Teacher Pregame: Creating Rituals and Routines To Recenter BEFORE the School Year Begins
As much as us teachers don’t want to hear the words, summer vacation is coming to an abrupt end, and the school year is right around the corner. There is a certain amount of preparation that cuts into the end of the summer, and I know that the anxiety dreams start plaguing us teachers as soon as the calendar turns to August (or maybe even sooner). In addition to all of the curriculum preparation and classroom set up that needs to be done, I also suggest bringing intention work and mindfulness to your practice BEFORE the school year begins. It is important to set up grounding rituals and routines that will help you recenter proactively in the upcoming school year--instead of reactively once you have a mini breakdown (speaking from experience). Here are a few that have worked for me in the past and that I plan to continue to cultivate and refine.
An intention letter: Last year before the start of the school year I wrote myself a letter about how I foresaw the upcoming school year, and I got really specific. I talked about how I wanted my test scores to look. I talked about what my environment would feel like. I truly envisioned every aspect of my year---how I wanted students to feel and discover and create. How I wanted to help them find their voices and uncover their truths. How I wanted for every child to feel gifted and creative in their own ways. And I can honestly say putting this practice into place really helped shape my year. In fact, whenever I do envisioning work, I am amazed at how close to true my reality becomes. It reminds me that sometimes all we need to do is get really clear on what we want, and then be bold enough to “ask”.
A Tangible Reminder: Once you come up with an intention or idea about how you want the year to go or what you want your motto to be, find a tangible reminder. In the past I have put affirmations near my teacher desk. I have purchased a planner with a resonating quote. This year I just purchased a water bottle that says “Just Breathe”. I even wear chakra bracelets, Lokai bracelets, Om earrings--whatever will serve as a reminder for me that reinforces my personal intentions for the year.
Simple Mindfulness Practice: Design a simple mindfulnes practice for YOU and the students to do daily. As with anything we do, consistency is most important and if you involve the kids, it will help you to keep each other accountable. It may be a peace pledge in the morning or intentional breathing after lunch. It may happen more than once a day, but be consistent with whatever you choose, and do it with purpose and intention.
Closing Gratitude Activity: Find a closing activity for yourself or to do with your students that only focuses on the positives. There are plenty of times throughout the day for you to have to deal with the negative aspects of teaching, so don’t let that enter into this equation. Maybe you do a gratitude journal, a bullet journal, or a gratitude jar. This is something you could easily do with students, but personally I just sit in my quiet classroom after everyone leaves and before I return home to mom life and take 10 minutes to write down a few things that I am grateful for that happened that day. It is short, simple, and very powerful. It helps me to leave the building on a positive note.
Energetic Boundary System: Create an energetic boundary system to erase the day. Even though ending with gratitude helps shift your energy, there will inevitably be situations from the day that will haunt you. I have done a lot of energy work and depending on the day, different tools work better than others.
The first simple and deceptively powerful one is the Hawaiian forgiveness prayer ho’ponno ponno: Thank you. I’m sorry. I love you. Please forgive me.
Another is to review the day and rewrite the story. You engage in a dissociative practice that goes something like this “Can you believe that naive teacher who handled the situation like ________ (the way you really handled the situation)--not me--If I were in that position I would do ___________ (and you rewrite the story with a different ending).
You could also just have a simple and safe mantra to return to. It can be anything like the word Courage. Or I am safe. Or I love and accept myself--but some way to clear the energy.
Go through an entire Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)/ Tapping script to erase anything that is plaguing you from the day.
6. End the School Day--Don’t let it End You: Choose a clear time to cut off your school day (and stick to it). No more email after dinner time. No last minute lesson planning when the kids go to bed. The best gift that you can give your students is to be the happiest and most centered version of yourself. I used to be the teacher who stayed up later than I should to create lesson plans for the next day, but what would happen was I was exhausted and grouchy and even though my lesson was well planned, my delivery was less than ideal and my patience was short. So always come back to the question: do you think your students want a perfectly polished lesson or an engaged and warm human being?
My fellow teachers--do not see this as another thing to do before your school year begins. See it as the most important thing that you can prepare before your school year begins. Sometimes in our effort to give our all to our students, we forget that we cannot pour from an empty cup. Rituals and routines that bring us back to center benefit our students in so many ways, and as they say, more is caught than taught--so what do you want your students to catch this year?