The Back to School feeling isn’t just something children experience. As you no doubt understand if you are a teacher reading this. We pass that midpoint in August in England our minds naturally begin to drift back to school and that old, familiar Back to School feeling. I can always tell when the wave of B2S starts to spread because I start getting enquiries and questions about my resources and INSET sessions again.
As this feeling washes over us it comes with several emotions, often all at once; excitement at meeting our new class, sadness that our quality time with friends and family is coming to an end, joy at seeing colleagues again, fear of all the pressures of the coming year… the list is never ending.
I was discussing this time of year with someone the other day and I was saying that it is now 16 years since I was returning to school as a full time teacher at this time (I have done class teaching since but only in a long term supply capacity not with my own class/timetable) but I still occasionally have “Back to School” dreams.
I am delighted that I am able to say “dreams” now because for many years they were anxiety induced nightmares.
Common themes of these dreams were:
- not being able to find my classroom
- stairs collapsing between where I was and where I needed to be in school
- whiteboards were too high for me to reach (at 6ft tall that’s not something I have ever had to worry about!)
- appallingly behaved classes
- my class sitting on the floor in my bedroom while I was in bed in my pjs and wondering how I was going to get dressed without them seeing me
…you get the idea!
So what has changed?
Well, obviously I don’t have to go back to school in September now. Except I do! I’m in school on the 3rd September leading an INSET session, in fact I have several sessions in school in September, I do all year.
I can’t claim that I have grown accustomed to the idea of standing up in front of a new class. It does of course get easier with practise but I also have very different environments to teach in now. One day a nursery school, the next an HE College/University to talk to undergraduates and then a group of business owners.
How, then have I managed to overcome this anxiety around new situations and particularly that back to school feeling?
Well, it is all in my mindset.
I still occasionally feel anxious about things but instead of allowing that feeling to flood my body, bringing with it all those stress hormones that linger and can trigger those nightmares, I tackle those feelings.
I take a deep breath.
I think about what the root problem is; do I feel under prepared? is it purely because it is a new environment/experience?
If it is because I feel underprepared I take several deep breaths and think calmly about whether this is rational or whether it is that self doubt monster trying to sabotage me again. If I genuinely hadn’t done enough prep (which has never happened yet!) I would take the time to do some more.
I sometimes grab a pen and paper and have a quick brain dump moment. I write down everything as it pops into my head and remove it from that internal to do list that often churns round and round.
Then I might put some essential oils into an oil burner and sit and meditate, or if it is near bedtime, I will put some on my pillow and lie down and meditate until I fall asleep.
It isn’t that we have to stop feeling those feelings of anxiety. They are necessary reflexes designed to protect us. We can learn to control them though rather than letting them control us.
So, as the start of the new year looms go out and treat yourself to some new stationery, or a new school bag (it’s tradition isn’t it?) and try using the step above if the back to school wibbles attack.
The fact that you feel this way doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be teaching, it doesn’t mean that you have to be controlled by this fear and it can actually be used to alert you to things which may be an issue so don’t just ignore it. Make sure you investigate. There may be something you have forgotten to do and that could be the nagging feeling you have.
If you are concerned that your Back to School feeling has escalated into something deeper please do get some help or get in touch. If you are worried about a colleague or family member and you want to read more about the symptoms check out these blogs: