It’s that time of year when everyone is going back to school! While this can be exciting for some, for others it can lead to the back to school scaries. Today, Ali and JoDee dive into what the back to school scaries are, what perpetuates them, and how you overcome the back to school scaries.
Connect with Ali and JoDee:
Ali’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alisimon/
JoDee’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jodeescissors/
For episode transcriptions visit: https://thegreatteacherresignation.buzzsprout.com
All teachers are natural innovators, entertainers and problem solvers. They dream of growing old into the profession, teaching their kids kids. But sometimes career goals shift or change, and that makes opportunities outside of the classroom seem intangible questioning who am I, if I'm not a teacher? I'm your host, Alexandra Simon.
And I'm your co host, JoDee Scissors.
This is The Great Teacher Resignation.
It's August, and that means we've been in the thick of back to school season. Everyone's wrapping up their vacations, the school supply rush, and pre service PD for teachers. Well, JoDee, and I are friends with lots of teachers and educators, many of whom were former colleagues. My teacher friends in the south, they've been in the back to school mode over the past few weeks, because some of them started back even as early as August 1. And I've been listening to them talk about all the emotions that surround starting a new school year.
Yes, there is a lot of feelings coming off of summer and getting into back to school mode. I would say those emotions probably range from elation to fear. And on that fear spectrum, some call this the back to school scaries. So Ali, can you tell our listeners a little bit about what the back to school scariess are?
Absolutely. So you might have heard of the Sunday scaries or other types of scaries. But the back to school scariess. It's a type of feeling that builds in intensity as the school year approaches. That feeling can be rooted in anything from anxiety, fear, nervousness, or even career sadness. And this is not a unique feeling to teachers, but also can include administrators, students and parents like ourselves. So JoDee, did you feel the back to school scaries when you were a teacher?
Well, I think I'll go back a little bit more to when I was a student, and I definitely had back to school scaries as a student, so they were pretty intense because I went to four elementary schools in six years. And if you have ever known a student who has moved a lot, or who is a little bit more bashful when it comes to meeting new people, they experienced some really strong feelings. And going into a new school year where it had to be reintroduced to new faces, peers, teachers, that didn't understand my family background or my family dynamics. It was really tough. And I was point blank, afraid to be myself, because I didn't know anyone. My teachers, for the most part, were not very empathetic about my tardiness, I can remember, you know, one of my math teachers, every time I walked in the door tardy, she would roll her eyes at me and make a snarky remark in front of the entire class. And that was a sign every day that I was not going to have a very comfortable year. And then I was going to be walking on eggshells. Even though I was a well behaved child. I had good grades. And for the most part, you know, skated under the radar because I just I wasn't quite my bubbly self, but I wasn't underperforming in a way that you know, set off alarms. So as a student, I definitely had those scaries.
And I can really relate to that this year, because my younger child, my daughter, she's actually been experiencing the back to school scaries. It's she's really had a rough time going into second grade. I'm not sure if it's her seating assignment, because the person sitting next to her has been chatting with her a lot and she gets distracted very easily. Or if she's just having a hard time because transitions are tough for kids just like they are for adults. So we've been working through that. She does come home happy. But every morning, it's definitely a back to school scary for her, especially like on a Sunday night. It's like combining the Sunday scaries with the back to school scaries. And it's just a whole experience. And I really feel that too when I was in jobs that I didn't really have good boundaries, or maybe jobs where I wasn't as enthusiastic about the role that I had. I'd get those Sunday scaries where I was just like dreading to going to work on Monday as an adult. You know, I wasn't excited. I would hit snooze as many times as possible on Monday morning, and then that just made my Monday even worse because I wasn't ready in time to go to work. I'm not a late person. So it would mean that I just like showed up to the office like without the right amount of makeup or without coffee or something like that. But yeah, as an adult, we experienced that too.
