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Living in Your Season [episode 25]


Click below to listen to living in your season:

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Morning Message: 

[00:55] What is your recurring back to school nightmare?

We all have them – those back to school dreams that are really nightmares. For us, our nightmares consist of being trapped somewhere and can’t get to our kids, or the first day of school comes and we’ve forgotten all about it and not prepared at all! 

We are not alone in our nightmares! Our community also has them. Some of those include the students not listening and doing whatever they want, the school keeps adding more students to their roster when they’re already full, being late for the first day of school and all the students walking out, not being able to get to the next classroom except by a train, and getting moved to a different room and grade without any notice. We feel you on these!

Here's an overview of episode 25:

It’s no surprise that the month of August can bring teachers a lot of emotions and stress. After all, preparing for back to school is a big task to tackle. We like to think back to school is like running a marathon. There’s so much you need to get done and prepare for, but with so little time.

In order to help us cope with back to school, we think of it as just a season that will soon pass. So in today’s episode, we’re sharing tips for living in your season.

When you hear the word season, so many things come to mind, so let’s define it. For us, a season is a period of time when everything feels out of balance because one aspect of your life demands intense attention. Sound familiar? Back to school time is definitely that for us, but we’ve found that it’s important to talk about it, which can help handle the overwhelming stress that it brings. 

Living in your season doesn’t mean that you can’t combat some of the stress. Throughout the episode, we share various ways that have helped us cope and make things easier for us during a season. Some of those include naming your season, categorizing your to-do list, having clear goals, communicating your needs, and most importantly, giving yourself grace.

Offering ourselves grace means we’re okay doing what we can right now, even if it doesn’t match what we wish we could do. It also means accepting that we might need to let everything else in our lives slide in this particular season. 

While living in your season can be overwhelming and it’s easy to get caught up in the negative and stress, don’t forget to enjoy the moments of magic in the season. Everything is a balance, so there’s positives and good times that need to be acknowledged as well. Living in your season will eventually pass, so make sure to acknowledge it and give yourself grace until it does.

In this episode on living in your season, we discuss:

  • Categorizing your to-do list to keep you focused on what’s important versus what can get done later
  • During a stressful time, having clear goals is vital to help determine what is your priority
  • How it’s okay to give yourself a permission slip to let things go during this season you’re in
  • Enjoying the magic and good things that also happen during the season

This week's teacher approved tip:

[18:22] Plan now what you can do later.

This tip is so simple, but something we constantly forget about doing. When you have your to-do list, no matter what time of the year it is, pay attention to tasks that could be done ahead of time. Know you’re going to be teaching a lesson in December, but it’s only August? Start making copies and getting things done for it now! We promise, your future self will thank you that it’s already done!

What we're giving extra credit to this week:

[19:28] Heidi is giving extra credit to Morgan Harper Nichols. To hear her daily affirmations, check out her Instagram @garden24co.

[19:48] Emily is giving extra credit to Araba Maze.


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Read the transcript for episode 25, Living in Your Season:

Hey there. Thanks for joining us today. In today's episode, we're talking about how to live in your season. And we'll share a teacher approved tip about planning ahead. We start our episodes with a morning message just like we used to do at morning meeting in our classrooms. This week's morning message is what is your recurring back to school nightmare? Is it even August if you aren't having back to school nightmares? No joke. Heidi, what's yours? Mine's typically is that I'm trapped somewhere and I can't get to my students like I'm in an airport and all the flights have been canceled. Although I did have one the other night that was new. So I guess this isn't recurring. But it was the day of a field trip. And like all the buses showed up. And my whole team we'd all forgotten to plan the field trip. We were like running around and like people were making phone calls to get parent permission. And so I was trying to figure out lunches and Yeah, that wasn't fun. What about you, Emily? What's your nightmare? Mine is always that it's I wake up and realize it's the first day of school and I the whole summer has passed and I didn't notice and did absolutely nothing. So nothing's ready. The kids are coming and the room is not even set up. That's the worst. That would be a genuine nightmare. We have some responses from our community to this question. Stephanie said mine are always that I can't get the kids to listen or do what I want. I have that dream. But I'm almost always being observed. Oh, even worse. April said mine stems from last year, it's that they just keep adding kids to my roster more and more and more until I have 32. And they're talking about putting me in a different room because mine doesn't fit my students. Oh, that probably actually genuinely happens in some cases. That's what I was gonna say that sounds like a very realistic nightmare. Unfortunately, Hannah said hers is that it's the first day of school and she walks in late and students are standing on the desks, and then they walk out on her. Terrible. Michelle said I have three recurring school nightmares. The first is like your school starts, but my room is not set up and I have nothing prepared for students. The next is that I just can't get there. So just like Heidi's everything from home disasters to traffic or getting lost makes me very late. And the last is that I get moved to a different grade or school without notice. That'd be a genuine nightmare. And the last one is from Steph who said, Two nights ago, I had a dream that I couldn't get from one classroom to the next without hopping a train, and I was running late. That's quite the campus if you need a train. We'd love to hear your responses to this question and lots of other questions over on Instagram, you can find us at @2ndstorywindow and that is with a two.

