Combatting the Back to School Blues

Combatting the Back to School

First, let me start by saying (in all caps, because I am yelling it and want everyone to know)…


I believe in the work that we are doing to create meaningful and empowering learning for teachers-because I know that purposeful, reflective learning for all the adults in system translates into exponential student growth. The team of principals, district leaders and teachers that I get to serve with is “awesmazing”, a combo of awesome and amazing that is rare and extremely special. I am totally pumped about the direction we are headed as a district and department, and looking forward to this year with my “expector” set to high!

Adobe Spark
But…this last couple of weeks, I have had a terrible case of the Back to School Blues! I have come down with the same affliction every year since being out of the classroom. I think that the first week is going to be a week where I can catch my breath, take some time to reflect and pause while everyone else is gearing up. In many ways that is true-as the director of professional learning one of the  “busy seasons” is summer and back to school, but it never slows as much as I expect it to, or it slows too much to fast…

As I was preparing for New Teacher Orientation this year, I ran into a term that I had heard before, and I re-read the Love Teach Blog on DEVOLSON (Deep Evil Vortex of Late September, October & November) from 2012, and the follow-up post on We Are Teachers, from 2014. Both posts deal with that time of disillusionment so many teachers face as the new of the school year wears off. A similar sentiment is conveyed by this graphic  used to predict the emotional state of teachers in their first year in the classroom.


The Phases of First Year Teaching graphic is a visual representation of an article written by Ellen Moir originally written for publication in the newsletter for the California New Teacher Project, published by the California Department of Education (CDE), 1990. 

My theory is that the graphic for a central office administrator looks a little different.

I think our “disillusionment” comes a little earlier.  With little (or no) summer break, a year round position in a system of definite beginnings and endings, all the prep of back to school without the payoff of meeting and knowing the students-back to school, though exciting-can feel like a let down. I miss decorating my classroom. I miss meet the teacher night, (and I taught High School, parents never even came to meet the teacher night). I miss painting signs with my girls. I miss planning instruction with my co-teacher after sorting through all of our kids data. I miss welcoming new staff. I miss master schedules. I miss it all…thus, the Back to School Blues.

So this year, I have put my theory into action, and decided to be proactive. Following a similar path to that outlined in the 5 Ways of Coping with DEVOLSON, I have worked to intentionally combat the Back to School Blues-here is what is working for me:

  • Morning Carpool Duty: I love it. Opening car doors and saying good morning to a few hundred little learners starts my day of RIGHT! They are sleepy, excited, tentative, and precious: “Have a Great Days” and “Good Mornings”-High Fives and Hugs-and that is just from the staff! If you are struggling, find a car door to open-I promise, you will leave with a happy heart.
  • Wander about the Building: Popping in and checking in with all my friends that I haven’t seen all summer! How is it that we have all been here working and managed not to run into each other? What have you been working on? How can I support you this fall? What is happening in your life?
  • Set Time Boundaries: With the craziness of back to school, my work hours didn’t always land in favor of family time. I am extra careful to protect my time right now, prioritize my boys, make dinner, swim on a weekday, walk the dogs, and watch TV.
  • Calendar Control: Reflection doesn’t happen accidentally-I am putting time on my calendar to think through the last few weeks, plan for the future, and set new goals.
  • Reading/Listening for FUN: The summer has been busy with all sorts of learning and reading for me to turn around and support the work that others are doing. On day one of 2017-I started listening to a new podcast FOR FUN, and picked up a couple of books for which I will not be writing a book study. I may not even tweet about them-they are for my brain and my sanity.
  • Send a few Sussies: According to Urban Dictionary: A sussie is  “A small, inexpensive gift, chosen specifically because it has relevance to the intended recipient. There is nothing that makes me happier than finding that perfect little something to say “thank you”, or “I am thinking about you”, or “hang in there”.

After the long weekend, I feel like I have reset my graph back to “anticipation”, and I am refreshed and ready to take on the next set of challenges with my team. I am positive that as I  intentionally and proactively choose joy, carve out time for reflection, get some face-time with actual students, and take care of myself and my people-we will continue to see the impact of the passion we have for learning impact the students in our community.  Here is to Week Three of 2017!

Still Learning,