I have experienced that as an adult for sure. I've had the Sunday scaries and I think that most of my back to school feelings weren't exactly scaries, but self doubt. I had some major self doubt leading up to those first days of schools where I thought, I'm not good enough. I'm not good enough to do this job. I'm not a good enough teacher. And you know, those pre service trainings can be overwhelming. Because you're focused on the data, the new expectations, or the revised procedures, and the latest curriculum changes. And then it's not really focused on am I okay and ready to prepare for this year with this group of students. And so, for me that pre service stuff really elevated the fear, and didn't really empower me.
I could really relate to that to actually to the sense of like losing your empowerment, when you're in some of those pre service trainings. You and I have a similar experience where we moved to school districts a couple of times. And so, you know, it's hard enough going to those PD trainings, back to school, that like everyone has to go to. But I think I went to four different new teacher orientation trainings, where they're treating you like you've never taught before. Meanwhile, I've taught for four or five years, and I'm going to this training that there's the newbies. And yeah, just it really kind of gets you down before you even had a chance to start planning for your own classroom.
I really liked my team meetings, like when you're in pre service, and you get to meet with your immediate team and really focus on what is the plan as a team. Because those are the people you're going to spend most of the year with. But I would say the biggest thing that really alleviated a lot of the feelings was that first day meeting my students. I never feared my class. I never feared who was going to be coming into my classroom. You know, young children, they're very genuine. They keep you on your heels. And, you know, they come into the classroom sunkissed. And they're a little bit more filled out than when you saw them back in the spring. And so that that freshness, that newness was always really, really great to see. And they made me feel special, they made me feel like I was in a special place because I was their teacher. And this was our year, we're going to do this together. And I was an elementary teacher. So I can't say that middle school or high school teachers have that similar feeling. Because I had my class. It was us against all the timelines, the assessments, and the growing pains of that age group and that developmental stage of their life. And so I think that even in the most challenging times, when it comes to like teacher and student challenges, they were always my saving grace. When the adult world was scripting what I was supposed to be teaching, they were regulating my profession, they were pushing politics into my classroom, and they were perpetuating my career sadness, which was leading to those back to school scaries.
Yeah and just from the high school perspective, I think we have this gap in the middle school area. But from the high school perspective, I was always excited about meeting my students, but it was always kind of like rolling the dice. Like you didn't really know, it's hard to figure out what they're going to be like, or what their background is like. And being a specialist teacher, I was a Spanish teacher. Some of the students loved my class, and were super excited to be there. And then there were some who just dreaded Spanish class. I mean, that was just their least favorite class. So you never really knew who you were gonna get and what period. It's interesting, because you're trying to figure out which period is going to be super engaged in your specialty in Spanish, and whatever your area is, and then which period is gonna be very unenthusiastic about your course. And you're gonna have to pull out all the tricks to try to get them to want to learn a foreign language. So that was always the tough part was figuring that out in the beginning. And then once you figured that out, kind of going from there to plan. But yeah, I can definitely hear you with that career sadness when these other things that are out of your control, they're putting a lot of pressure on you as a teacher. And you can't really enjoy that back to school time, because you're honestly just so worried about meeting all the requirements, or doing all the things that you have to do. And making sure that you know your classrooms a certain way. Or you have to put the objective on the board. You have to put this on the board. Like what's the new thing we have to put on the board? Because it has to be on the board when my administrator walks in, or else my observation is going to be terrible. Like every year, I just felt like we were learning something new. So I guess what does the past tell us about education? Because we're talking about our pasts here.
Well, we know that last year was one of the most challenging years that educators have had in a very long time. And according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 600,000, teachers have quit public education. So I think that the past tells us that teachers endure anxiety and fear. They endure nervousness, and what I felt was career sadness. And so what kind of perpetuates the back to school scaries?
