Dear Anxious Teacher

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Welcome to the Dear Anxious Teacher Blog! This platform serves as a survival guide for both new educators and seasoned veterans, offering strategies to navigate the teaching profession while managing the mental chatter and stress that often accompanies it. Here, you'll find tips and techniques on various aspects of teaching, including classroom procedures, behavior management, building rapport with students, fostering a positive classroom atmosphere, streamlining grading processes, utilizing technology effectively, coping with anxiety, practicing affirmations, and much more.

Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Mr. Greg, a 13-year. I am a veteran teacher who has grappled with anxiety throughout my career. At one point, my anxiety was so debilitating that I contemplated leaving the profession entirely. However, determined to overcome this obstacle, I pushed through these challenging times to beat my anxiety and keep it at “bay”. Through a lot of great books and experiences, I found my way back to the classroom, prepared with strategies to help my anxiety.

I understand the struggles you may be facing – the sleepless nights, the dread, the reluctance to face each –I've been there. But I want to assure you: You will not only survive, but you will can thrive by challenging your anxiety. Trust me, if I can overcome my anxiety and find fulfillment in teaching, so can you. It's a process.

Teaching is a journey of personal growth. Along the way, you'll confront your own weaknesses and triggers, but you'll also have the opportunity to assemble a healthier mindset. In my early years, I placed a high value on being liked and accepted by everyone. However, with age and experience, I've learned to build confidence and leave my job at my job. No more taking it home and stressing about nonsense. Despite the hard days, I've grown to love this job.

Whether you're a new teacher navigating the ups and downs of your first years in the field or a veteran educator seeking support and guidance, this blog is for you. I'll be updating it weekly with content and resources to help you navigate this transitional period in your career. And to my fellow teachers, this is no exercise in my ego but just perspective on teaching. Everything here should be tested and challenged.

Thank you for reading my first blog post, and remember: You're not alone – I'm here to support you every step of the way.

Warm regards,

Mr. Greg

Are you struggling with misbehavior in the classroom? Listen-all of us struggle with this teaching. Nobody is perfect with their approach. Disciplining humans can be mentally draining, and may even make us question why we teach to begin with. Don’t expect perfection from your students. Some teachers prefer a more fear-based approach and others discipline in more of a nurturing style. My preference is obviously the latter. Also, be careful with asking advice from a teacher who has a very different style from you; their advice may not work for you. My biggest advice is this: Be yourself! Stop asking fellow teachers what they do in the classroom-especially if your styles clash. Try to find someone who has a similar temperament to you, yet still, you need to do what feels comfortable and natural to your personality. Being in the classroom and gaining experience are the best ways to learn classroom management. Making mistakes and trying new things will be your best teacher with discipline! Your students will teach you what works and what doesn’t work. Here is my advice on disciplining students while preserving the relationship with the student:

1. Redirect Calmly

2. Set Limit Firmly

3. Follow through (don’t feel bad)

1. Redirect: (Strike 1) When you see a student not following a class rule, redirect this student back to the task at hand. This first step functions as a strike 1 or a warning. Don’t use any emotions or anger when redirecting the student. For example, you could say-I really need you to complete today’s handout without talking so much to Johnny.

2. Set Limit: (Strike 2) If the misbehavior continues, this is when you use a firmer tone and establish a limit with the student. For instance- “If you continue talking with your neighbor, I am going to have to give you a consequence.” When you set a limit, it is best to do it in proximity to the student. Don’t shout this across the classroom because you want to maintain privacy and respect for the student. Also, a power struggle could ensue if the student sees an opportunity to undermine you. I would end the limit with a thank you. Kindness never hurts and being kind often eases any kind of tension between the student and you. Think of it like this: It’s harder to be a jerk to a person when they are kind. Students are no different.

3. Follow through: Strike 3 is here. Depending on the infraction and behavior, address the behavior at the end of class privately with the student. If the behavior is affecting the learning and progress of others, you may need to have a break area in your class or have the student removed if the behavior is really escalatory. I teach middle school and have put a student outside the door in a desk so that they can still learn something from the class while losing the opportunity of an audience. This is tough to do, but after the class spend some time talking with the student kindly about the incident. We should only use removing a student as a last resort.

-The hard thing about teaching is the gray area we all experience. Every student is different. You need to truly understand your students. When students misbehave, ask yourself, “why?” Behavior usually always has a motivating factor and trying to figure that out is the detective work you must do. You should discipline students fairly, consistently, and educationally. Students should learn from the consequence. With 35 students in a class, you are handling a lot of personalities. Good relationships with students are the most important factor in getting students to listen to you. If students respect you and find that you’re a fair person, you’ll have a better shot at really getting through to them. When students dislike you, discipline becomes much more difficult. Don’t become robotic with the above approach. You need to read each situation and make the best choice for the students in the classroom. So before trying the above technique, build rapport and connect with your students first. Then implementing the above approach will work even better! You got this and remember to follow through!

