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It’s Back-To-School: 5 Tips to Keep That Summer Glow During the School Year

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It’s that time of year again, when we say farewell to the summer season and prepare for a new school year. As I call it, going from summer mode to school mode. It can be a rough transition for many, and it often comes with a mix of emotions. While there can be excitement about the newness of the year: new clothes, new backpack, and new school supplies there is also the sadness that comes with leaving behind the carefree summer moments and worries/anxiety that can come with entering a new grade/school, making new friends, and facing new (harder) schoolwork.  

While students prepare for the transition by going through their back-to-school checklist, teachers are also busy gearing up for the new year with planning new curricula and lessons, setting up new classroom set-up, and creating new designs for the classroom walls. Teachers, as you go through your back-to-school checklist this year, I want to make sure that you add one item to that checklist that often gets left off: You.

What (or Who) is on your back-to-school checklist?

If the last three school years have taught us anything, we can expect that there will be a fair amount of uncertainty and stress that will emerge this year. We are still technically in a pandemic with new viruses like Monkeypox coming on the scene and new Covid-19 variants showing up. Undoubtedly, the Great Resignation has hit education hard and it will not be too surprising to find some schools feeling the weight of being short staffed. According to Alan Greenblatt (2022) “more than a half million teachers” have left teaching since 2020. There is also the increase in school shootings, which can make walking into the school building elicit fear responses. All these phenomena can leave teachers feeling uncertain, overwhelmed, and stressed as they start the new school year. 

Regardless of what this school year brings, you hold the power to control how you prepare and care for yourself throughout the year. Make sure to put you on the back-to-school checklist first, as it helps to center your needs and ensures that you are showing up with kindness and self-compassion for your students and for yourself.  There is a quote that brings home this point, Put yourself at the top of your to-do list every single day and the rest will fall into place.” Unknown

Are you looking for a few ways to transfer the relaxation and peace of mind that you cultivate in the summer into the school year?

5 tips to keep that summer glow as you flow into the new school year:

  1. Treasure Your Summer MemoriesWhile cell phones make it easy to capture our favorite moments with a camera, we rarely print out these images. Instead, they stay locked safely in the photo gallery and are seldom reviewed. However, there is an emotional benefit to printing out our favorite photos and displaying them in places where we can see them on a regular basis. In fact, looking at photos of positive memories such as vacations and special moments with friends and family can reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, and increase happiness hormones such as endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin. Hold on to your happy summer memories in a few steps:  a. Select a favorite image from this summer and make it the home screen on your phone and/or the background image or screen saver on your computer.  b. Print out your favorite image from this summer and either frame it or make it into a canvas. Depending on the size, you can hang it somewhere you will pass every day or put it on your desk or workspace. There are a number of websites that can help you turn your photos into works of art at a relatively low cost.

  2. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries: Teachers take such pride in creating classrooms that make their students feel welcomed and included. I have witnessed many teachers go above and beyond to ensure that their students have what they need to be successful, even if that means responding to student requests after hours or coming in early to provide support. While this may be sustainable in the short-term, it can quickly lead to burnout if teachers are not protecting their personal time and making time to relax and recharge. Before you set up your classroom, take time to intentionally write down and articulate the boundaries that you want to create this school year. For example, what time will you start and end each work day? How many additional responsibilities will you take on? How will you communicate your schedule to your team and administrator? When teachers fail to create sustainable schedules or take on too much, it can impact their job satisfaction, quality of work, and contribute to poor mental health functioning. When you are stressed or burned out, you are no good to anyone. Be clear with yourself, your students, and others about your schedule and hold to it. You will be thankful when you do.  

  3. Create a healthy self-care plan: When we think about self-care, we often think about those pampering activities like hair appointments, nail care, retail therapy, and spa days. While these activities are great ways to care for your external appearance, they can be costly and only have short-term effects on your emotional wellbeing. Ensuring that you are recharging during time off (i.e., during evenings, weekends, and vacations) are positive ways of caring for your mind, body, and soul. As you create your self-care plan, use my 3 Mi’s to Mental Wellbeing as a guide: 

    Mindfulness, Mindset, and Mind-body connection:
    a. Mindfulness: Use breathwork and meditation for stress reduction and to create moments of quiet and relaxation each day. 
    b. Mindset: Make space for journaling, gratitude and affirmations as they can help you to feel loved, empowered, and balanced.  
    c. Mind-Body Connection: Commit to doing one activity each day that helps you to move during the day. It may be chair yoga, walking, biking, or a workout on your favorite exercise app. You may be surprised to know that just 10 minutes of movement can help to reduce stress, improve thinking and creativity, and expand your lifespan. As teachers, you know the importance of assessing your progress. So it will be important to track your progress at predictable periods and to make adjustments along the way. Also, consider identifying an accountability partner or two who can be cheerleaders along your journey and can help you to stay committed and motivated.

  4. Connect with Purpose: As you prepare to begin a new year, it is extremely important to reconnect with your reason for pursuing a career in education. Connecting with your why is a useful exercise as it can help you to recall your motivation and passion for becoming an educator. Starting the year with joy is a gamechanger and will make a difference for your students. For a few quick prompts on connecting to your why, check out this blog post

  5. Start with the end in mind: The idea of starting with the end in mind comes from Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and it helps people create a goal-oriented mindset. If you start your year by focusing on how you want to feel at the end of the school year, you will inevitably adopt habits that will help you to accomplish your goal. Additionally, being goal-oriented can help you to maintain your personal boundaries and help you to resist taking on additional tasks or responsibilities that can distract you from your purpose. As you prepare to create your goals, reflect on last school year to assess what worked well and what did not. For journal prompts to help you reflect, check out the Reflect section from a recent blog 3R’s for Self-Care: Reflect. Release. Recharge

While starting a new school year can engender a range of emotions, you have the power to control how you respond to the various challenges that may come your way. Creating intentional habits that help you to reduce your stress and foster emotionally healthy routines can transform how you navigate challenges that will inevitably appear this school year. Most of all, it can help you maintain a healthy sense of self and lead to a successful school year for you and your students. 

Dr. Charmain Jackman

Dr. Charmain Jackman Harvard-trained licensed Psychologist

Dr. Charmain Jackman is an award-winning licensed psychologist and global spokesperson on BIPOC mental health. She has worked in K12 schools for over 17 years and served as the Dean of Health & Wellness at Boston Arts Academy from 2011-2021, where she led impactful initiatives to address adolescent mental health. Dr. Jackman is the founder and CEO ofInnoPsych, Inc., a mental health tech start-up on a mission to disrupt racial inequities in mental health and to improve mental health outcomes for people of color. She also consults with schools and organizations on topics including emotional health & learning, racial trauma, burnout, and employee wellbeing. She has won several awards for her innovative work including the 2021 American Psychological Association’s Citizen Psychologist Award and City of Boston’s 2021 Innovator of The Year award. She has also been featured on global media outlets such as the New York TimesNPRPBS, and the Boston Globe.  Learn more at: | Connect on Twitter & Instagram at @InnoPsych and @AskDrCharmain. 

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