Teacher Anxiety and Mindful Planning



Does your teacher to-do list ever end? I didn't think so.  A HUGE part of teacher anxiety comes from the list that seems to go on forever.  I could count on one hand the amount of times I have had nothing to do during my teaching career.  (Maybe even 1 finger.)  There's always a student(s) that needs more help, a lesson that needs to be more engaging, paperwork that the office needs, something that the principal wants, parents that need to be called, colleagues that need help, and on and on and on.  Getting caught up in this to-do list creates an all consuming anxiety in teachers.  

What if I told you it doesn't have to consume you? The older I become, the more I see my happiness comes from how I handle my life.  My life isn't perfect.  I have a house full of my own children which includes teenagers (yikes). Special needs of my own children that need to be met and often I don't know how to meet them.  My house is usually messy.  I can be found driving children in my car to their needed locations from the hours of 3-8:30 Monday through Friday.  I teach and I run a small business.  My life is what I used to call controlled chaos, but now I call it simply - life.

I've been practicing mindfulness for a couple of months now with my children.  Please stay with me here and don't think this is some crazy hippie nonsense that you can't/won't do. Practicing mindfulness started as my way of disconnecting from technology and centering my family.  Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.  It's super easy to practice and basically means you live in the present.  It can only take 30 seconds if you want it to.

One way to practice mindfulness as a teacher is to practice mindful planning.  Below you will see an example of my to-do list.  To be an effective educator, we must have plans to teach our students.  I teach ELA so those plans included shared reading, guided reading and writing.  To be healthy we must eat lunch. So my must do items every day are to make sure I have plans and eat.  If those things are done at quitting time, I'm done and go home.  If I finish those plans I go on to the "may do" list.  This list is accomplished usually 4 out of 5 days.  Did you know that you don't have to return every e-mail every day? We've been told otherwise, but I've tried it and the world didn't end.  I didn't even get in trouble because I chose the appropriate emails to be late to.  About once a week I can get to my "might do" list.  I try to plan one extra special engaging project/lesson for my students.  I usually think this project through during my carpool time (not while my kids are present) and write it out at school.  Planning like this helps you to be mindful of what's happening in the present and not focus on the "what-ifs" and "but everyone needs me!!!!!"  My notes section helps me to keep everything in perspective.  You must take care of yourself to be effective at anything.  You must put your family first because you need to raise kids who are equipped to handle the world.  There will always be more to do so don't sweat it.  Just remember that YOU ARE ENOUGH!  If you want a free blank copy of this list, you can find it by clicking on the picture below.

Below you will find a mindfulness technique that takes one minute and helps you center yourself in the present.  Try this when you feel anxiety coming on.

5-4-3-2-1
Name 5 things that you see around you.
Name 4 things that you can touch.
Name 3 things that you can hear.
Name 2 things that you can smell.
1- Now you are present in your surroundings, mindful of what is actually happening around you.


Classroom Storage Crates



I found myself in desperate need of storage for Dollar Store tubs that would store task cards and materials for my group work in class last week.  Photo boxes that craft stores sell were not deep enough to hold the materials that went along with task cards.  To fix the problem, I ordered these rulers from Amazon for 25 cents a piece and made the crates.

In order to make the crates you will need:  8 rulers, 3 pieces of wood, finishing nails, paint and wood glue.

Cut the bottom piece of wood 12" by 6".  Cut the side piece of wood 6" x 6".  After cutting them paint the wood whatever color you need.  Then use wood glue and a nail gun to put them together.  If you would like to make some for your class and you do not have electric tools you can still make the crates.  You should have the wood cut at a hardware store.  You can also nail small finishing nails through the rulers and wood with a hammer.

Below you will see what I filled my boxes with last week.  We played a Villain vs. Hero game to learn all about the power of our words.  Of course we had masks and capes to help engage us in the lesson.

Building A Classroom Culture



When it's time to go back to school we all get that deep down nervous feeling inside.  Who are our kids? Will they love us as much as we love them? Then we start thinking about one million different things that we have to do to make the perfect classroom.  What we really need to start with are lessons and conversations that build a classroom culture.  It's important to pick a few at a time and master them before moving on.  Don't feel pressured to start teaching standards on day one.  In fact, you will get more learning achieved in the long run if you build a classroom culture of respect and caring first.


Consider starting with respect first.  I spend the first few minutes of meeting students showing them how much I respect them.  I get down on their level, shake their hand, make eye contact, smile warmly and show them how much I care and respect the fact that they just walked into my classroom.    After showing students how much I respect them, I talk to them about respecting each other and me.  Showing respect for teachers and other adults is such an important skill for success. I also show respect for my students by saying "Please", "Thank you", "Excuse Me", and other manners when speaking with them. This allows me to then request and expect the same from them. When a student is speaking with me and uses an unacceptable tone or phrase, I will say "Excuse me. Would you like to try again?" This gives them the opportunity to remind themselves of how to show respect. I also respect their feelings and don't embarrass them in front of their peers. My hope is through my modeling respectful behaviors they will copy those behaviors when dealing with each other and adults. Through our previous lessons we have discussed how to be respectful when listening to adults and I continue to review those behaviors daily.