With the well-deserved, and much needed, summer break soon coming to an end, school administrators, therapists, educators and support staff are slowly getting back into the school groove by preparing and attending school trainings, planning and reviewing curriculum, and setting up onsite or offsite offices and classrooms.
Even though transitioning back to school happens every year around the same time, this change in routine could be difficult for some. Difficult because therapists might need to adjust to a new or larger case load, teachers might be starting new positions, changing grade levels/subjects, district or building leaders might have new or additional administrative responsibilities, and many might finally be adjusting to their “new” work life after co-workers and friends departed last school year.
At E-Therapy, we know change can negatively affect the physical and mental well-being of those who work in education. Many might experience symptoms such as stomach problems, headaches, trouble sleeping, change in appetite, inability to focus, anxiety, depression or sadness.
While we understand that change is hard, we also know change can be good. Change is constantly happening all around us, and if you’re not adapting, then you’re standing still. So to help you with any new transitions this school year will bring, we have a few tips and tricks. Let us help you be more comfortable with CHANGE.
Community is Key
The most important thing to remember when starting out the new year is don’t be an island. Even if you’re a veteran therapist, administrator or teacher, you still need a support group. Lean on those who are in your department and not in your department. Talk about lessons, classroom management, professional development courses, but also get to know each other on a personal level. Don’t just talk about work. Find out what you have in common that is not work related. Share your likes and dislikes.
If you work from home as a teletherapist or teacher, seek out an online community. Or if you have social media, there are hundreds of academic groups that could match your interests.
Hone Your Skills
Once the first several weeks of the school year are completed, and you’ve successfully navigated the choppy waters of those first 20 days, consider stepping out of your comfort zone again to continue perfecting your craft. You could take the opportunity to learn about instructional strategies, online teletherapy techniques, and other best practices. At E-Therapy, we have our resource library available to registered therapists and teachers. Here you will have access to webinars, videos, professional development, original teletherapy activities and more. Adding to your toolbox continues to make you a better educator for yourself and your students.
In addition to learning more techniques, share your successes with your peers. Communicate what is going well for you with students and listen to what has been working for them. Also, look to your students to provide feedback. Throughout the year, you can create anonymous surveys for your students. Whether they are learning from you in the classroom or online, have them tell you what is working well for them. But to ensure you receive constructive comments, ask questions that prompt students to give you positive feedback.
Attitude is Everything
While embracing change can be hard, try to remember to be optimistic. If your students hear your negative comments like, “ugh, summer break is over,” then they’re going to adopt that same attitude. It’s okay to acknowledge that gone are the days of sleeping in and staying up late, but now is your chance to support them and encourage them to take advantage of this new year to seek out new opportunities to make friends, join clubs or sports, or find the benefit in all their classes. When you’re excited and upbeat about starting a new year, others around you will share in that same enthusiasm. Just like negativity is contagious, so is positivity. If you notice you don’t have a positive outlook, change it up.
Navigate the Course
The most important thing to remember when you’re faced with changes is to not give up. No matter how hard or stressful those changes might be, keep going, trust the process, and stay the course. If you took on a new role or position at your school, transitioned from part-time to full-time or seized an opportunity to work from home, face this challenge head on and remember, you made the decision because you knew it would open the door for more opportunities.
We know it can be hard to think about the future benefits when you’re living through a change, but there will be a calm after the storm. You’ll remember why you made that career change, took on that extra responsibility and you’ll be proud of yourself for continuing to drive yourself through the change.
Goals Hold You Accountable
When embracing change, big or small, set long-term and short-term goals. You can set a daily or weekly goal to reflect on what went well. If you focus on your wins, no matter how small, you will see that you are accepting change. Depending on the change or changes you are experiencing, it could be beneficial to break down a large task or project into smaller achievable ones. If you’re brand new to the education field, planning for one week at a time is going to be a lot more doable than planning the entire quarter or semester. Or set a goal to sit with someone new during every staff or department meeting, visit a colleague during lunch instead of staying in your room or during your planning/prep time, venture up to the front office to get to know the support staff.
If you’re working from home your goals might look a little different. You might need to set a goal to make a defined transition from your workday to your evening at home. Since you’re not commuting to and from work, you could go for a walk, read a book, call a friend or get out and exercise. Another goal to set yourself is to plan breaks. When you’re on campus, there are built in breaks, but when working from home, you will need to be more purposeful with taking those breaks. And lastly, you don’t forget to move. When at school, you are constantly moving around classrooms, offices and the campus, but not at home. Make a goal to get up a move everyday, and multiple times per day.
Engagement and Expectations are Encouraged
From the very first day of school to the last, you want to grab your students’ attention in meaningful ways by incorporating interactive lessons, encouraging participation, and focusing on their interests because when they see you’re excited about being at school, they will want to be there too. By supporting their healthy transition back to school, you’re doing the same for yourself. And this takes us right back to the importance of being positive.
Also, create purposeful learning opportunities. The more you know about your students academically, their likes, interests, and dislikes, the better you will be able to plan for and teach them. Students need variety, creative engagement, and up-to-date materials. Find new ways to get those students bought in, on board, and ready to rock the next 180 days.
In addition to ensuring engagement, set high expectations for yourself and your students. When you have high expectations you push people to do better. Don’t be afraid to smile and don’t be afraid to praise students for the good stuff they do. Set your expectations for behavior and routines the first day. Students should know your commitment level to dictate success.
So when you are faced with a new challenge this year, remember our tips and embrace that change. Our goal is for everyone to have a great year back to school.