Keep believing,

Mr. Greg

1. Smile: Don’t listen to the adage that you shouldn’t smile until the winter break. That’s a bunch of nonsense. Smile and smile often because your disposition can often influence your students. If you’re a happy and calm person, you’ll see your students respond with a similar disposition. From the first day of school until the last day of school, smile at your students.

2. Greet: Say hello to your students every single day. When students enter your classroom, say hello or give them a “pound.” Everybody deserves to be acknowledged and made to feel good.

3. Learn Names: Your goal in the first quarter is to learn their names as soon as possible. Use a seating chart and aim within the first month to month in a half to learn their names. This shows that you care.

4. Small Talk: Learn about student interest and speak to them before and after class when you can. Asking students about their lives will earn their respects. Students may even start asking you about your day and your life. During student teaching, my advisor recommended I teach for the entire duration of the class. Your relationship with students is your greatest asset in maintaining control and establishing good classroom management.

5. Story Telling: Tell good stories to your students (content related) daily to maybe a few times a week. Think of a good story to capture their attention to explain a point about your content. When the content is parched and boring, telling a good story can really get the point or idea across in a captivating way.

6. Stay Calm: This is tough to do, but staying calm and positive should be your goal. You might have to do some work on yourself to maintain a positive disposition, because face it, we all have bad days. We are human! We are handling a lot in our personal lives and managing a lot of personalities daily. It’s hard to be the model person every day when stressors make it hard. I will follow-up with additional posts about working on positive mindsets to improve your day.

7. Humor: Laugh with your students. This is great for easing tension. Some of the stuff we do in the class is serious and “business-like.” Use humor as often as you can to help create that positive climate in your room. I’m not a comedian, but I like to use silly voices when I read and be a little goofy with students.

8. Speak Kindly: Speaking, respectively, is all about modeling being an adult. How you speak to your students is how they will speak to you! If you speak respectfully and kindly, people will probably speak to you in the same manner 99% of the time. Please and thank you is often overlooked. Include it in your conversation exchanges with students.

9. Reward Student Success: Reward student for positive displays of academic and behavioral success. I like to include game days, class parties, earned free time, and reward certificates. Focusing on the positives with students is a great way to create a positive vibe in your classroom.

10. Positive Phone Calls: This is pretty outstanding stuff. We don’t have a lot of time as educators, but making these phones calls shows you care. This will affect both your relationship with the student and parent for the better. Few people are making these phone calls, so making this call will be powerful.

Sunday night blues sound familiar? Is anxiety creeping and bubbling up pessimistic thoughts in your head? How do we get out of our head? The chances of sleep success are dropping, much like the 1929 stock market crash. No matter what we try or do, sleep isn’t on the agenda. Adrenaline keeps pumping through our veins and our body is more ready for a treadmill at 3 AM instead of being in la-la land or the land of z’s. The short-hand on the clock keeps moving quicker and quicker. Bingo! It’s time to get ready for work. Can’t hit that snooze button again because you’re out of time. Bleary-eyed and worried, we now must get ready for work. Negative thinking pounds the landscape of your mind like a swirling storm. Is it really Monday morning? “Please, day go away!” Anxiety strikes again!

Do the following to battle the anxiety demons and come out on top. It will take time, but it will definitely improve the outlook of your day.

1. Wake-up earlier: Get up an hour earlier than you normally would. This sounds counterproductive and sleep wasteful, but this extra hour will help you work on your mental and physical health before your day gets started. Starting strong will help you take control of your day.

2. Pray/Meditate: Download Headspace or search YouTube for 10 minute guided meditation videos. Start small-don’t try meditating for 20-30 minutes. Meditation is like a vacation for your mind. And the best part of meditating, it makes it easier to believe and plant positive thoughts/quotes into your subconscious mind. Meditation notices and helps you clear the skies of dark clouds and rain. If meditating for 10 minutes sounds intimidating, start with 2-3 minutes. If you’re religious and believe in prayer, say a few prayers before you meditate ideally. I pray before meditating.

