stressing eating macaroni off an art project.
Let’s continue to the inspiring stories.
Sniff the Crayon
Yes, that is all well and good. But this post is a little more of a reminder to hang on to that happy little feeling. You know, that little rush you get from smelling a brand new crayon. (And for the record, it’s pronounced cray-on not cran).
Teachers out there know that smell…the new crayon. It’s still perfect. It still has all its paper wrapping and is perfectly pointy. This perfect crayon hasn’t rubbed up against other crayons and gotten dirty. It hasn’t been dropped on the floor, or broken in half, or left in the lost and found bin with a bunch of broken crayons. And if you close your eyes and take a whiff of that new crayon, you can still transport yourself back to your childhood.
For teachers, the crayon smell is a high. For students, not so much.
September (or the month your school year starts) is the new crayon. The classroom is clean. Desks are straight and chairs are tucked in. The whiteboards shine and the post-it note dispensers are full. There is no “wet foot” or “yesterday’s tuna” smell. The recycling bin is still empty. There is no sand on the floor. It’s all about the anticipation.
Let’s be honest, it all falls apart somewhere a few months down the road when teachers are writing report cards, preparing for Christmas concerts, meeting with parents, meeting with staff members, marking assignments, planning for lessons, reteaching missed concepts, coaching students and any other of the many hats teachers wear. It is at those times I encourage you to sniff the crayon.
Don’t let yourself get caught up in perfection. Do your best you. Your students will love you no matter what!
This story was shared with us and it was so moving, we felt we had to pass it on to you. It is written for Krista P.
We sat there for thirteen Wednesdays while you plunked away at the keys in your half-hearted attempt to play a song you tried to convince me you’d practiced all week.
But there was always something else competing with your attention. It was swimming lessons or swimming competitions. Or it was figure skating or figure skating competitions. It was concerts and performances.
It was everything except practicing piano because “you were busy.”
You were too busy to practice piano, but not too busy to become the provincial swimming champion. Too busy to practice piano but not too busy to represent our city at nationals for figure skating. You were too busy to practice piano but were an honour roll student.
You were too busy to make it to every Wednesday because you were receiving chemotherapy treatments to stop the blood cancer from spreading.
Three Wednesdays have passed since you died. Now I know why you were so busy.~Author’s Name Withheld by Request
This story always reminds us that our students have a lot going on in their lives. Don’t take it personally if they don’t give their everything to your lessons. Get to know them and figure them out.
Wait, a What?
We were practicing writing and we’d just spent a good chunk of the week working on interesting ways to start a story. Students had experimented with different types of story starters and had been sharing their writing with the class.
Each time a student presented, students in the class would provide feedback. We use pretty clear feedback guidelines which you can learn about by reading our post How to Give Amazing Feedback.
So, we were listening and students were sharing and then students were giving feedback and to be honest we were only partly listening when we suddenly heard the following.
Why did you choose that hooker?
And then another little voice peeped up, yup a different hooker would be better.
They were talking about a “hook.”
If you’re looking for a straight out laugh, you might want to read Animals in the Classroom. It might be better titled: A Cautionary Tale.
Do Your Best. No More. No Less.
There are going to be moments in your school year that make you question your decision to become a teacher. We’ve gathered up all the pieces of advice we’ve found helpful and thought we would pass them along to you.
Don’t make a rash decision.
Prepare as much as you need to, but not so much that you overthink everything.
Be patient with yourself.
Have a friend double-check that your clothes aren’t on backwards before you meet with parents. That same friend can check your breath and teeth for leftovers.
Keep an extra outfit in your car or desk (because you never know when a student will throw up or you will spill your lunch).
When you don’t know how to do something, ask someone who is helpful (not annoying).
Having nightmares or vivid dreams about teaching or lesson plans is perfectly normal. Write down the funny ones to remember them later.
Children are naturally positive so spend lots of time with them when you’re feeling down.
You don’t have to mark everything you assign.
It doesn’t get easier, but you do get better at it.
When you make a mistake, show students how to overcome it. Admit it. Learn from it and move on.
If you did something wrong, apologize. Even if that’s to a student.
Stay away from coworkers that annoy you. Be polite. Be respectful. Stay away. It’s not worth your time.
Deal with problems at the time or let them go and get over it. You can’t let those little annoyances get to you. We use the 24/48 hour rule. If we haven’t confronted the problem within the first 24 hours, then we have to move on after 48 hours.From Eileen
You don’t have to have the best of everything. You don’t have to buy everything or have a classroom that looks like Pinterest. If you need help setting up your classroom, try this post How to Set Up Your Classroom in One Day.
Don’t spend all your money on your classroom and students. Set a limit and stay within it, because it’s a bad habit to get into.
Ask your principal for money for resources before you buy them yourself. Sometimes they have money.
You are allowed to have a classroom that looks like Pinterest.
Take all the advice you get and then decide what to do with it.
Give students your best, but keep a little of yourself for you and your home life. You don’t have to give them your all.
If you can afford it, take a mental health day if you need it. Look after yourself. Use our Emergency Sub Plans to save yourself some time. We have a set for grades 4-6 about Hoaxes and Ogopogos and another about Sticky Situations. Another set for grades 3-4 is all about video games.
Keep snacks on your desk. You’ll need them.
Keep back up snacks for when you run out of desk snacks.
Master classroom management before anything else. Not sure how? Check out this post: The Reasons Your Classroom Management Isn’t Working And How to Fix It.
Don’t leave work without using the bathroom before you leave.
You can do this. You will be ok.
If you can, take a short walk on your own at lunch or during a break. The fresh air and exercise can be a huge boost to your mental health during the day.
Don’t assume older more experienced teachers don’t know what they’re doing. They did things before Google. They know how to do EVERYTHING.
Everyone cries in their car. It’s normal.
Just when you get everything figured out, there will be some life-changing event (like a pandemic or something). Could you imagine?
And when there was a pandemic
When the world changed in March of 2020, teachers were declared heroes. It didn’t take long until teachers were once again placed on the forefront as essential workers who needed to get back to work so the rest of the world could recover the economy.
Suddenly the health of teachers seemed to be a target for internet trolls who wanted us to shut up and teach (even if that meant no PPE and no vaccinations at the time).
Protect yourself from the naysayers, media, or people in the world who have nothing positive to contribute. It’s ok to shut the door and do your thing.
You can’t take it personally.
Instead, focus on those little faces who will one day return and tell you what a difference you made in their lives. That’s what really matters.
What is your favourite thing about being a teacher? Do you have a piece of advice we should add? We want to hear from you. Let us know in the comments below or send us an email with contact information found at the bottom of the page.