We’ve all been there, and we know how hard it is: going back to teaching after an extended period away from the classroom can be quite a chore. That used to mean things like getting back after a long summer holiday, but in current times we’ve all had time away for more pressing and less pleasant reasons. In a way, it is more difficult every academic year, as the familiarity of our work surroundings and our increasing experience in the job might lead us to underestimate just how hard it can be to get back in the swing of things after a few weeks away.
Here are a few suggestions to help you ease back into work…
1. Focus on the coming day
Ok, so it’s good to look forward to the coming semester as a whole, you don’t want to get disheartened by looking so far ahead and getting stressed about all that you have to accomplish. Sometimes it’s beneficial merely to focus on the day – and the task – at hand. If you’re still feeling sluggish, repeat the following day. It won’t take too long before you’ll find you’ve established a routine.
2. Start by getting physical
Even if you’re finding it hard to plan your lessons and organize the rest of your teaching day, make it a point to exercise at a regular time every day. Essentially, any exercise routine is regimented and will therefore enable you to start establishing a routine. Exercise is an effective starting point if you’re finding it hard to get back in the flow of things and getting your body going physically might be just the catalyst you need to get your work activities back on schedule.
3. Continue by eating well
I make an extra effort to eat well before my summer holidays. The reason for this is that I know how much of a slob I am during the months of July and August. The benefits of good nutrition are obvious, but for people like me who struggle to get back into a teaching routine after an extended break, the increased energy and mental clarity that come from eating well go a long way to helping me get back into the swing of things. What’s more, a healthy diet goes hand in hand with exercise, in that it becomes a habit, which is good for promoting a regular work routine.
4. Develop consistency in your routine
I’d suggest trying not to have too many obligations that radically modify your schedule on a daily basis. It’s vital that you don’t take on more than you can handle in the first few days back; you should timetable your work and leisure in a realistic way. Don’t overload yourself during this period.
5. Preparation is the key
Before you go back to school, mentally try to get ready for the challenges that lie ahead. In the modern age of communication, it’s pertinent to check your email for any notices that might have been mailed or circulated during your absence. Even the smallest changes are worth getting ready for, as the little surprises that are bound to happen on your return will soon add up and ultimately stress you out during your first days back at work.
6. Make time for fun and down time
I know you’ve just been away from class and maybe feel like you should really be knuckling down to work on your return, but give yourself a bit of breathing space. The first few days back can often be overwhelming in that the humdrum day-to-day life that you have been thrust back into will be the mainstay of your existence for the next few months. With this in mind, make sure you schedule something fun and relaxing so as to stop the unhappiness from setting in. This also serves to give you something to look forward to.
7. Keep things going while you’re on a break
While you’re away from the classroom, try to keep the way you spend your day, in terms of getting up and going to bed, as close to what it is during the school year. Naturally, you’re going to want to make the most of the chance for a lie in or a late night, but too much of a variation could make it incredibly difficult to readjust when you return to work.
8. Build relationships with those you’re working with
When you get back to work, you’re more than likely to be thrust back into the classroom fairly quickly. This will mean sharing classes with other teachers and working with the same book or course materials as a group of other teachers, all of whom may be in the same position as you. The better the bond that you establish with these people, the more support you’ll have during the awkward first few weeks back.
9. Make use of a diary
If, like me, you’re particularly bad at sticking to any kind of daily planner, I’d nevertheless suggest having some form of organized daily schedule during the first few weeks back. This is the only time of year I employ such a rigorous scheduler, and it really helps me from getting overwhelmed as I readjust to work life.
10. Do whatever it was you were doing before
If, like me, you have a tough time getting going in the morning after a few weeks/months off, ask yourself what it was that you did to get in a routine at the beginning of the previous year or semester. Basically, if all else fails, simply return to what worked for you before your time away; you should be able to remember that far back!