I think my Back to School Get Up and Go, Just Got Up and Went!
Every September throughout my school-aged years, I can distinctly recall the night before the first day back to school.
To my recollection, these evenings were exciting; yet fairly nerve wracking due to the intense preparation for the big day that was to come. I am quite certain I drove my poor mother nuts! I wanted everything just so…matching notebooks for each subject, colored pens, and of course a new Trapper Keeper (yeah, I was an 80’s girl who had a unicorn featured on my Trapper Keeper…and proud of it). A good night’s sleep was tough to come by as I would often lie with my eyes wide open, envisioning who might have changed and how others will notice my change after the summer hiatus. I always had a new “first day of school” outfit laid out on the chair next to my bed so the morning ran smoothly-and of course everything had to be coordinated-shoes, earrings, pants, etc.
Would I love my new teacher, or would she be a strict schoolmarm that made the year much too difficult (because realizing a strict teacher was actually for my own good was NEVER a thought, right?!)? My mind raced and butterflies did not situate themselves in my stomach until I reached the end of my first school day.
Oh how I would love to experience those same feelings of excitement the night before the first day of school again, but now that I am the “therapist,”(or teacher) that is just not the case. I am so much more anxious as an adult than I was as a child. I had no idea when I was a student that what I was experiencing was a “transition!” Who knew!? I didn’t. I rolled with it and enjoyed the ride. Now, as an adult, I know I am about to go through a transition when I start a new school year, and I find myself struggling with newness and change-yet attempt to ignore it as I try to convince myself that I have grown out of being resistant to change. But I didn’t grow out of it, I grew into it. Transition is harder for me now than ever! So, I look carefully at the words of Jim George:
“Transitions themselves are not the issue, but
how well you respond to their challenges!”
So, thinking through the meaning of this as it applies to the school therapist or teacher, here are some simple tips for responding to another new school year
2. Organize Your Space, Organize Your Mind: Start with the fundamentals. If my environment is a mess, my mind is also a mess. Start with a basic, hand-written checklist and thoroughly enjoy the moment when you check off a task that you have completed! The following links will guide you to a few other helpful resources for classroom organization:
3. Give Yourself Time: AND…Do not feel guilty about taking that time to get yourself and your classroom set up and ready to rock n’ roll! It takes awhile! Even the most seasoned therapist needs a fair amount of time to get a solid grasp of their caseload and be certain all students are accounted for, assessed and ready for a busy year! Perhaps making a daily schedule of the tasks you need to complete during the first two weeks of school will assist in keeping you on track (I use the Outlook calendar and create a daily appointment schedule (with reminders) so I get all my necessary set-up items complete). It is very easy to get distracted when you have unstructured time. When I have a plan for my day, I am exponentially more productive, and the end result is less anxiety about the next day. The following is an example list of “TO DO” items that I usually complete so I can hit the ground running (feel free to email me if you are interested in a Word file Check-List):
- Collect/Print Student Class Schedules
- Secure all students that will be on your caseload and review their IEPs.
- Make a list of dates of when all annual IEPs are due for the year.
- Start your schedule, slotting all individual therapy sessions first.
- Purchase a desk planner and write out all important dates: IEP meetings, Faculty or Team Meetings, Open House, Back to School Night, and of course Holidays!
- Schedule time with the Regular Education teachers to review the IEPs of all your students and be sure they clearly understand their modifications, adaptations or specially designed instruction methods.
4. Decompress & Vent: Have a “go-to” colleague you can vent to. Having access to an SLP, OT or PT pal who understands all you are going through at the start of the year can be a fabulous resource. Sometimes, it is nice to just have a shoulder to lean on or an ear that will listen to your woes. Commiserating can be quite cathartic!
5. Remind Yourself of Your Passion: Why do we do what we do? We are all in this for one quintessential reason: to help children progress and improve their abilities. Is there a better paycheck than when we see our students demonstrate a new skill by articulating a sound more accurately, show how they have strengthened their core or show how they can manage their sensory needs with fewer therapist-driven cues? When I stop and remind myself that the chaos I endure during the start of a new school is usually temporary, and that I will soon be encountered by the smiling faces of all my students who cannot wait to tell me about all they did over their summer, the very long laundry list of tasks I need to do to prepare seems so much more manageable! When I keep my passion in check, I stay focused and motivated!
6. Mindfulness: Be mindful of your own needs. Sometimes we get quite lost in the needs of others, and we slip out of the moment-eventually we do not remember to think of ourselves. In your day, do take a brief break to be in the moment. Relax your mind: close your eyes, take a deep breath and focus on your breathing as air moves in and out of your nose and mouth. Relax your whole body. As you learn to be in the moment, your ability to calm and focus will become more and more natural. Perhaps take a 5-10 minute walk during your lunch break to clear your mind and get some fresh air. Suggested Video: Well Cast-Stress Management: Ways to Unwind
7. Remember to Have Fun: Try to see the humor in silly mishaps. We have all had rough days and dealt with the most unreasonable parents who want every program and speech therapy, PT or OT 5 times a week, right? But if you can be a little light hearted, it goes a long way! See the provided link for a great school starter video! We are all in this together. Watch: One More Day!