Back to school… Those three words do one of two things: They either burn your eyes or give you butterflies. It's okay to experience either, or even both, of these feelings. There is SO much work that goes into preparing for the first day of school. It's almost like preparing for a marathon—except we don't end up fit in the end, ha!
I'm excited to share with you a great way or two to make going back to school a little bit easier. Here are my TOP non-teaching tips for back to school!
5 Non-Teaching Tips For Back To School
So, you've spent the summer break soaking in the sun, reading a book or twelve, and peeing whenever you want. It's a good life, right?! I'm sure you have also prepped some for your classroom, attended a PD or ten, and hit the Target dollar spot or the Dollar Tree a few hundred times. We don't fault you there; It's in your blood. It's like telling a kid to “not touch that.” You know it's going to happen. There is some sort of magnetic pull that beckons us to buy all the things. Teaching is not just what you do, it's who you ARE. But it's also one of the best parts about being a teacher, because we have a great time while doing it too!
But, here's the deal, it's not the only thing you are. You may be a wife, husband, mother, father, friend, son, or daughter. There are several careers in this world that are all encompassing, where your heart and mind are “on call” 24/7. You just can't help it. Doctors and lawyers come to mind…of course those people get paid what they are worth. And then there are teachers. YOU, on the other hand, are ministering to all walks of life with only the tricks in your pocket and the few coins tossed your way. There is something important that you must understand though; You cannot pour from an empty cup.
When I made the decision to re-brand from Kreative in Kinder to Kreative in Life, it was because my heart was impacted in a mighty way. My heart will always be for kids, but currently, my heart beats to love and minister to you. I know your job is hard. I want to virtually squeeze you into a big huge and encourage you so you don't give up—because YOU ARE IMPORTANT in the ministry of education. Seriously, our future president may be in your class this year. The child that may develop a cure for cancer may learn to love science because of you. You really just never know. This is why we have to do this together.
Before you hit the ground running and gear up for the marathon known as the new school year, let's come up with a plan to keep you whole. We want you to be present for your school family and your home family. We want you fulfilled and not grasping at straws. We want you to be the best you for yourself, your loved ones, and your little ones. So, where do we start? Let's not go crazy here. Let's start with a few small changes, some easy things that we can control.
MEAL PREP AND MORE
I know, this might seem trivial but don't stop reading just yet! I'm going to be honest; I've told my family straight up, you cannot count on me during August and May. How sad is that? Well, it's the truth. I don't know if I am coming or going during the beginning or end of school. Sometimes being a teacher is just bound to be a lot of work. After I have worked a 10+ hour day and I come home to my husband asking me what's for dinner… Y'all… it certainly tests my patience. He's lucky he's cute! But seriously, I hate that question. So, knowing that we are going to be on the crazy train during these different seasons, it's best to prepare beforehand!
The Power of Meal Prep: I've done several things in the past to help with this. I have prepared freezer meals. Yes, it took an entire Saturday, but I was able to prepare a month's worth of meals.
The Power of Community: I have also put up a post on FB asking others if they want to create a meal club with me which ended up working out great. What's a “meal club?” I'm glad you asked. So, let's say there are six people in the group. I would choose a family meal (based upon agreed parameters), and I would make six of that meal. Then, we would all exchange and have six different meals.
The Power of Two Birds, One Stone: Another system my family has used was that on Sunday after church, my husband would grill at least three meats (chicken, sausage, steaks, or hamburger something) for the week. They would last us through Thursday as long as everything was properly stored in good containers. If I knew we were eating spaghetti or tacos, I would go ahead and make the meat to have it ready. Then we would toss in a steamer bag of veggies or open a salad bag, and voila—we had a good, healthy meal in a mere matter of moments. Eating out is always an option but eating out is expensive. And eating fast food often makes our bodies feel bad.
No matter what, be sure to fuel your body with the good stuff so you have all the energy you need to take on the new year and all of your new incoming students!
FAMILY TIME IS IMPORTANT
Leftovers are not just what our families live on in the kitchen, it's also what we end up giving them. This is one area I have struggled with a lot. I went back to school after we adopted our kids. I originally went to school to teach high school, but then I subbed in a high school and realized that I could not teach someone taller than me. I'm 5'2″, so scratch big kids all together, ha!
I remember when I started teaching I would always burn the midnight oil (as they say). One day my youngest flat out told me, “Mom! I thought when you got out of school, you would have more time for us!” Y'all, I can't even put into words what that did to my big mama heart. It didn't change my work habits, though. I continued on that path for a few more years until one day I had this epiphany: I can never get this time back with them.
As an adoptive mom, I am already missing all of their firsts in the beginning years. It's tough when you feel like you've missed out on so many good things. When my oldest started high school, it sunk in. This is it. I'm about to lose her, and here I am, in this classroom with the sun going down—and I am missing it all. Life changed for us in that moment. I didn't miss a thing after that. I still stayed after school on most days but I made sure I was home before the sun went down at the very least. Making dinner at home became important. Having just one meal with my family became more cherished.
My daughter graduated this past June and my only regret is that I hadn't made that decision sooner. Listen, you will never be caught up. There will always be more work to do. We can always simply do more. That's just the nature of this job. Your job as a teacher is to love and teach to the best of your ability. And when those children go home, you pass the baton to their parents. We all know that there will be parents who won't pick up that baton, but at the end of the day, are you picking up your kids' baton?
I can't emphasize this enough. Make time for your family. You can only do what you can do. Don't let your career suck you so dry that you have nothing left to give to the other areas of your life. It's a hard choice but I promise you can find balance, Your family will no longer feel like they are second fiddle. And you can do all of this without having to spend a dime. As they say, the best things in life are free!
