5-4-3-2-1 (Back-to-School Edition)

[my classroom, which will have to be redone
considerably before students are one day let
back in... I miss it!]

In case you're new here, I am a high school IB English teacher who is about to start my school year teaching virtually. I also have a first grader starting a new school and an eight-week old puppy that perhaps was a bit of an impulse decision, but is adorable and I'm sure she'll be a great dog in like four years. I also have a lot of hobbies, try to exercise 6-7 times a day, am actively pursuing an at-home social life (ha! what is that, even?). Basically, I am busy like everyone else on this planet.

5 ways I'm trying to make my life easier:

Plan, plan, and plan some more- I am fairly organized and I often have multiple to-do lists going at a time,  so I am definitely a seasoned planner. When it comes to planning for my classes I need to really rethink my time constraints, my platform for teaching, etc... so that I can optimize every minute I have. When it comes to home, no time can be wasted. I am getting up at 5:30 right now and I need to start using the time before then and work as productively possible (picture me blankly staring at the Keurig). 

Have designated no-work times- I am definitely plugged into email round the clock and I will never hesitate to reply to a student or colleague as I am laying down to fall asleep at night (or even at 3 am recently when I was up with the puppy). I won't limit myself to contractual hours; it's not how I roll. I do plan on having blocks of time during the day, after and before contract time, that I am not accessible. 

Organizational tools- I have a paper planner, a to-do list for work, a to-do list for home, Google calendar for work, icalendar for home, and am going to start using a paper habit tracker for a visual. I also adore my Forest app, as we all know, to help me take a break from my phone. 

Have a designated work desk away from my family- I know that a lot of people might not have the room to do this, but I set up a space in the room I use for my treadmill, bike, and crafts (and Sawyer's toys so he can hang out while I work out). I don't plan to always be in there, but it will be a great place to store my stuff and retreat to when I need a quiet space to work. I got rid of so much junk and it looks a million times better. 

Start dinner earlier every night- I know this sounds so simple and silly, but I think this little fifteen minute shift will make our nighttime routine a lot easier. Most days I don't get to sit down and actually relax for more than five minutes until after the dinner-kid shower routine is over, so it will give me a few minutes to chill. If distance learning last spring was any indication, I will spend every minute from about 7:30 to 4:00ish on work and helping Sawyer with his school stuff, 4-6 catching up on chores, taking care of the dog, and trying to get some actual QT with my kid (as in drawing together, not doing math together). Again, I know it's not exactly revolutionary, but I like to find little tweaks I can make to our daily schedule to help things run efficiently and give the illusion of giving me more time. 

4 ways I plan to boost morale:

My teacher Instagram account- I used to only allow alumni on it, but I have opened it up to current students as well, and it has been such a fun way to connect to the kids. I have put up a lot of informational items for getting this crazy time worked out, but I also put up fun polls, games, and personal touches from my own life to help them feel like they know me. I just stopped typing this to help a student figure out who to talk to about her schedule and also noticed an old kid joke around about something else I had posted. 

Star students- I started doing this last spring with my seniors and I got so many messages thanking me. Each day on Instagram Stories I'd mention a few kids who were doing great work and put them in a highlight- it was that simple. I think not only will I give them an insta shout out, but I'll incorporate into my Google Site as well- sort of like an student of the week kind of thing, but with no one filling out a collage about their favorite foods. Under normal circumstances our students may not receive enough positive feedback and attention, which means they need even more during these trying times. 

Positive emails- I started sending out 2-3 positive notecards to students each week last year and I got such great feedback. It was everything from "you have the greatest sense of humor and you do wonders for classroom morale" to "your thesis writing has improved so much" to "your constant attention to turning your work on time has been noted." I am going to keep doing that, but through email! Parents have also mentioned it at conferences and it's just nice to know that the kids are feeling validated and their families are proud.  

Virtual student work bulletin board- I love love love decorating my classroom walls with student work, so I plan on doing a virtual board on my google site. I haven't worked out the details, but 

3 things I won't be doing:

Staying off the bitmoji train- This is a huge thing right now in education, but it's not me and I'm not going to take valuable time to create a cute little person and animated classroom site. I teach juniors and I just don't think that this is going to be what sucks them in. I totally get why people are doing it- they want to connect with the kids somehow, they want to be creative, they want to be engaging. That's great! I just don't want to and don't think it's going to enrich my personal teaching practice. 

Do all the bells and whistles- Kind of an extension from above, but I think a lot of teachers are overwhelming themselves with seventy-six Google extensions, websites, and youtube channels right now. It's so easy to! There are so many resources that instead of feeling assisted it's easy to drown. I am going to stick to Google Classroom, Zoom, Google Meets, Peardeck, and email. 

Comparing myself to other teachers-  There are some people who are tech whizzes, there are some people who never get to know their students, there are some people who grade everything the day it's turned in, there are some- you get the point. I have been teaching for fifteen years and I know what my personal strengths and weaknesses are and will adjust from there. 

2 things I am looking forward to:

A vaccine- I have very little faith in our state's ability to open up before the new year, and I really think if we can push out a vaccine asap we might get back in our classrooms this school year. If anything, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel and maybe people will feel... lighter. 

November- I have such high hopes for this month. I have a post in the works to talk about my hope soon! (This is literally 100% nothing concrete and is like my own personal harmless conspiracy theory)

1 things I won't miss about going in to work:

The commute- I spent about 45 minutes in the morning and at least an hour in the afternoon driving in traffic, between getting Sawyer and going home. I would gladly continue to do it if it meant life was normal, but I'm trying to look on the bright side! Also, I know I'll spend that time working instead, most days, but at least less time driving and less spent on gas!


  1. I’m exhausted just reading all that, but I admire the plans you have in place. Good luck!

  2. Best of luck with the new school year! I hope it runs smoothly and safely for you and everyone :)