You’ve just spent an incredibly relaxing time during your summer break. Maybe you travelled to somewhere with crystal clear oceans and rainbow coloured hammocks where you sipped fruit mocktails. Perhaps you spent time eating familiar foods and laughing with friendly faces back home. You might even have spent your summer break enjoying the relative quiet of Ramadan here in the UAE. Regardless of how you spent your holidays, it’s likely that you are well rested, feeling at peace and energized.
Now you begin to think about returning to the classroom, and perhaps you start to feel anxious. Don’t worry; this is a common emotional response that can be experienced by either a veteran teacher or a newbie. Great teachers tend to be perfectionists and want to get everything right as soon as they step into the classroom. However, each school year comes with a classroom full of new faces – perplexed, happy, indifferent, friendly, hostile – and in as short a time as possible, you’ll have to figure out how to effectively teach this mixed cast of characters. If any of this sounds familiar, here are some tips to help you start off the new school year anxiety free!
It helps to keep in mind that your students are probably as or more anxious than you. They will likely act out their anxiety in a variety of ways that you’ll have to decipher while trying to maintain your cool. Thinking of starter activities that will make everyone in the classroom laugh and have fun will definitely help to alleviate both the teacher and students’ anxiety on the first day back.
The more prepared you are for the first several weeks, the less anxious you will be. Decide what your classroom rules, consequences and rewards system will be ahead of time. Students thrive in an orderly classroom and you will feel more confident with rules in place. Make sure your students understand the rules and that you are serious about their enforcement. Changes can always be made to them later in the trimester, in order for the rules to be more reflective of the context of the classroom.
Arranging your classroom and having a week’s worth of lesson plans will help to decrease your anxiety by making you feel prepared. Set up a student- friendly classroom that is colourful and print rich. Have student portfolios ready to deposit samples of students’ work and assessments. Of course, be prepared with all of your basic materials: white board markers and eraser, pencils, paper and any other essentials. Having your lesson plans prepared ahead of time will help you feel accomplished and less prone to anxiety.
If you can, reach out to parents before the first day of school. Introduce yourself as their child’s teacher and share your school-based expectations with them. They will appreciate the gesture, which could even lead to their becoming an ally. Don’t forget to develop collegial bonds with the other teachers at your school as well! Developing a school-based support network is an important way to alleviate back to school anxieties and strengthen your confidence.
Your first week of school sets the foundation for the rest of the school year. Approach it with a clear focus as to what your goals are and how you plan to achieve them. Remember to relax. This is just another day back, doing what you love with people who also enjoy what they do! Have a great school year.
By Aisha Shakti Hakim