Monday, August 13, 2012

10 Ways to Avoid the Back to School Blues

It is that time of year again and proof that the passage of time is relative.  Summer months go by at least three times as fast as the ones during the school year.  What August really means is students and teachers are headed back to school.  This is often accompanied by an unmistakable decline in happiness.  Most teachers love their work and working with their students, but they are after all, human and it is work.

So a post to share proven ways to avoid the Back to School Blues is warranted.  A more fitting title of the post might be “Ways I distract myself from Going Back to School.”  The time frame for commencing such activities varies depending on the acuteness and severity of the anxiety and depression that seizes all teachers.   I recommend ignoring the encroaching deadline until the weekend before and then employing these measures with great haste, leaving little gap between them. 

My normal approach to avoid dealing with emotions would be to go fishing but as my children age, the guilt of being apart from them right before I go back to work gets the better of me.  So now I stay close to home but it could be argued I’m not spending time with them since I try to stay so busy.

Do Some Work
If you like me are a 10 month employee this has little appeal.  But easing into the first week might be useful since anyone and everyone who is a 12 month employee has spent the summer coming up with ideas for meetings to completely occupy the first week and keep you from your own classroom preparations.  Still, the prospect of  burning up your last precious few hours loses its appeal fast.

Watch a Movie
 We had some suggestions a while back but pick one you like.  Maybe revisit a movie from your youth(Goonies,  Karate Kid, Beverly Hills Cop…just from 1984).  If you have the time maybe screen all the Harry Potter films, Star Wars Episodes(Purists know there are only 3 real ones  Ep. IV, V, and VI).  Just steer clear of flicks like Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, The Champ, or Titanic.  Blah on the first and last one on that list.

This is almost too obvious.   For centuries Western Civilization has used alcohol as a means of escape. There are some beautiful wineries in our area.  As I am of northern European descent I have always preferred Hops and Barley to Grapes but to each his own. This activity can be combined with a few others but one must be responsible. 

 I like to start with our vehicles. Give them that once a year wash and vacuuming.  Discovering once lost items under the seats is always uplifting.  Plus the extra cash from change pried from sticky cup holders and underneath the floormats will buoy spirits and wallets.   The main downside is the challenge presented by having two small children who deposit all manner of food stuffs amidst the car.  Approach this with a sense of wonder as it is true what they say about McDonald’s food not changing appearance after a few months. 

Exercise your Green Thumb
Want more corn kids?  Too bad.
Urban or rural most people can find some green space to tend to nearby.  If you keep a garden it is a great time to make the most of what remains.  This summer has been tough on agriculture and my corn crop was no exception.  Taking out some frustrations on the squash bugs offered an outlet and I felt much better after disposing of a dozen or so with my flip flop.  I also mowed the lawn, ran the weedeater, and pulled some crab grass from the mulch. Seeing as this is weather dependent, you'll need an alternative. Something like a visit to the supermarket and a good imagination might suffice.

Take  a Dip
In this diversion we took a trip to the pool where my sister lives. It is a beautiful farm in the western part of the county.  The view of the Blue Ridge Mountains made it  hard to pout.  The only down side was when we went to retrieve Spiderman from the skimmer we found the corpse of a large rodent…likely a vole.  The resident Jack Russell took care of the remnants.  We also took advantage of the county’s local park and ran over to the beach park where I snuck in a few casts.  We topped it off by heading next door for a visit to the lowest maintenance kind of pool, the next door neighbor’s.

Try to Figure Out the Last Episode of Lost Again
I’ve never really felt we covered this topic in sufficient depth on TU, maybe some day. 

Hit the Links
The TU got together for our Biannual golf outing at the famed Old Course at Meadow Creek Golf Course.    This was planned the week we got out but sponsors pulled their endorsements so we had to re-schedule.  We both play the lauded Wilson Tour Model II Irons.  Turner plays a more modern game while I prefer a more traditional one, favoring the wooden drivers I’ve had since I was 14.   The pace was painfully slow as we were locked in behind the Havercamps.   
The delays gave us plenty of time to chat at the tee box and plan some mischief for the upcoming schoolyear.  Toward the end of the round we picked up a 3rd player in a recent UVA Law School Graduate.  Despite his skill and the orange Hummer he arrived in we summoned all our hacker skills to quickly best him on our first hole together.  We out drove(with the persimmon wood mind you) him and then posted birdie and par raising the banner for underpaid educators everywhere.   Settling back in our unmatched skill level we completed the round somewhere near the century mark.  Later in the week I headed to Putt Putt and remembered that it is indeed fun for the whole family.  Especially when you are beating them all on your way to a 1over par.  That would have been lower had I not been distracted by my son whose first golf experience was highlighted by trips into the water hazard on the 17th.  

Pick Out Your Outfit
This will be more fun for those into clothes but the first day back with colleagues you want to look, cool, casual and still sporting your summer attire.  When students return you’ll need to look sharp and send the message you mean business.  For ladies pants suits, dresses and the like…for guys back to school means new sneakers.

Hang Out with Family
This seems like the perfect option.  Family first I always say.   But if both of you are experiencing the stress and feelings since you both work in schools, beware!  This can be a volatile scenario. 

Back to School is coming whether you like it or not.  The Olympics are over and the awful part of the political season is on the horizon.  We can’t stop time but we can make the most of it.  Unless of course you live on some weird moving island that has these stations and a big wagon wheel in a cave that affects the passage of time.  Who are we kidding, the end is near.  All you have to do is meet the year with the same sense of wonder and anticipation as you did your first year.  If you aren’t excited when those students start showing up and  you don't feel those butterflies on Day 1, well then, you need professional help.  More than a hastily authored blog post can provide. 

Everything that has a beginning has an ending. Make your peace with that and all will be well.


  1. Too late. It took all of 10 mins for our meetings to suck the joy of being back right out of me. Sad that we as teachers are confronted by such a deflating series of meetings and changes. Can you guys say disconnect?

  2. You're right. It's always the meetings that make the heart sink rather than the teaching. Still at least there's a few more light evenings to enjoy then the autumn glory and, before you know it, it's Christmas.

  3. Bring a notebook, diary or planner to the meeting. Take notes and look interested. Your notes can be planning things you'll do differently this year, brainstorming what worked well and what didn't, a To Do list or even a shopping list. Plan your weekend! Put birthdays into your calendar and anything else there is to look forward to on the horizon. You could even prep your notebook with schemes of work you'll be teaching in the first few weeks, or even just your new timetable so you can work out the best days to set homework, do peer or self assessment or pupil reflection before taking books in for marking. Using the time effectively to do some planning and even just doing your own thinking instead of slipping into a coma should help you through the parts of the day that don't really help or apply to you.
    Good luck everyone!