3. In a notebook or notepad app on your phone, write 5-10 affirmations targeting your confidence and anxieties. These statements are called “I am” statements. Statements such as: “I am strong, I believe in myself, I am becoming stronger and more confident, I am a good teacher, I am special, I am learning to become a better teacher, I am a great teacher, I accept the imperfections of people, school, and life. I can handle anything thrown my way.” After meditating, write your affirmations and read them to yourself out loud or in your mind. Another suggested idea which is powerful is to look in a mirror before you head out and tell yourself: I love you _________ (say your first name). When you’re in the struggle battling anxiety/depression, you need to be your best friend. You need to love and support yourself. I am a humble person, but showing support and kindness to yourself is extremely important in giving yourself resolve when dealing with stressful experiences.

4. Go for a walk: Rigorous exercise for me first thing in the morning is not my cup of tea. If you’re like me, go for a 10-minute walk instead of breaking a sweat before the morning shower routine.

After work, I suggest doing some type of workout: lift weights, do yoga, go for a run, or get involved in a martial arts class. Do something that will burn up the stress hormone cortisol in your body. This will also take your mind away from thinking about the next day or getting stuck in negative thinking. I always say this: do something that will occupy both your mind and body at the same time. Your goal is to be in the moment. Years ago, I took a martial arts class, and I remember the class made me forget about my daily stressors. It was straight therapy. If I wasn’t paying attention in karate class, a vicious punch or a round-house kick could hit me. Something that puts you in-the-moment will refresh your mind before you think about the next day of writing lesson plans and anything work related. Get involved in something even when you’re overwhelmed with work. Trust me, you will need this outlet and peace for your mental health.

The power of quotes: Google search quotes on anxiety. Find something that resonates and means a lot to you. I remember my first year of teaching when a book of quotes got me through that dreadful first year. Find something powerful! Never underestimate the power of words. Read a quote or 2 throughout your day. Do this during your prep periods, your lunch period, and anytime you need a dose of positivity and strength. Quotes are power!

Breath work: Learn the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Dr. Andrew Weil developed this breathing technique based on ancient yoga practices. This technique involves inhaling air into your lungs for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling slowly for 8 seconds. Do this for 3 rounds. If your anxiety is getting the best of you, do this on a prep period or when you have some downtime. I have done this right in class when students were working on something. It helps relax you and calm your mind.

Finally, before bed you should think about 1-3 accomplishments from the day. Focus on your successes and do not dwell on the negative. Quell those expectations of being perfect in the beginning. Your first couple of years is where you will make a lot of mistakes and question yourself the most in your career. It’s definitely an experimental time. Even in year 13, I am learning from my students and fellow teachers. Be easy on yourself. Wake up and repeat the following ideas above until you feel grounded and secure.

The best way to beat anxiety is truly just to face these make-believe demons. You’ll beat every one of them. New ones will pop up trying to sabotage your thoughts, but with experience, your confidence will lie to rest all these troubling illusions.

One of my favorite quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt says: “You gain strength, courage, confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You can say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing that you think you cannot do.”

Multiple Choice: You may receive a look of disdain for choosing this style of assessment. Rightfully so, this isn’t the best approach to assess student performance, but because of the limitation of time, go with this method more often than not to save time. Make quizzes/tests and maybe even homework assignments multiple choice when you’re overwhelmed. When you’re caught up, look for other methods to assess and grade students. Look into Google Forms and the app Zipgrade to help you grade quicker. Zipgrade will allow you to print out scantrons that you can scan with your phone for an immediate, accurate grade.

Snapshot Grades: Teachers can grade homework assignments with a scale of 100, 75, 50, 25, 0. If students complete the homework fully, neatly, and with effort, give the student a 100. I call this a snapshot grade because the grade is really about effort and responsibility. Or maybe…grade the first 5 questions on homework. Are your students being compliant? Reward them with an easy grade for being responsible. Don’t use snapshot grades all the time, but use this method on homework when you can’t be there to help your students. We should honor students who show compliance and responsibility with a great grade.

Rubrics: Use rubrics as much as possible when grading writing samples. Focus on less and not on every piece of grammar when grading student writing. You can easily create rubrics with AI technology to help speed things up for you. Because I teach English, I focus on a few concepts that were taught during the year. Don’t overload yourself and try to grade every little detail. Rubrics will allow you to select a category with a set criteria. This also keeps grading fair to your students. Essay grading can be maddening and time consuming. How many times students just ignore my comments or toss the assignment into the garbage is “Uber” frustrating. Sheesh!

Toss out: If you were absent for the day or a majority of your students are doing poorly on an assignment. Maybe it was your teaching, or maybe something didn’t go right with the lesson—toss it out. Don’t do this too often or tell the students, but throw out anything that lacks quality. I probably toss out 2 items per quarter to save time and my students’ grades. Note: If students catch onto you doing this, grade everything when you’re absent. Do this to keep them on their toes by grading harder on certain assignments. If you’re using snapshot grades for homework, then every so often grade the entire assignment for accuracy. Don’t let students get comfortable with your grading approach. Keep it spicy.