Yeah, so some of the things that I know my friends have told me about this year, my teacher friends. And it's definitely hitting home more this year than it has in really any year past because of just what teachers have gone through over the last few years. So I think the big things are anxiety. Teachers are really, really stressed with going back to school. There's so many unfilled positions. And what that means, like you said, JoDee, is that if you're teaching at a school where you have planning periods, and you're a middle school or high school teacher. You might not have planning periods, right? So you may be covering for other teachers, if there's vacancies, and if they can't find substitutes. So you are going all day. There's no break for you, maybe 25 minutes for lunch. And hopefully, you can use the bathroom in between periods. But just to know you're starting off the school year like that, really puts teachers who already struggle with anxiety, at a really, really high level of anxiety. There's a lot of fear about maybe colleagues that you're working with, maybe you're on a bad team. Like that I hate to use words like bad, because sometimes you have bad actors, right? There's someone on the team who's just either not pulling their weight, or they don't want to follow the guidelines, what you need to do. You might have an unsupportive admin, which honestly, is just the worst thing right now if your admins doesn't have your back. You might have a crazy workload. You might not have that flexibility, like having a planning period, like your contract says you should. And then the hours. We all know that in the beginning of the year, you're kind of revving up and you do stay after a lot. And so you're having those long hours, you're dreading that. Maybe you're dreading time with your family. The other things that I would say are happening as well as people are nervous. There's a lot of changes happening right now in education. So whether you're changing schools, whether you're getting nervous about teaching, maybe this is one of your first few years teaching, there's new people, new faces, new challenges, and there's a lot of uncertainties in education right now. And then what you shed light on JoDee is the career sadness. So we know that many teachers are experiencing this career sadness, because they reach out to us for support. And when your heart's not all in, you can feel locked into a school year, wishing you were somewhere else. But we don't want you to do that. We want you instead to acknowledge if you're having these feelings, if you know that this might not be the place for you forever. Take this year as an opportunity to actually invest in yourself. And we have some recommendations for you on what you can do to be able to invest in yourself this year and to kind of take you a little bit out of that career sadness phase.
I want to just acknowledge one of the things that I did to get me out of that back to school scaries moments in which I was enduring a lot of career sadness. And it was reshaping my mindset. Like, I knew that that was going to be my last year. So I flipped a switch where I was worried about, okay, can I get through this year? And instead changing my mind to say, this is my last hurrah. This is the last time I'm going to be in this classroom with a group of students who I enjoy being around. It's the last time I'm going to be in this school. It's the last time I'm going to see the faces of the students I won't get to teach because I was a Spanish Immersion teacher. So I didn't just have relationships with my class. I knew the kids that were coming to me because they were a cohort. And so it was those faces that I wasn't gonna get to see as well that I wanted to just like savor all of those moments. And so after I reflected on that, my perspective just totally changed. And I was like, I have to make the most of every last bit of this year. And that meant setting some boundaries, and giving myself permission to pursue educational projects that I loved, and continue to build relationships with my students.
Yeah. And JoDee, what you were sharing is that you knew at the beginning of your last school year that you were not planning to teach after that year. And my experience was so are different because I didn't realize until about, I think it was March or April of that year, we had a family emergency for our daughter. And then I didn't come back the following year. I didn't have that time to really process in an entire school year. And to really say those emotional goodbyes like, this is going to be my last fill in the blank event, whether it's the book fair, or whether it's the school carnival. But allowing yourself to process those things in real time and to say, Okay, I'm going to put 100% into this last year, into the things that I really love in my classroom. Like, maybe you have certain projects that you really liked doing, right? And you're going to enjoy your favorite parts of teaching can really help I think, with that transition. Because when we talk about our after experience, like I think you were in a better place than I was, truthfully, when we left the classroom, because you were able to process some of that. What are some other things that we can recommend to educators that they can do to try to get over these back to school scaries?
