“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
– Luke 5:16 NIV
First-year growing pains can be tough in any career, but they can be especially tough in the field of education. The first-year teacher endures a lot of long hours, curriculum and lesson planning, and learning how to work with new staff, students, and their families. Amidst all of this, the first-year teacher and veteran teachers alike try to strike a balance between their career and personal lives. Whether it was my first year teaching or tenth year, I have found that throughout the course of the year are seasons of non-stop work and planning, and other times where I am able to enjoy more of the time with my students and family. Today we will look at some ways to manage all of the craziness that goes on as well as ways we can use the other seasons of the year to cultivate relationships and new learning.
Learning to Say No
During the school year, we have to acknowledge that we cannot do it all alone. Make priorities and don’t be afraid to say no to things that will keep you from reaching the goals you have for your family, career, and personal life. If you accept everything that everyone asks of you, then you will be spread too thin and will not perform any of the tasks well. This can be hard especially for a new teacher.
When I think about setting priorities, I try to think about what are only the things that I can do? Of my huge to-do lists, there are probably some items that I can delegate to others if I train them on what is needed. That could be students in the classroom, teacher aides, or even my own kids if I need extra things done around the house. Give independence and responsibility to others. You will be pleasantly surprised who steps up to help you out.
One thing that helps me to slow down a little during this time is prayer. Spend time in prayer each day not only for your students and for their families, but also for your spouse. Ask for energy and strength to be a light to those around you. Using up your tank of patience at school is easy, and we often do not have enough left for our own families. Saying no to some things and prioritizing other tasks will help enable you to have extra energy at the end of a long school day. It’s time to reclaim your nights and weekends. There are many times that you cannot fill it back up on your own. Ask for help!
Making the Most of Your Time
The race is on now to the end of the school year, with light at the end of the tunnel! Soon state assessments and Field trips are happening every week or so in your building and everyone is counting down the days until Spring and Summer break. These times of the year are action-packed and fun, but also remember to take a step back and recognize all of the growth your students and your own family have made this year. Maybe during the school year, you also went back to school to work on some grad classes. If so, congratulations!
Making Time for Celebrations
This is a great time of year to celebrate with one another and recognize all of the fruits of your hard labor over the course of the year. Keep connecting with your students, families, and colleagues as well to develop those relationships that will last longer than this school year.
Take Time for Yourself
Most of all, take time out for yourself to relax and do something you enjoy. That could even be doing nothing at all for a day! At this time of year, I like to reflect on any professional development that I might not get to during the school year and could be available during the summer. I also like to think about ways that I could improve my classroom environment and management style from the lessons I have learned so far this year.
No matter what season you are in this school year with your career or family, take some time to enjoy it. Reflect on what went well and try not to lean on yourself and your own understanding to get everything done. Seek wise counsel and pray for wisdom, discernment, patience, and energy to finish strong.
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