Adjust your sleeping habits at least a week before school starts. During the school year, I wake up at 6:00am. I leave by 6:45am to arrive at school close to 7:00am though I am required to be at school by 7:30am. This extra half an hour gives me wiggle room in case I run into traffic or have a pressing email or task that requires my attention. To ensure I get at least 8 hours of sleep, I go to sleep by 10:00pm at the latest. Moreover, I recommend setting aside technology out of your immediate reach for at least a half hour before you go to bed. Instead, read a book, write a gratitude list, meditate, or take a bath/shower to make your transition from day to night easier. Additionally, having to get up out of bed to turn of your alarm, ensures you will actually get up out of bed! Also, stop using the snooze function on your alarm. I used to be an avid snoozer and it simply stalled my morning, disrupted my sleep cycle, and mildly irritated my husband. Instead, set the time for when you will actually wake up and launch yourself out of bed. After reading The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins, it helps me to count down from 5 to 1 to get out of bed. If I don’t get up immediately, my husband actually starts counting down for me and I am launched into my day like a rocket ship.
Exercise: To keep your mind, body, and heart happy, it’s vital to exercise. Whether it’s a walk around your neighborhood, a great work-out at the gym, a fun game of tennis, or dancing at a club, get your heart rate up and move your body. Exercising ensures healthy living. Just do it. No excuses. You’ll feel better - I guarantee it.
Enjoy healthy food/snacks: My mother-in-law introduced me to a delicious snack and I am obsessed with it. I can make it in advance and it keeps in the fridge for at least a week, but I go through it pretty quickly. I basically take rolled oats, peanut butter, chocolate protein powder, honey, a bit of water, and cacao nibs, and mix them together into small one inch balls. I usually make enough for 12-14 of them and store them in the fridge. They are delicious, satisfying, and healthy. I also love Ina Garten’s recipe of roasted cashews. I roast cashews for about 5 minutes, toss them in a little butter, freshly chopped rosemary, cayenne pepper, salt, and a little bit of brown sugar. Even just cutting up some fresh carrots and celery and packing some peanut butter or almond butter makes a lovely treat! Consider creating salads in mason jars. These will keep and there are so many possibilities and ideas available on the web! By making food ahead of time, it’s easy to pack for the week.
Schedule fun: While anticipating the start of the school year, it’s imperative to book at least four fun events for the first month of school that you’re truly excited about. It’s important to have something every week that you truly look forward to that’s good for your heart and soul. This can include new outings, date nights, small trips, parties, or whatever it is that makes your heart happy. I recommend more than four fun booked occasions a month, but it’s a place to start.
Schedule relaxation and rejuvenation: This is critical and often overlooked! Book time for self-care, whether it’s a mani-pedi, massage, candle-lit bubble bath, meditation session, float pod, therapy session, time to watch the sunset over the ocean, writing in your journal, painting - whatever it is that relaxes you and heals you. As educators, administrators, students, and families we often overbook our lives without making room for planned downtime. And I’m not talking about the times you just veg out in front of the television or zone out on your phone, I’m talking about planned relaxation and rejuvenation. Plan at least four of these a month! Self-care is necessary for success. Just as we take time to make doctor’s appointments and client meetings, it’s vital to insert times in our planner for ourselves, for our family and friends, and for our physical health.
Treat yourself: Did you know the amount of vendors that offer teacher discounts? A lot! If you’re not sure, ask! And make sure to bring your teacher ID with you everywhere you go. If you haven’t received your new teacher id, carry your old one, or have a copy of some proof that you work at a school tucked in your wallet to show various retailers. I’ve received teacher discounts through my mobile phone provider, my car insurance, rental cars, etc. Please, oh please, find out where you currently spend your money and see if you actually qualify for a discount. My favorites include: Barnes and Noble, Ann Taylor Loft, JCrew, Banana Republic, and The Limited. I highly recommend purchasing a new outfit for your first week back. Okay, you might get more than one thing, but even just a new shirt with your teacher discount might make you feel like a million bucks on that first day back!
Fuel your brain: Read or listen to books on tape that inspire you, motivate you, and push you to want to learn more. Watch documentaries that interest you, join a book club, or take a class (there are a lot of free courses online!). The more eager you are to learn something new, the more likely your students will be excited to learn right along with you. Cue NBC’s “The more you know” public service announcement. It’s true!
Practice Gratitude: Make a verbal or written list of at least three things you’re thankful for each night. The more you practice being thankful about your life, the more positivity you will invite into your life. This is a great habit to instill in your students as well. Try it for thirty days and let me know how it goes.
Declare your purpose:It is essential to be clear about what you hope your students will take away from their experience in your classroom this year. My challenge to you is to be able to articulate what you hope students will learn in one sentence. If you’re not clear about your purpose as an educator, how on earth will students feel purposeful in your class? Share your purpose with your students and ask them to share their goals. Check in regularly and see if you’re achieving your goals individually and as a community.
Focus on your students: A lot of time is spent on preparing the classroom space, the curriculum, and the instructional methods for the school year. These are all important aspects, but I would argue not enough time is spent on preparing for your students. I look at the most recent yearbook, photocopy the photo pages of the incoming class I will receive and spend time memorizing faces with names to ensure I can greet each student by name when they enter my classroom. If new students are joining the class, I ask to see their folders which contains photographs of them. This allow me to put a face with a name. I also create binders for each student and put their names on it. They are welcome to decorate or personalize their binders, but the message I communicate to my students is that each student has a space, a thing that belongs to them, in my classroom. I do this with my graduate classes as well. Also, while an introduction letter about you is beneficial for students, I’m more interested in learning about my students instead of having them learn about me. I have students share about themselves on the first day so I can get to know what they like, how they learn best, how I can support them, what they want to learn, and their past positive and negative experiences. I also ask them to think about their goals and action steps to reach those goals so I can help them in achieving them. This helps me to personalize their learning experience. It also demonstrates that their opinions, ideas, past, and expectations of me are valuable.