Five tips for getting ready for back to school 2018/ 2019 with no stress

It doesn't have to be true for everyone, but it is a reality for many teachers: the first few weeks of your summer vacation are probably going to be leisurely, as they should be. But then a nagging voice is likely to appear in your head. It will tell you (repeatedly) that you should be getting ready. You will probably try to fight it, but it will get harder with time. Because you know those holidays just fly by, don't they?

You know you shouldn't let the beginning of the new school year catch you off guard. But on the other hand, you know you shouldn't let the excessive preparation ruin your well-deserved holiday. The good news is you can find a balance, and find some time to prepare to go back to school with no stress, while still having time to rest.

Here are five tips on how to manage this balance like a pro. 

Reflect back on your last year

Look back at your last school year - the way you've worked, what you felt. Put yourself first for a moment and recognise possible negative patterns regarding your work-life balance. What would you like to do differently? Take some time to also recognise positive patterns regarding your work-life balance. What would you like to continue? Write down all the significant discoveries. 

Decide to start fresh

Now that you're done with thinking about the past school year, let the actual moments and expectations of last year go. Coming into class with leftover or preconceived notions and attitudes can harm both you and your students and affect your relationship profoundly. The new year is coming, so try to treat it that way.

Better organising to reduce stress

If you've been losing sleep over preparing lessons and tests during the last year, it might be a sign that you're not feeling organized enough. Being tired and sleepless is unpleasant as it is, but it also stresses you out in the long run. Start to organize yourself better by getting a planner (or a planning app) and start writing things down. You can write down stand-alone ideas for your class (such as literature lists, classroom layouts, science experiments, etc.), but make some concrete plans as well - when and where will you go on an excursion, lesson plans, etc.

This teacher binder is the ultimate way to get ready for the school year ahead. It will keep you focused without having to waste valuable time creating your own binder from scratch. To see more about this binder click here.

Work a bit, but not too much

While we all want to make the best and the most of our holiday, it turns out that doing some work before the beginning of the new working season pays off in the sense you'll be feeling less anxious and more ready. Going through last year's notes and lesson plans, and finishing that teaching book counts as work too.

Take care of yourself

Use the last weeks or days of your holiday to recharge genuinely.  The best way to restore your energy levels seems to be the combination of spending time in nature, breathing with meditation, and any physical activity such as exercising, yoga, or running. Also, try to stay away from devices as much as you can. While you may feel the need to do a lot of work for your students, the truth is that they won't benefit much from a teacher who burned out even before the year has started. So relax, and look ahead to the new school confidently knowing that a recharged teacher is the best way to start a new school year.

Looking for some low prep options this Back to School season? Why not check out my Teacher Binder, my Back to School Worksheets, or my All About Me Booklet. 


How to disconnect from your laptop and reconnect with nature this school holiday

Technology makes our lives easier. As a teacher, instead of carrying thick notebooks and tons of paper all the time, you get to bring a laptop with all your work contained within this sleek machine. You can work remotely, your mobile phone reminds you of all your deadlines, and offers a myriad of teacher apps to help you do your job in the best possible way.

However, the fact that we can now always access our work with comfort and that we're always available and connected can make us workaholics who will eventually face a burnout. In fact, teachers are at a very high risk to suffer a burn-out, as studies show.

That is why it is so important to disconnect once in a while, and holidays are a perfect opportunity. Silencing your devices is an essential part of real relaxation.

Here are several tips on how to disconnect and relax this holiday.

Limit social networking

Socal networks will be the biggest reason you'll feel the craving to spend time in front of your screen even on your holiday. If your Facebook is mostly work-related, with most of your contacts perhaps being your old students, colleagues, and teaching related pages, consider logging out for a while.

Only you can know how much the time spent on social networks stresses you out. If you're feeling down, nervous or ruminating about work on your holiday after a Facebook session, consider blocking Facebook, either partially or entirely. There are several ways to go about it.

Limit your phone use

Staying away from your laptop won't do anything for your well-being if you don't limit your phone usage as well. Turn off notifications from your (working) email and social networking apps. You don't have to turn the phone off altogether of course. If you're really addicted, consider one of those parenting apps that limit the time spent on your phone.