Well, besides our back to school nightmares, August is usually a month of having too much to do and not enough time to do it. Oh, so true. Teachers everywhere know that back to school is like running a marathon. But maybe it's actually a triathlon or an ultra marathon or something because it just goes on and on and on and on forever and ever, because you've got all the planning beforehand, and then all the classroom setup, and then the prepping for lessons. And then there's the actual teaching of the children, children who come into your classroom, not knowing anything about how to function in your space. It's like running a marathon and getting a basket of brand new puppies to train. So it's a lot. And I think that's why it's important to talk about how to manage the overwhelming stress that teachers can face at this time of year. There's a way to be productive without letting the To Do Lists consume you. It comes down to living in your season; accepting and acknowledging that this season is hard. It sucks. But it won't always suck. There are all kinds of seasons right not just the weather related ones. There are sports seasons, award seasons, seasons when all the TV shows are new and seasons when they're all reruns. But for the purposes of our chat today, we're going to define a season with a capital S as a period of time when everything feels out of balance, because one aspect of your life demands intense attention.

One way to cope with a difficult season is to name it. Maybe it's a season of struggle or a season of work. Author Gretchen Rubin, who we love sometimes calls it a Season of Sacrifice. Maybe for teachers, it's a season of focus on school and let everything else fall to the side until I can get my classroom up and running. It could be any of those things, or all of those things. Just going in with your eyes wide open and acknowledging that this will likely be a difficult period of time, is the first step to not losing yourself in the tornado of crazy. Tornado of crazy, that feels like an unfortunately accurate description of back to school life. But it's so important to remember that now isn't forever. This is just a season, and all seasons eventually change. Even if it can be hard to remember in the middle of July, that it will one day snow again. And you also have to trust that the sacrifices you're making this season will be worth it, we are giving up some of our normal life in pursuit of a greater good. On the other side of this will be grateful for all of the work that we did to get through it. But first, we actually have to get through it.

For me, at least one of the biggest challenges of managing back to school stress is the overwhelm, I start to think of everything that needs to be done between now and that first day deadline. And there are just too many things I have found over the years that I am actually more overwhelmed by the thought of the things that am I actually doing the things. So I need to efficiently transform my overactive thoughts into an action plan. And the first step is just to breathe, take some deep breaths and to calm the panic. And then it is time for a brain dump. Oh man, what a terrible name for such a useful exercise. No, it really is a bad name. But it is a pretty accurate description. In a brain dump. I just dump out everything that's in my brain, you could do this in the Notes app, or Google Doc or any other electronic form. But I actually prefer to brain dump with a paper and pen. Having a physical list feels productive. So already that's helping with some of the stress. Plus writing on paper helps slow down your thoughts a little bit. And that can help add some more calm. But then once I've got my list of tasks, I can start categorizing them. And for this, I like to switch back to a digital form because I am a complicated woman. Almost anytime I make a list, I use Google Forms because having those neat little columns is really valuable to me, but you do what works for you. Plus, if you do use Google Forms or something digital, you don't have to worry about losing your paper. And you can access it from anywhere. So after you write your paper and put it somewhere digital for safekeeping, sometimes I will add my brain dump list to the left side column of my Google Forms, just so I have a master list of tasks. But you don't have to do that. The important thing is to make categories. And this is where I break down the monumental task of starting the school year into a few smaller chunks, things like things to schedule, supplies to get, labeling, room setup, materials to prep, meet the teacher, first day plans, all that fun stuff. You might have similar categories or yours might be completely different.

But I think there is one category that we all need to start with. And that's the category called urgent. So if I know there's going to be a line for the work room copiers and a couple of days, maybe my urgent task is to make all of my first day of school and meet the teacher copies right away. Or maybe you need to schedule a bus for your May field trip before all the buses get booked. And you don't get to visit the baby lambs at the farm. That would be so sad. So I want to address the urgent first. And then I can start to categorize the rest. After my tasks are categorized, I look at them with a critical eye. It's easy to fall into the trap of assuming that just because something is on my list that it must get done. I need to remind myself of my most important goals at the start of the school year.

