The 12 Stages of a Back-to-School Teacher Meltdown

Keep calm and prepare for anything.

Pretty fashion model with hundreds of post it notes

Every year during back to school I have a total BTSTM. That’s a Back-to-School Teacher Meltdown.

This year after my BTSTM, I decided to take a closer look at it. If I couldn’t control it, I could at least understand it. Here’s what I discovered about my meltdown: every year, it occurs after a fairly predictable build-up.

This is what happens to me.

1. A false sense of security.

Every year I think, “This is the year that back-to-school will go so smoothly!”

Every year I am wrong.

2. Meetings and deadlines, round 1.


This first round is expected—the beginning of the year always means meetings and deadlines and changes. I’m doing okay at this point. My list of things to do fits on a standard Post-It note, which is manageable.

3. Moving.

Moving classrooms always turns the little knob inside me from “I am doing okay” to “I am feeling fragile now.”

4. House and/or car falls apart.

Why? Why does everything break during back-to-school? I walked in my bathroom yesterday morning and my shower curtain rod fell down, like it looked at me and decided, “Nope. I’m just not going to be a shower curtain rod anymore. I’ve had it.”

5. Having to set foot in a teacher supply store.

This year I vowed to do everything in my power to avoid the teacher supply store, knowing how overpriced everything is and how exploited/crazy they make me feel. I did pretty well, but the one thing I couldn’t find online without either paying a small fortune or waiting three weeks for was borders (you know, for bulletin boards. Because kids won’t learn without them.). So. I went to the teacher supply store.

I had one elongated piece of glorified cardboard in my hands.

I waited in line for thirty minutes.

I spent almost ten dollars.

I did not like this.

6. Meetings and deadlines, round 2.

This is where I listen to everyone else say how they met all the deadlines from round 1 and I begin to feel sad and whimpery. Then the next meeting starts and five more deadlines are introduced. And they say, “If you teach A, B, or C, you need to be at these other three meetings over the coming days.” And I always teach A, B, and C.

On the schedule, it looks like classroom work time is a lot. I always think, “Yes! I’ll put on some music and knock everything out!” And then another meeting is scheduled. And red exclamation point emails march into my inbox one at a time. And coworkers come by with snacks and I spend half an hour talking about how I want to quit teaching and be in the Olympics. And then teacher workday is over and all I have to show for it is “Welcome!” written on the board in pretty handwriting.

9. The realization sets in that I have no idea what I’m doing the first week, or even the first day.

This tends to happen during in during a meeting in which I’m expected to participate, so I can neither cry nor make lists.

10. Some kind of physical injury or uncomfortable condition sends me to The Edge.

Some kind of physical injury or uncomfortable condition sends me to The Edge.Last year I lost it when I got too hungry. This year it was when I crushed my fingernail under a bookcase. I said all the bad words I knew, plus some I think I may have invented.

11. The Meltdown.

There’s just a lot of crying involved.  And cheese, usually.

12. Recovery.

Then I remember that all I really need for the first week is bare bones stuff since so much of the first week is procedures. I make a list of deadlines I can do from my computer and complete them while watching Gilmore Girls. And then I go through my Happy Binder where I keep all my letters from former students, and I remember why I forget about this meltdown year after year.

What does your back-to-school meltdown look like? (If you’ve never had one, you can pretend. Just don’t tell me you’ve never had one.)

*I love staplers.