Lauren Hodson | August 2016

Back-to-School and Sunday Night Anxiety Tips and Tricks

Back To School and Sunday Night Anxiety is real folks! Yes… it happens to everyone. And no… you are not alone.

I will never forget my first day of teaching a brand new subject, at a brand new school, and with a brand new grade level. I already had 5 years of experience at an elementary school, but this was middle school, and this was art on the computer instead of on paper.

I was prepared, organized, on time, and completely terrified.  While waiting for the bell to ring and students to pour in, I panicked because back to school is really happening.  

What if they don’t like the class?

What if they realize that I know little about the subject?

What if they don’t like me?

What if I fail them?

I wanted to run. But then… something amazing happened. As the students came filing into the room, a girl came up to me and said, “I’m really nervous. What if I can’t do this?” That is when I realized that they were just as scared as I was and that we would get through it together. By comforting her, I squashing all of those doubting notions in my own head.

This anxiety pops up when you least expect it and through the years I have collected a few tricks that I would like to share. Whether you are a first-year teacher or have 20 years of experience, these tips will help you get through it and allow you to enjoy the time you spend in the classroom.

Teacher Tips for Keeping Yourself on the Positive Track When Back To School

1. Find happiness: Take 2 minutes to smile

When your day is turning in a negative direction, seek happiness. Watch a funny animal video, listen to a fun song, find something that will bring a smile. Share it with your class as they walk in the room or keep it to yourself. Begin class with an appropriate joke session. Some of my favorite jokes have been collected from my students.

2. “It’s Just a Job”: Mantra for those tricky times

Ok, hear me out. As teachers, we know that it is not “Just a Job.” It is our lifestyle. It is who we are. The fact that you are on this website right now is proof that you take your job very seriously and want to find ways in which you can positively impact your students on a daily basis. Teaching has a way of defining us in amazing ways.

But… sometimes we put incredible pressure on ourselves to be the best teacher we can be at all times. By reciting the mantra, “It’s Just a Job,” it allows us to relax a little and remember who we are outside of the classroom. It is a job, and you are great at it! You on your worst day is still better than some of their best.

3. Find a Favorite Student: Have a conversation with them

When I feel like I am having a tough day or a stressful time, I seek out one of my favorite students and ask them how they’re doing. Sometimes having a conversation with a student that brings you positivity can totally turn around a rough patch. Remind yourself that what you do in the classroom is for them. You owe it to them to be your best self. So when Johnny is swinging from the lamp and Cindy is eating crayons like carrot sticks, seek out the student in your class that calms you. Then get back to it!

4. Vary the Content: Rely on the Favorites

When things are getting a little stale, have a “Fun Day.” If you are feeling that things are getting dull, your students probably are too. Switch it up! Reboot! Go with a known crowd-pleasing stand by lesson. It will make learning more meaningful later. Give yourself and your students a break once in awhile.

5. Channel the “Cool Teacher”: The teacher who is great at their job and doesn’t stress about it

We all have them in our schools. Those teachers who seem as though they have not a care in the world. They glide around the hallways effortlessly with a breezy attitude and a constant smile. They never seem stressed, burned out, or frazzled.  When you are feeling like you are at the end of your rope, channel that teacher. Think to yourself, “I can be that teacher.” “I am that teacher.” “Life is good being that teacher.”  

Quick Tips If You’re Back To School

  • When clerical things come down the pike, take care of them right away. Then you don’t have looming deadlines bogging down your headspace.
  • Be prepared. Planning eliminates much of our anxiety. Have a collection of backup plans just in case those fall-throughs.
  • Kindness. It is free. It is important. It is the easiest thing we can and should offer our students.  

How do you combat back to school anxiety for you or your students?

About the Author

Lauren Hodson is a middle school visual and computer art educator in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a mentor teacher and professional development presenter, Lauren is passionate about creativity and making art accessible for everyone. Her passions in STEAM and Arts Integration are at the root of her goal to collaborate with classroom teachers everywhere.