This school year, I’m starting out at a new school in a grade I’ve never taught before, with an additional subject I’ve never taught before. It’s also my graduating semester of my MFA in Writing program, which means writing a thesis and lecture in addition to 120 pages of new work. Oh, and I’m in two weddings (maybe three?). I’m super-excited about all of these things, but I am also a little worried about making it through with my sanity intact.
My students and coworkers are ALWAYS the most redeeming part of every school year. But here are five other things that I know will help make this year better, easier and more fun!
1. Making my own iced coffee.
If you’re like me, you adore iced coffee. And if you’re like me, you spent way too much money on it last year.
Over the summer, I’ve been slowly perfecting the art of making iced coffee myself, and now I can make it in a way that is BETTER than the kind I used to shell out three bucks for every morning, takes way less time than standing in line and is super-easy! Here are all my secrets:
- I use this recipe from The Pioneer Woman. (Non-negotiables: using COLD water to brew, and leaving it out at ROOM TEMPERATURE overnight while it brews. For some reason I kept wanting to refrigerate it while it’s brewing, and that always results in weaker, grosser coffee.)
- I buy hazelnut syrup in bulk from Amazon as well as a pump for it—this keeps the top from getting crusty , saves me time and I don’t have to use a measuring spoon every morning. I’ve tried three different brands of syrup, and Monin tastes the best to me by far.
- Invest in quality supplies—canisters, strainers, dispenser, etc. It’ll pay off in the long run!
- Make the brewing a part of your weekend routine—it’s kind of fun and makes your kitchen smell EXCELLENT!
Here’s some math for you: After the cost of production (which pays for itself in about a month), each iced coffee costs me about 40 cents. If I made my own iced coffee instead of buying corporate every day of a school year, I’d be saving almost $500.
I’ll take it.
Let’s face it: Even though we love our jobs, teaching takes a huge toll on us emotionally and physically. By the end of the semester (and for some of us, even by the end of the quarter), our shoulders are covered in knots, we can barely stay awake through dinner and we’re flirting very seriously with insanity.
It would be great if legislators would get their act together and create laws and policies that support teachers instead of exploiting them, but until that happens, we’ll have to take matters into our own hands.
Tons of studies have been done on yoga in schools, and the research all points towards this: Yoga makes teachers and students happier, healthier and better performers.
I know better than to say I’m going to commit to yoga every morning, but I hope I can make sure it’s at least a part of my weekly routine. It would be awesome if my district adopted yoga curriculum for teachers and students.
A girl can dream, can’t she?
3. Using a planner.
Every year I say I’m going to use a planner and every year I never do. One of two things happens: I either buy a planner and completely ignore it, or I don’t buy one at all, but either way my desk ends up being covered in sticky notes. (If you think I’m exaggerating when I say covered, ask my student teacher from last year. Her sweet little organizational soul was crushed on a regular basis just looking at them.)
I vow that this will be the year of The Organizer! I bought from an office supply store what I’ve heard is a really great one designed specifically for the academic year:
And I’ve been getting into the habit by practicing using it with my exhausting summer schedule:
4 . Tote bag.
Another thing I’ve been bad at using is a bag for my teacher stuff. I’ve put off buying a teacher tote because I tend to lose things in large bags, but then I heard of this little number from Thirty-One and reconsidered:
There are seven side pockets on this bag! Seven! Think of all the things you could put in those pockets! No digging around for my keys in the bottom of this for four minutes every day in the parking lot! WINNING.
The bag comes in a bunch of fun colors and prints, but I thought red went best with my kitten:
5. Creating a new FWA (Fun Weeknight Activity).
One of my biggest pieces of advice for new teachers their first year is to create a weekly fun activity that involves other people and stick to it. It can revolve around food, drinks, a TV show, gym class, whatever—the important part is that it’s easy. Easily accessible, easy to organize, easy to remember. That way you’ll stick with it even during weeks when your instinct is to crawl into a hole and remain there forever.
This year, I need to remember to take my own advice. Not sure whether it’ll be Trivia Tuesday, Waffles-for-Dinner Wednesday or Fro-Yo Friday, but I’ve still got some time to consult my friends and decide.
… But first, summer.