Hold onto the Knot in the Rope

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During one of my undergraduate teacher preparation courses, my professor held up a piece of rope with a knot in it and told us that there would be times when we would be overwhelmed and would question why we even became teachers. And THAT, she reminded us, is when we need to hold onto the knot in the rope. I’ve discovered that the knot is different for everybody. For me, the knot formed at a very young age when I experienced the joy of teaching my younger brother how to read. The excitement of sharing my knowledge and witnessing him grasp the rules of phonics, recognize sight words, and develop a love of reading was magical! I became a teacher at the age of six. No other career path even entered my mind.

James Bayard writes, “I am a teacher because I have experienced first hand the role education can have in lifting young people out of a cycle of disadvantage.” His article reminded me of when I chose to follow the path of teaching whereas many of my fellow scholars chose career paths of law, medicine, engineering, or business. Many people viewed my choice to teach as an “underachievement” but failed to realize both the challenges and rewards of teaching.

This problem largely goes unnoticed. Many districts, schools, and universities do not actively recruit strong teacher candidates. Some organizations even advertise the teaching career as a “stepping stone” to a better career.

Chuck Poole, a fellow educator, reminds us to be proud of what we do. Teaching really is one of the most prestigious and rewarding professions in the world. We are charged with passionately teaching students who will go into all other professions, and that amazes me!

A Pre-K teacher, Brian Smith, wrote a list of some reasons why he teaches. He encourages fellow teachers to “Keep in mind what inspired you to begin with, and remember the reasons you chose to take on this daunting, wonderful job.” I encourage you to take some time and make your own list and review it whenever you need those reminders!

How do you “Hold onto the knot in the rope” during the difficult days? Leave a comment below!

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Back to School!

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Back-to-School Stress

Parents, children, and teachers tend to feel a lot of emotions and stressors when summer is coming to an end, and school is about to begin.

Parents are likely thinking about adjusting their schedules; students are likely thinking about seeing their friends AND having their summer freedom aborted; but teachers are likely stressing the most about getting ready for a new school year.

Psychologist Gail Kinman offers advice on how to reduce stress and prepare for the new school year.   Among other suggestions, she advises becoming in touch with your feelings, listening to your body, doing a bit of planning, and getting extra rest.

Researching advice from psychologists and teachers, five top tips emerged for relieving “back-to-school” stress. They are as follows:

  1. Practice self-care. Get in the habit of taking care of yourself so that when the onslaught happens, you are already in the habit of taking some time for yourself. Remember the flight attendants’ instructions: “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting the person next to you.” If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the energy to take care of anyone else, particularly a room full of students!
  2. Meditate and/or pray. There are multitudes of studies showing that meditation and prayer lower According to a University of Pennsylvania research study, just 30 minutes of daily meditation improves the ability to prioritize and manage tasks and goals, re-focus attention and stay alert to the environment. Even 5 minutes helps. Close your eyes for 5 minutes and breathe deeply to get back on track.
  3. Be prepared. Just a little bit of preparation can reduce your stress before it even starts to build up. Spend a little time organizing yourself before school starts and you will likely feel more relaxed. Make a list of what you want to do, then prioritize the items on your list. Don’t try to do everything at once. Feel free to cross off a few things on your list. Accomplishing the top few items can relieve a lot of anxiety.
  4. Use your mind. Take a few minutes to visualize yourself making a positive impact on your students. It is amazing how much this little practice can change your mindset and reduce stress.
  5. Get moving! Studies show that exercise reduces stress and releases endorphins. When you think you are too busy to exercise, it is often the times you need it most. It doesn’t have to be a full workout – just a quick walk or some stretches will do the trick. Yoga is also highly recommended.

(Reduce Back-to-School Anxiety Naturally)

Additional links are as follows: Back to School Tips, Back to School Preparation.

Summer and school breaks are great times to work on professional development classes. Flexible, online classes can be helpful for busy teachers.

So, take some deep breaths, and welcome the start of the school year!

If you have some good tips for reducing back-to-school anxiety, please comment below.