Escape to nature

Nothing heals modern woes better than getting in touch with pristine nature. You could pick a peaceful nature park to settle calmly into. Contact with nature and witnessing beautiful landscapes truly heals. "Forest bathing", a practice that originated in Japan, is becoming increasingly popular and is even being prescribed by doctors.

If you happen to pick a place where internet connection is limited - that's even better.

Consider getting a pocket guide to plants, birds, or insects of the area your planning to visit. The scientific approach to discovering your surroundings actually facilitates connection with nature for some!

Mindfulness and meditation

Practicing relaxing breathing exercises, mindfulness, and meditation goes hand-in-hand with a disconnected, nature holiday perfectly. In fact, some people won't be able to relax until they start actively working on relaxation. Consider getting one or a couple of good books on the topic to bring with you.

There is this common assumption that teachers are privileged because they get to take three months off to go on a holiday. People so easily forget that teachers work hard throughout the year, and don't have the resources to waste time. No business lunches, no business trips, no checking Facebook during working hours. Every job has its perks, and you don't need to work on your teaching vacation in order to show that you're a worthy member of a community. You've done your part. You've done your best and worked hard to deserve this. And you do. So relax, unwind, and take this time to just be. 

How to incorporate Ramadan into the western classroom

Ramadan is one of the most extraordinary events in the Muslim culture. Ramadan takes place during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. In the west, this holiday is most well known for the practice of strict fasting throughout the daytime - it includes not eating food or drinking water.

Due to its modern history, Islam has become a touchy subject in the Western world. That presents a challenging task for teachers, as they are trying to explain and teach about the culture outside of the sad stereotypes we see on television.

The good news is that there are things you can do in your classroom during Ramadan to help and deeply educate both Muslim and non-Muslim children in your class about the cultural importance of Ramadan. 

Be aware of your Muslim student's limitations during Ramadan

Although it is not required for children to fast, many Muslim children as young as 8 will fast by their own will. That means they won't be consuming any food and water during the daytime. It is important that as their teacher you respect their decision to participate in the fasting. To help communicate your respect for them you could try to show your support for Ramadan by making life a little easier for them by using a combination of the following ideas. 

During lunchtime, organise a separate, special activity for Muslim children in the classroom, or create a temporary "resting room" for them to relax in while other children eat and drink.

Cut on your demands - don't make them do difficult sports activities, especially on a hot day. Also, be aware that Ramadan is a busy month for Muslims when they spend a lot of time at home praying, doing charity work or providing voluntary services in their community as good deeds, or tending to guests. Because of all of that, consider giving lighter homework during this particular month if you can, or center their homework around their own celebrations.

Talk with Muslim children about their needs during Ramadan - if they need some time to pray, perhaps it can be organized in the already mentioned "resting room".

Read and analyze a story from One Thousand and One Nights

One Thousand and One Nights is the best-known collection of Arabic folk tales, with many of them being very wise, morally uplifting, and suitable to analyze in a classroom. It is a good way illuminate some aspects of Arabic and Muslim culture. Find a story that you like and that you consider suitable for your student's age, and then find a shorter version or take a passage for students to read. A lively and enthusiastic discussion is sure to follow, especially if you pick the well-known ones: Aladdin, Ali Baba or Sinbad the Sailor.

Traditional Rice Pudding

If none of your students are on a strict fasting regime and you have a kitchen you can freely work in, you can try to teach all of your students about the Muslim culture through its unique cuisine.

A "suhor" is a light meal which is prepared and eaten slightly before dawn during Ramadan, and it is the last food Muslims will eat until another evening sets in. Rice meals are quite common as a suhor. Dates are also cherished during Ramadan since it is believed that The Prophet Muhammed ate them, so this can be a conversation starter about Ramadan in itself. You can find the recipe here

At the end of the day, the most important part of bringing Ramadan into the western classroom is that you respect your Muslim students culture while also educating the rest of your class about a culture that may be significantly different to their own.

Looking for a low prep option this Ramadan? Why not check out my Ramadan Celebration Study? Students love this resources and learn so much about Ramadan from it.