First Day Jitters

Summer is winding down.  School supplies are prominently displayed in the front isles at the store and educators are beginning to shift their mindset from Summer to Fall.  Social media memes showcase educators ugly crying over an oversized glass of red wine, or a Game of Thrones character remarking that instead of winter, the school year is coming. As the new school year approaches, many of us are filled with a mixture of anxiety and anticipation. I am usually cleaning the last closet, or stocking up on canned goods and freezer meals, as if I will have no time to complete any tasks or home projects while I am working.  I couldn’t possibly clean out a closet during the school year. All kidding aside, going back to work after leisurely mornings drinking coffee on the patio, can produce a bit of angst. Routines will change, as will the weather, and we will all be adjusting to a new normal.  

I am reminded of a picture book that many educators use during the first days of school. 

The text is called First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg.  The book paints an all too familiar picture of the first day of school.  Mr. Hartwell comes in to encourage Sarah Jane. She is hiding under her covers feeling anxious about the first day of school. She doesn’t know anyone and nobody knows her.  The first day of school will be awful, and Sarah Jane just knows it. After much prodding from Mr. Hartwell, she drags herself out of bed, reluctantly pulls herself together and goes to school.  In the story Mrs. Burton, the school principal, helps smooth her jittery beginning of the year. This familiar experience is easily relatable, however, in the end it is revealed that Sarah Jane Hartwell is the teacher!

Here are a few suggestions to help you with the back to school Jitters.

1. Acknowledge Your Jitters

Everyone can relate to that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach right before embarking on a new experience.  It is perfectly normal to feel a few jitters. What this text allows us to do is to share the normalcy of first day jitters and to relate on a personal level with our students (and colleagues). 

Just like the text suggests, students and educators can feel anxious about going back to school.  Share your jitters with your students. If it is okay for you to be a little nervous, they will feel okay about being nervous too. You could even read the story to the students and ask them if they can relate to Sarah Jane.  

2. Investigate the Source 

What is it explicitly that is making you nervous about going back to school? Was there something that didn’t go well in previous years?  Is it a colleague, a summer project left unfinished, the thought of waking up early? Whatever it is, understanding the source of your jitters can be helpful in moving forward and starting off the year on the right foot.  

3. Make a Plan

Having a plan can always calm nerves.  If you can zero in on exactly what makes you nervous about going back to school, then you can also create a plan to support yourself through the situation.  In Sarah Jane’s case, she was scared about not knowing anyone at the school. Dive into that class list, investigate those IEP’s and previous school records and make a plan about which students to shake hands with first and strategically place students in seating arrangements that support their success.

4. Remember Why You Love School

Think about all of the things you love about school.  Think about why you became an educator. Recall your favorite moments from over your years with students.  On the First Day, throw those covers off your head, march into that school with a spring in your step and meet your new year with an unbridled enthusiasm for the potential of the year ahead.  Remember, First Day Jitters are okay and perfectly normal for both students and teachers 😉

CLICK HERE to download a fun activity to host for your staff and give them the opportunity to talk about their First Day Jitters!

Sarah Hayden
Instructional Coach, TEEN TRUTH

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