ME TIME IS ALSO IMPORTANT
Yes, you read that correctly. I dare you to take ten minutes a day for yourself. Read a good book or just jam out to your favorite tunes. You are about to chase your tail. You may even show up to school with two different shoes. There are plenty of different ways your tiredness is going to manifest. We won't judge you, though. Just be sure to make a little time each day for you. In these quiet moments you can reflect on all of the good the day has brought you.
This can look like taking ten minutes to shave your legs or pluck those eyebrows. Just do something that makes you feel good about yourself. I like to take the time to pick out my clothes for the week so I can just grab and go! This is something that makes my life easier. What little thing can you do that adds additional help to your week?
On the weekend, don't spend it all at school. Go to a movie, swim, or take a freaking nap for once. Doesn't matter. Just do SOMETHING for you! I would venture to guess you are exhausted already. Stress makes us physically and emotionally ill. We don't need to be creating mental health issues for ourselves if we could just take a little extra time to do things for ourselves. Just remember, you are no good to anyone unless you take care of yourself/ The easiest way to do right by yourself and your loved ones is by taking care of you too!
LET'S GET PHYSICAL: EXERCISE
Agh! Don't throw rocks at me! I know, I know. Who wants to get up early to exercise or show up after a long day in the classroom? Okay, hear me out. Have you seen the movie Legally Blonde? There's that hilarious quote: “Exercise creates endorphins. Endorphins make people happy. Happy people don't kill people.” Well, it's true. Note: I do not like to exercise. I tell people that if you ever see me running, know someone must be chasing me, and call 911 immediately… ha! All jokes aside, is it ever really a good time of year to start exercising if you don't really like it?
But, seriously, exercise is an important part of taking care of ourselves. Even getting up fifteen minutes early every morning and walking around the block will help you. You will be more awake and alert. You will also kick start your metabolism and increase your focus. And, that nonsense about endorphins that I mentioned above is completely true! I would bet that if you added something as simple as a morning walk or jog to your daily routine, you wouldn't need Starbucks to get you through each day, and then you can use that money to treat yourself to a pedicure on the weekend!
NURTURE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
Relationships. We can't survive without them. It doesn't matter if you are new to a school or if you have been there for ten years—there is always room to build relationships. Make it a point to get to know your fellow teachers. Make them a part of your team. Be open. Be humble. Be compassionate. This will only further optimize your professional development. It's a good way to enhance your best qualities and of those around you.
I remember a few years ago, a team from another school came over to observe my team because we work so well together. They met with us during our planning and asked us a series of questions. One question was, “How do you all work so well together?”
I loved our answer. We each started listing each other's strengths (not weaknesses). Paula was the best singer and knew all the songs. She also was the book whisperer. She knew every author and every book. Casey was kind, generous, and always lent a hand. She was so helpful that if someone couldn't make it to school, she would take care of things. She was also tall enough to help me put up and take down all the things in my classroom—which was a huge help since I'm only 5'3.
And then there was Marilyn, who we called Sparky. She was the one up at 4 a.m. emailing us all the things for the week. I would text her and tell her to calm down; we are all still asleep, ha! She was always at school at 6 a.m. and ready to hit the ground running. She made sure we didn't forget events and looked ten steps ahead to keep us in the know.
Then, there was me. I was the creator of things: newsletter, parent notes, new activities, etc. I was also in charge of all things technology. You see, we didn't focus on our weaknesses. We worked so great together because we recognized each other's strengths. And we all had so many of our own strengths. If someone were to ask me a question that I did not know, I knew which of my teammates did or ones that could offer alternative great ideas. Individually, we are all a work in progress, but together we were a force to be reckoned with. We were a great resource for each other.
Your team is your lifeline at school—so get to know them. My team were the first people to find out that I was pregnant a few years ago with my miracle baby. I had received the call at school and I was in shock. You know what they did? They stopped and prayed for me right then and there. And then, some time later, when God called my baby home, they were there every single day for me as I slowly picked the pieces of my heart up and put them back together.
Whether you want to admit it or not, you need each other. You are not just teaching together, in many ways you are doing life together. So, head to a dinner, happy hour, or a movie for some team bonding. Have a BBQ with your families even! Not many careers give you a team. Look at this for the blessing that it is.
And, if someone is not a team player, don't let it deter your relationships with the others. When you choose to let one bad apple ruin it for everyone, they win. When you let someone impact you negatively, you are choosing to let them rob you of YOUR joy. Don't do that. Your joy is for YOU. Don't just hand it to someone else. No one has control over you unless you give it to them. This includes control over your heart and state of mind. You know that Frozen song. Well, that's just what you're going to have to do. Let. It. Go.
Every aspect of teaching can either bring joy or take a toll—but in the end it's all for the kids and it's worth it to see them succeed. Every day changes, gives us new opportunities to be better for our kids, for our friends, and for ourselves. Different teachers will find they might need different things at different times. Just find what works for you and be kind to yourself if there is ever a transition period. That could look like the start of school or the end—maybe somewhere in the middle. But just remember, it's always the perfect time to take a moment to take a breath, reflect, and be grateful.
Please remember it doesn't matter how much time, effort, or money you put into preparing yourself for this school year—there will still be trials and errors. Stuff will happen and you just have to learn to go with it. Be flexible. Be joyful. Be grateful. Remember that you are not perfect and no one expects you to be. Take care of yourself so you’re better equipped to help others!
Every morning my prayer is always, “Lord fill me to overflowing so that I may overflow in to the lives I touch today. Give me a spirit of wisdom, patience and joy to love each child and adult as you love me, to forgive each child and adult as you have forgiven me and to freely give mercy and grace in every circumstance.”
Fill up that cup friends and get ready to overflow. It starts with YOU. YOU were made for THIS!
God has called you, he has equipped you, and he will sustain you. YOU ARE ENOUGH!