August. The month for educators of excitement, anticipation, and the start of a new (school) year. Many of us left our classrooms/schools in June with a list of books to read, conferences to go to, and big ideas for the next school year. If you are like me June-July-August are months that help me ramp up for the next year and allow me to focus in not just professional learning-but also extended time to be with family and friends.
Then comes the middle/end of August. If you are a parent, student, teacher (or all of the above)-back to school can bring excitement as well as a little anxiety. Between re-establishing bedtime routines, school supply shopping and worries about what the next year will bring, we forgot to ‘pause’ and continue to be in the moments with our families that we have re-established during the previous weeks. Below are a four tips to regain that balance that either myself or my PLN tribe has tried and applied to our lives and hope they help you stay balanced and productive, while giving you some peace of mind.
It isn’t a race-slow down. Sometimes the business of back to school can feel like a race or competition. Every year starting back up brings a list of tasks to accomplish-but making sure you prioritize not ‘urgentize’ these tasks is key. No medals are given for the parent who gets their kids school supplies first. Take your time and if you can’t find that magenta red folder-it will be okay.
- I use “Todoist” and have different folders of tasks with set due dates. For me it is like an electronic post-it note. I break the tasks up into measurable steps and love seeing them disappear once I have completed each one.
- I shut my door. Sometimes the ‘do you have just a minute’ throws off what I was just in the middle of doing and makes it hard to regroup. If I have a parent phone call-or a very important note to send I shut my office door for that brief period of time. Giving myself an interrupted free ten minutes saves me from taking it home at night or not giving my 100% focus to that specific task at hand.
Find 10 minutes to connect with your family as individuals. Take small steps to put the technology away and spend time with members of your family as often as you can. Ideas around this might include: card games, making dinner together, going for a walk, or maybe even school shopping together.
- I have started using Adam Welcome’s “Airplane” mode on weekend outings with families. I can still take pictures and watch the time-but I am not distracted by social media/texts/ or emails.
- Thanks to Todd Nesloney our family has evening read aloud time. I read a few chapters from a book that they might not necessarily choose-but gives us a structured down time to do something as a family.
Start your morning routine again. Summer provides a little more R and R time for many of us. Even if we are going into work, before that back to school bell rings it is at a much different pace than when the school year starts.
- In our house we get a little relaxed with bedtimes and morning routines as we have a little extra time. A week or so ahead start your morning routine a little earlier so when you have to get the kids up a little earlier it isn’t such a shock to the system for everyone.
- Pack the night ahead. Even with (2) boys going into 6th and 4th grade our mornings can get a little crazy. By making sure we are all (and I mean me as well) packed up for the next day ensures at least one task is done before we wake up.
Find some whitespace on your calendar. After being out of the routine for a few weeks/months it is easy to think you should just jump right back in and fill your calendar with meetings and tasks from start to finish. What you end up with when this is done is a lot of carry over (that might come home) as well as exhaustion and not feeling connected or accomplished.
- I am really trying hard to have at least (2) 30 minute blocks of ‘free’ on my calendar every day. Use that time to get out of the office-check in on students/staff-or just get a little fresh air and new perspective.
- This….is the tough one. I am trying NOT to bring home school work this year (gasp). My mornings are time for reflection and reading and after the kids go to bed will my ‘fun’ professional learning (Twitter Chats/Voxer groups and Mastermind). I am hoping by setting some boundaries I give myself permission to make time for the other activities that will fill my cup and help me keep growing professionally.
I am so grateful for my PLN on Voxer and Twitter that challenges me to keep perspective with the start of the year. At times the start of the school year kind feels like the start of a 1/2 Marathon-the gun goes off and I am scrambling and weaving by people a little frantic and off pace. But after that first 1/2 mile I have to remember that I have about 13 more miles to go-and will never be able to maintain that current pace.
Recognize the start of the year is a little higher in endurance and pace-but pull back so you have enough energy for the rest of the year and make sure to stop-reflect-and take pictures along the journey.