This year is not going to look like any other year. The pandemic has changed everything we do and back to school is no different.
It’s not possible to predict exactly what will happen, because we’ve never been in this situation before. You might be teaching in person, online or some sort of combination of these things. None of this is normal.
You might be teaching a new subject or new grade level. You might not know anything about what you’ll be doing.
None of it is within your control. So, let’s talk about the things you can control and get ready before you have to go back to school-no matter what that looks like.
Make a Back to School Survival Kit
Each year I make a small kit using a make-up bag. It’s filled with things I might need at school and many times over the years, they have been needed. I prepare this bag before school starts and most years I don’t need to refill it until the end of the year, but it’s always nice to have these things.
If you cannot store these items in your classroom this year because of limited space, consider keeping them in the trunk of your car.
If you’re going to be teaching at home, this make a great gift for a teacher friend (though some of the items are pretty personal so know your audience).
Here’s what goes in my survival kit:
- dental floss, mini toothbrush, mini toothpaste and mints
- feminine hygiene products
- an extra pair of underwear
- an extra pair of socks
- pain reliever
- a little brush or comb
- a stain removal pen
- safety pins
- hair ties
- granola bar
- chocolate bar
- plastic bag (for wet things to go home in)
- hand sanitizer
And, I keep an extra outfit in the trunk of my car. I have been thrown up on more than once over the years, so now I always have a back up.
Meal Prep is Your Friend
Lunches are always on the fly once school starts and dinners are sometimes thrown out the window too because there just isn’t enough energy at the end of the day.
Last summer we cooked big meals in the weeks leading up to the start of school and froze little meals in freezable and microwavable containers. For each family meal we cooked, I was able to prepare five lunches (a whole week). I was able to store up almost two months of school lunches.
I use other breaks to top up my lunches. I use glass containers I bought at Costco and have a box that I keep all the containers inside the deep freeze. If you are going to be using school microwaves, sanitize your hands after touching the door or buttons and before you touch your container.
Get Your House in Order
It doesn’t matter if you’re going to be teaching from a classroom or your living room, it will be more difficult if you run out of cat litter on a Wednesday night.
Do the things that will calm your space. Get rid of the clutter. Take that load of garbage to the dump or donate those clothes. Put things away that have been sitting on the counter forever.
Stock up on the items you know you’ll need when it gets busy (and it is going to get busy). Make sure you have a little extra toilet paper, pet food or paper.
A calm space will help you stay calm.
Treat yourself. Whether it’s your favourite blend of tea, a scented candle or a fresh pack of pens, get yourself a little treat so you’ll have something to reward yourself with on the hard days.
This school year is going to be more difficult than any other we’ve experienced, so it’s important to celebrate the little things.
Think About How You’ll Build Relationships
This year might look different, but we have created a few different activities that can be done whether you’re in the classroom or online.
We created a simple Would You Rather Game that you can play as a fun activity to get to know your students. You can find it in our Resource Library or we can send you a copy when you join our email list.
We use these Back to School Discussion Cards for Grade 1-3 or for Back to School Discussion Cards Grades 4-6 all year long, but they’re perfect for the beginning of each day whether you’re meeting online or face to face.
Plan for the Inevitable
You’re probably going to miss a day of school at some point. No one has told us how that works for the online teachers, but if you’re in school, you’re going to need to plan for a sub and chances are, they’ll be someone who isn’t used to this situation either.
We created a set of Emergency Sub Plans to help ease that planning. No, it’s not perfect. Nothing about this year will be perfect, but at least you’ll have something to hand over in the event you have to stay home.
We have a whole post about getting ready for a supply teacher so you might want to check out the post It’s Time to Get Your Emergency Sub Plans Ready.
Keep the Decor Simple
If decorating makes you happy, then by all means, have fun. But, there is no need to lose sleep trying to decorate your classroom to become the perfect Pinterest ready place. Too much stuff is difficult to clean, so keep that in mind when choosing your decor.
There is going to be a lot of overwhelm coming from your students, so keep your decor calming and positive.
If you’re teaching at home, keep your decor comforting and not too cluttered. It will just get in your way. Your home office does not need to throw you into debt.
Throw in a little of your personality so your students will get to know you through your choices. And make sure it’s not perfect. Show your students that you aren’t perfect and won’t berate them if they aren’t perfect either.
Monitor Your Social Media
Little back story-I have a retired aunt who loves to send me memes. She know how I love to make fun in the worst situations. This summer she kept sending me the memes I had made and had gone viral. That was kind of fun.
BUT…she also kept sending me ideas to pandemic proof my classroom with plastic wrap and complicated builds involving shower curtains and PVC pipes.
Every district is different, but in my district there is no DIY allowed due to safety and fire restrictions. I also believe teachers should not have to fill the funding gap to protect children. That money should be coming from governments. It made me angry.
So I had to shut off the social media for a few weeks.
If you gain inspiration from social media and it empowers you, then great. But, if you are finding it gets you angry, emotional or frustrated-turn it off. Look after you.
That also applies to reading the comment section from any teaching related article. Nothing good comes from reading the bottom half of the Internet.
Plan Some Fun
I love searching out fun teaching stories this time of year. It helps get me back into the spirit of teaching and alleviates some of the stress.
No matter the age, whether you’re in person or online, you can plan a few special theme days for your students. They don’t need to be complicated or school-wide to have a little fun. Check out this huge list of Theme Days for School.
Get Your Sleep In
We always tell the kids to get back into a regular sleep schedule, but it is just as important for us teachers to get a regular sleep schedule going. This can be a challenge in the northern part of the world where the sun is still up late into the evening, but get yourself a nice dark room and start setting that alarm for morning.
Gradually start getting up closer and closer to the time you’ll need to get up once school is back in session. Practice your morning routine of getting up, exercising, eat breakfast and starting your day-even if you’re going to spend the rest of the day relaxing.
Clear Your Schedule
This year is going to be exhausting at the best of times, so it’s important not to overextend yourself outside of the classroom. My family knows there are three times of the year I am not available (report cards usually) and they respect that the beginning and end of the school years are very busy. They know better than to try to plan weddings and other important family events at this time of year (it helps than several other family members are teachers, too).
Friends who are teachers will expect you to be too tired, but non-teaching friends might just have to accept the fact that you’re not available for a Friday night visit.
Choose the activities and people that will help recharge you and and say no to the things and people that drain your energy. You’re already going to need every ounce of energy just to make it through this year.
Set Up Your Exercise Routine
Whether it’s a walk, a full body workout or some yoga, start getting back into an exercise routine that you can maintain once you return to your school day. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but you want to try to pick a schedule that will be sustainable once you’re back in your day to day grind.
This one is very hard for me. I mean, I’m literally trying to write a back to school blog post at a time when I know nothing about my current teaching job. I don’t even know if I’ll have a job by the end of this week.
I’ve had to let it go for now. If I obsess, I will just drive myself (and everyone around me) a little crazy and that isn’t good for anyone.
Throw yourself into the little things you can control. Even just organizing a drawer full of sticky notes help makes me feel a little more calm about the situation.
It will get better.
We will make it through this year.
We can do this.
One day we will look back on this and be amazed at how teachers rose the challenge and took on the woes of the world during this point in history.
You won’t care about the subject or grade level. You won’t care how decorated or plain your classroom or living room was during your teaching.
All that will matter will be how those little faces grew and changed over the year and how you were the guiding light.
You’ve got this ninjas! Please leave us a comment and let us know how it goes.