Well, I remember when I first started teaching, I was really focused on decorating my classroom. That was like something that I was really focused on very early on. And then someone gave me a piece of advice. And said, think of your classroom as a gallery. And if you have the same stuff stuck on the wall all year long, no one's going to notice it. And so that really changed my mindset, when it came to preparing for the new school year and not focusing on the walls, but the quality of my planning, and the quality of our classroom routines, establishing those. I was never a frilly decorator anyways, like my classroom was not filled with teachers pay teacher's decorations or anything like that. My classroom was full of my students work and their voices. So whatever was on the walls, was something they made. And that made my classroom feel authentic. And it made it feel like it was our space and not my space. And so their writings, their drawings, their artwork, whatever it was, I decided, this is their space, this is for them, and we will build the walls together to ensure that this is a reflection of our year and what we're learning. Something else that really worked for me was planning things I was really excited about. So I had a special project that I worked with school wide, that was called Eagle Entrepreneurs. And it was where I implemented a program to help young girls see themselves as entrepreneurs. And that was a lot of fun. Another thing I was really excited about was project based learning. But in content areas I wasn't excited about planning for. So math, for example, like I always loved planning for reading and writing, and science. But math I was, I just was never as excited about planning for that. And then I implemented this project based learning, inquiry project in math to go along with what we were learning. And that was a lot of fun to plan each week. So I had things that made me excited for planning, even though sometimes planning was pretty overwhelming. It kind of flipped a switch in me when I decided, oh, this is actually very exciting. And it's very effective. And so I was excited about that.
That's great. And that's really good advice to try to focus in on something that you have control over, something that you're passionate about, like designing specific units. That one sounds like a really fun project too. In line with that, sometimes planning does feel really stressful. It's really, really difficult to think, oh, man, I need to plan these first nine weeks. So try to break things into manageable tasks. And sometimes we know that there's something you have to do as a teacher, whether it's emailing parents, whether it's lesson planning, whether it's decorating your room, or something else, to know that there's something you might really dislike and to prioritize how you feel about that, And say, alright, I have this task that I need to undertake. But after I do that, I'm going to give myself a little bit of a break. So maybe you try to do that before you have lunch or you tried to do that before, you know you're gonna go to a PD session with your colleagues that you're really excited about. So try to get the things that you're not as excited about done in times where you have something to look forward to. And you can just acknowledge, okay, I don't love doing this, but I'm going to do it. And the last thing that I think JoDee and I can both speak to is prioritizing your mental wellness, mental health. That is so important. Now more than ever. So think about things that you can do in your life that will help make you a better person and a better teacher.
Yeah, well, I'm just thinking about Carrie Meyers, Empowering Educator and her wellness episode that she did with us all of that advice that she gave that can play out in your new school year. You know, when you do things that help you be well, you can go into the school year with full cognitive abilities to handle hard things. And so for me, it's exercise. I have a group of people I work out with. And exercise on a daily basis is very key to my mental health. And that even meant at work, sometimes I would grab my lunch, if I happen to actually eat my lunch, when I was teaching, I would eat it while walking around the playground. Because I needed exercise. And I needed to not be overly stimulated. Because when you're talking and engaging with lots of people, for three hours straight, like I needed to decompress, and that was a really good way for me to do that in the moment. And so, I'd also say just like, pursue your hobbies. Give yourself something to be excited about. And give yourself something to look forward to, if that's like planning a trip, or a project or a school event. You always feel a little bit more excited when you have something to look forward to.
And another thing that I really liked doing when I was teaching was kind of opposite of you. I liked having lunch with at least one of my colleagues. I'm such an extrovert that, you know, I couldn't talk about all the things I wanted to with my high school students who were in Spanish one because like I couldn't communicate, they wouldn't understand the language. But also, I'm a person. And so I've developed a lot of amazing teacher friendships over, you know 30 minute school lunches, by inviting someone to my classroom, or you know, going to their classroom, finding a space on campus. And honestly, those friendships are really what sustained me when I was a teacher. And some of those teachers are my best friends to date. So think about what you need and what you need might be different from another teacher. And that's okay. But prioritizing yourself, filling your bucket with either exercise, hobbies, giving yourself something to look forward to, making new teacher friends. You need to prioritize you this year to make sure that you can have a great school year. Thanks for listening today. And if you have any back to school scaries solutions, we'd love to hear from you. Please share them with us on social media, DM us, and we look forward to hearing them.
If you liked The Great Teacher Resignation, give us a five star rating and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music and Audible. Today's episode was written and recorded by me Alexandra Simon and my co host JoDees Scissors. Wxecutive produced by Teacher Brain. Produced and edited by Emily Porter. Original Music: Emoji by Tubebackr. Special thanks to our sponsor Paper Planes Ed.