You know, it really is so easy to feel like everything is essential. But there's no way to do everything. The wave of the To Do lists will wash you away if you let it. So you have to find a way to create goals that have the biggest impact: centralized and prioritize. What has to get done? What specifically about that goal needs to happen? Which goals have the greatest benefit for students? And what can wait until later. What can you ignore altogether? We've talked on the podcast quite a bit about ATTA BOY goals. ATTA BOY stands for affirming, teaching, training and assessing at the beginning of the year. I think most anything you have planned for the first of the year will fit In one of those categories, but if you have an item on your to do list that doesn't fit one of those categories, and isn't something the school mandated that you must do, it's worth asking yourself if this task is actually vital to your back to school success. For me, my most important goal is affirming. I want my classroom to feel welcoming and safe. I want my new students to feel recognized and that each one of them is a vital part of our classroom community. I am the same, I always tried to start with affirming. And because that was most important to me, I prioritize the tasks that made that happen. I made sure the kids names were on the door so they knew where they belonged. I labeled their desks and cubbies and coat hooks, so they knew they had a place in our room. I plan for ways for them to introduce themselves and a way for them to get to know me a little better. One thing I made sure to do was send home a letter before school. By contacting my kids before school started, I let them know that they matter to their teacher, and got them excited about the things we will do together. I also use the letter to tell them to bring three show and tell items to introduce themselves to the class.

Now if you're just looking at your tasks, and looking for some to take off the to do list, sending a letter might be one that you would think you should cut because it doesn't seem absolutely necessary for your first day success. But if you're clear that affirming is your top priority, this task suddenly becomes much more important. That's why having clear goals at a stressful time is so vital. How can you know what's worth your time? If you don't know what will really matter?

Exactly take one of the other ATTA BOY goals for example, training is also important to me. But I first made sure to run my training tasks through the filter of affirming which procedures are most important to helping my students feel safe and independent. Bathroom procedures is the answer to that question. Because tasks like how to get a pencil are important. But they're not as vital to students feeling affirmed, as knowing how to get to the bathroom is. So I moved pencils further down my to do list. But as important as goals are, we have to accept that we really can't do everything. We're holding ourselves to the standard of grace, not perfection. If we have set clear goals, and then ranked our tasks in order priority, it's clear to see what we can let go of. It's so easy to think that because we want to do something, we have to do it. Maybe you want to do personalized water bottles for each student. But now it's three days before school starts, is it worth staying up until 2am? Cutting out vinyl lettering, if your goal is that absolutely everything in your classroom is labeled from the very first minute of school, then go ahead if that's what your goal is. But I hope that's not your goal. No, that's probably not the most impactful goal. But if your goal is that kids feel welcomed and included, a personalized water bottle could contribute to that feeling. But it won't create it. So that time applying vinyl could be better spent preparing for your meet the teacher night. Or better yet, you're not doing anything at 2am except sleep because it's hard to be present and nurturing if you're exhausted, and you kind of take care of you. It's okay if the kids won't get their personalized water bottles for a couple of weeks. Or maybe you'll just write on them with Sharpies, and that will be okay too. Or maybe you just let the kids bring their own water bottles from home. And whatever happens is what happens. We're giving ourselves grace to let things go. Yes, offering ourselves grace means we're okay doing what we can right now, even if it doesn't match what we wish we could do. It also means accepting that we might need to let everything else in our lives slide in this particular season. Some things have to give, and we have to give ourselves a break. If you need to write yourself a permission slip to let something go. We've talked about this in previous episodes. And it's an idea that's been really freeing to me. When I get home feeling like I can't let go of something. And it's just dragging me down. And it feels like no this this one task I have to do and I can't let it go. But then sometimes if I can just stop, give myself a permission slip to let it go for now. Let it go for this year or maybe let it go forever. Sometimes that's just the push I need to be able to move on.

And while we're talking about this, can I just point out that there really is no such thing as work life balance, at least not in the sense of like an orderly scale, where you always have as much work as you have personal time. The balance is that sometimes the year like back to school, work is going to be taking up a far greater share of your time and energy. And the other times of the year, the balance will shift and other parts of your life will be taking a greater share of your time and energy. Yes, work life balance is a constantly moving pendulum. So the key is just to acknowledge that and then give yourself grace. Let go of whatever you need to let go of right now. Take a pause on things that you may prioritize at other times, but can't fit in this season. It doesn't mean you won't feel frustrated or stressed or resentful, you probably will, we can acknowledge those hard feelings without letting them call the shots.

