Holly Valentine | August 2019

Back to School, Back to You

Back-to-school overwhelm is a very real thing. The calendar turns to August, and we naturally feel the tension in our shoulders start to increase. Back to school. Back to lesson plans. Back to meetings. Back to parent phone calls. Back to sleepless Sunday nights. Back to overscheduled days. Back to routine. But what about back to you?

I have always said that the reason we have summer as an educator is to find ourselves again. As Amy Traggianese once wrote, it is the time to feed your artistic soul. For ten months of the year, we put ourselves on the back burner and put absolutely everyone else’s needs in front of our own. Back to school time arrives and that person we just found slips away again until next summer. What if this was the year that changed? What if you put yourself on at least the same level as everyone else, and made a commitment to doing something to keep your own spirit alive every day? Not as impossible as it sounds.

Make a list!

To help fight the back-to-school overwhelm, make a list of the top ten relaxing things you did this summer at home. Not the beach vacations or long lunches with friends, but the simple everyday things that made you breathe a little easier and give you back that sense of self that goes missing during the school year.

They are not huge monumental things, but the things that helped to make your life a little happier. Things like:

  • An extra cup of coffee in the morning while surfing through social media
  • Reading a book that had nothing to do with education
  • Creating art
  • Cooking
  • Walking
  • Learning something new
  • Playing a game or coloring with a child

These things are naturally easier in the summer when we don’t have the dreaded clock ruling our days, or bells or copies to make in the 10-minute break you end up with on many days. But if they truly are things that make you feel more like yourself, consider ways to keep them going and keep that simple summer feeling around. Every single one of those things can keep happening. You just need to make the commitment to do it… the commitment to yourself!

You Time

Personally, even though I am not a morning person, it helps me to get up an hour earlier than I really need to in order to not have to rush in the morning. I can have a little quiet time to wrap my head around the day ahead. In that hour, I can do a variety of things and do change it up each day. It allows me to not only have that extra cup of coffee (a must) but to find time for my own creativity.  Very often that is when I practice my art or work on a personal project because let’s face it… the days can get away from us. I head out the door with a calm sense of self and am ready for the day.

Not a morning person? Consider the evening. I know a teacher who stops all schoolwork by 8:00, no matter what, so that she has that sense of “me time”. Not only does it force time efficiency, but it reminds herself that she is important too.

Don’t just say you will do this – commit to it! Keep track of it and hold yourself accountable. Within a few weeks of consistency, just like we tell our students, it will become second nature and habit. But it is something we have to teach ourselves to do!

Creativity Matters!

Teachers are naturally creative people. That creativity is so important to feed and grow!

There will be a time during the school year that you need a jolt… when that energy and enthusiasm of the first weeks needs to be found again. Be sure to listen to that! Find something new to energize yourself. Learn a new art form, stop and play a game with your child, laugh with a friend. Those times you need a jolt and don’t think you can go on happen when you need to get back to you, when you are putting everyone else before your own needs too much. Remember… the educator is an artist too, and you need to feed that passion!

Back to school is an exhilarating, exciting time. It moves fast, and we expect so much of ourselves. Make this the year that you don’t lose the summer you – the happy, relaxed, in touch with yourself you. If you can keep that version of you around, not only will you feel better, but your classroom will function more smoothly and that peaceful vibe will carry into every task you take on.

You got this! Fight that back-to-school overwhelm! Have an amazing school year filled with endless possibilities. And don’t forget to keep coming back to you!

About the Author

Holly Valentine is currently an Arts Integration Teacher in the Gates Chili Central School District, a suburb of Rochester, NY where she has been for 20 years. She is a certified Arts Integration Specialist and has served as an Arts Standards Writer for the New York State Education Department. She was a 2014 recipient of NYC Broadway League's Apple Award for her work in Arts Education. Holly also serves as the Director of Education for the Rochester Broadway Theatre League, where she has created nationally recognized programs and develops standards-based curriculum for touring Broadway shows in order to bring the theatre to classrooms and classrooms to the theatre.