Something I find really helpful is to plan ahead for life preservers to help during a stressful time. That might mean delegating responsibilities in my life to other people who can help with them for a season. It can also be leaning into convenience for a while, maybe we're just gonna eat off paper plates for a month, maybe there'll be more takeout food than you'd like. Communicating in advance any help that you might need or any changes you plan to make, will help you get through the difficult parts of this season. Communication is key. And it will help you and the people in your life if you set a planned date for how long you think the season is likely to last for you. So maybe that's October 1, maybe it's the first six weeks of school, having a deadline in mind will help you when you're drowning, to remember that this really is just as season and seasons always end, it may not all magically become stress free on your deadline. But likely, you'll be able to start transitioning into the next season at that time. When you're in the thick of it, it feels like it will always be this hard and it will never get better. But remind yourself that you've done this before. And that it does improve and things get easier and it becomes less all consuming. And we all have a much calmer October to look forward to. It's also important to not get so caught up in surviving, that we don't have the space to appreciate the good things that are happening. Even in the middle of all this stress. Yeah, I remember our mom saying once that she never got a Christmas, she was so busy and making Christmas happen, that she didn't get to actually experience any of it. Yeah, it's so easy to get caught in that trap of the to do list that we forget to enjoy the magic of a fresh start that miracle of a classroom more organized than it will be at any point in the next nine months. And the wonder of first meeting the little humans that you'll be teaching and learning from for the next year. The beauty of taking a room of strangers and shaping them into a caring community. That's the stuff that makes teaching a joy. And we don't want to miss it. Enjoying those moments is why we're doing all the rest of the work. So make sure you are getting the chance to enjoy them. By setting clear goals and offering ourselves grace, we make it possible to actually experience our first days of school. And we hope that this chat has helped you feel more prepared to live gracefully in your season at this busy back to school time.

Now let's talk about this week's teacher approved tip. Each week, we leave you with a small actionable tip that you can apply in your classroom today. This week's teacher proof tip is plan now what you can do later, Heidi tell us more about that. So as you are tackling all those back to school tasks, pay attention to any tasks that could be done ahead of time. So this probably works better if you know that you'll be repeating the grade again, but if you know you'd like to start the year doing a craftivity for the book chrysanthemum, for example. And you're going to need a bunch of construction paper shapes, make a note, add it to your calendar, find some way to remind yourself in May that you want these shapes, then you can either cut them out ahead of time when life is less stressful. Or like if you have a parent volunteer, you can have them cut them out or someone at the school that cut them out. Like there's lots of ways to tackle this. When it's not the crazy back to school time. Just make sure to send yourself another reminder of where you stored them because that would be my downfall. Yes. So just pay attention to things that you're doing now that could be done in advance next year.

To wrap up the show we're sharing what we're giving extra credit to this week. Heidi, what are you giving extra credit to this week? I am giving extra credit to Morgan Harper Nichols. And if you aren't familiar, Morgan is a writer and artist who shares beautiful words of encouragement and lessons from nature. Her Instagram accounts are one of the first things that I've looked at every morning. She has incredible poems and artwork at @MorganHarperNichols. And then at @garden24co she gives like an affirmation for the day. And the affirmation for August 22 which is the day this episode comes out is, “I am courageously practicing surrender.” I thought that was an appropriate statement for our back to school season. Morgan's work offers such a peaceful centering way to enter the day. And if you can't tell I'm a huge fan girl. With the idea of giving ourselves grace in a crazy time, I wanted to pass on some thoughts she posted in her storyteller app a few days ago. She wrote, “Here in the wild of August, there is still room for new beginnings. There will be mountains ahead of you. But there will be green pastures too. There will be valleys, but there will also be rivers and you will be free to slow down and rest. Here's to stepping into August, practicing courage, practicing hope, opening our hearts to the possibility of small yet beautiful new beginnings.” And you can find more of Morgan Harper Nichols at her Instagram account. @morganharpernichols one word, or at @garden 24co.

Emily, what are you giving extra credit to this week? I'm giving extra credit to Araba Maze, who I found on Instagram from her account called @storybookmaze. I believe she's on Tik Tok too. She calls herself a radical street librarian love that. And she's on a mission to combat book deserts in Baltimore, with free book vending machines. Her goal is to give underprivileged children and families access to high quality diverse books that they can keep to start growing their home libraries. And I so I agree with her that every child should have books in their home that they can call their own. I just love her passion for using books to improve lives and strengthen communities. And I will link to her in the show notes. So you can go check her out and see how you can support her cause too. Oh, I love that. I love people who are getting books in kids hands. Yes, nothing more important than that.

That's it for today's episode. Give yourself grace to live in your season this crazy time of year. And don't forget today's teacher approved tip for planning ahead.

More About Teacher Approved:

Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to be the kind of teacher you really want to be? The Teacher Approved podcast is here to help you learn how to elevate what matters and simplify the rest. Join co-hosts Emily and Heidi of Second Story Window each week as they share research-based and teacher-approved strategies you can count on to make your teaching more efficient and effective than ever before.