Grade 3 things per week: Don’t grade every day. I, personally, grade my Do Now assignments, 1 classwork, and 1 homework assignment or quiz per week. Use teacher observations and other forms of assessment to evaluate your teaching. Grading really helps us teachers see how well we are teaching. Before you teach a new concept, think of ways you will assess students quickly in the classroom to gauge whether you need to reteach or provide remedial lessons to reach your learners. For example, I use hand gestures (fingers 1,2,3) and will ask the class a question in a multiple-choice format. Students will place their fingers near their shoulders to avoid embarrassing themselves with the wrong answer. Another technique to assess students quickly is to ask a question to the left side, back, and right side of the room. I think of this as the maestro technique because you’re calling on all sides of the room to participate. Exit tickets could be another strategy to use at the end of class to verify if students adequately understand your teaching. You could employ true/false questions, quick responses, or one-word answers here. Make these quick and not time consuming for you to grade. I would grade these periodically and toss out the rest. Don’t make more work for yourself. Again, exit tickets really just provide a gauge for you to decide if students need more or less teaching on a topic.

Finally, tinker around with these ideas and do what you think is best for your students. Try to make your life easier in the class until you get a great handle on lesson plans and running your class. Check out the following resources that provide answers, keys and auto grading for you to use and save time in the classroom. I will include more math resources in the future.

It’s your first year. Late nights, anxiety, stress, caffeine-induced insomnia, canceling dates, missing family events, and freaking out plays like a broken record in your mind. Rewind, rewind again, and hitting play with the same emotions repeatedly. Hard to believe this—it gets better! Questioning your decision on the regular will take up a majority of your thoughts. God bless the person you’re dating during that first year because your relationship might get a little rocky. My wife wondered where my personality went during my first year. “I liked you so much better before you became a teacher,” with an old lady’s nagging, husky voice. Pretending to be an excellent teacher and acting like you know what you’re doing will prevail during this time period. Self-doubts will arise and tests will challenge your confidence.

From this experience, you will grow into the best version of yourself as a teacher. Don’t judge the field by the first year. It’s a huge transition, including those lovely Sunday night stress-lumps in your throat reminding you that work is around the corner. Take a deep breath and you will get through this! I remember making it to 2:30 PM feeling like Mr. Christmas himself as I survived another day. You will too! You will love the job, eventually. Everything above will dissolve and those clouds of despair will dissipate. Out of this experience will come the reasons you signed up for this job. This is one of the best careers in the world! It’s one of the most noble professions. Some days in the classroom never feel like work, and I’m riding the Cloud 9 wave getting paid to do something I absolutely love. How is this possible? You will feel this too! If you truly enjoy making a difference, seeing young people grow and mature, and knowing that you aided someone positively, you’ve chosen the best field. I’ve been there just like you and know the dreaded feelings of the bell ringing and all the students arriving in class. Take a deep breath. You are in a new learning experience for yourself, and you will grow and survive all of this while becoming the best teacher in you! It takes time, and this ride will end with you growing tremendously.

Read quotes, pray, steal ideas, and try to find humor in your day…every day. Let the small stuff go! These students might never forget you. They need you! You might be the only positive person in their life. Your words of wisdom may make the difference. You’re planting seeds into young minds that will someday blossom into something beautiful. And you call yourself a teacher? Welcome to the best job in the world! Get through that first year and you’ll love this job more and more. Even during the first year, you will grow more comfortable and experience these highs! Stay positive! You’ll get there!!

The following teacher apps below are the best pieces of digital technology to add to your classroom. Supportive and helpful to teachers, these apps will offer benefits to grading, communicating with families/students, building communities, and managing behavior in your class. I will update this list as I review more and more apps to help you in the classroom.

Google Classroom: Rating: 9/10

This app and website offers a gradebook, integrates with Google Drive, and provides a one stop be-all and end-all of an online classroom with apps to help support your learners. Invite students into your class, setup a gradebook with percentages, create Google Slides (presentation software), and write with Google Docs. I recommend being “all in” on Google Apps like Docs, Sheets, and Slides because these services work collaboratively; however, one issue with the gradebook is that it doesn’t allow you to create a new quarter. You might need to remake another classroom and again mass invite all your students. Good news though, all your guardians or parent invites carryover from the previous classroom. This year I am currently running Google Classroom full time and away from my district’s grading platform.

ZipGrade: Rating: 8/10

Do you remember the days of scantrons? Well, it’s back in an app and website format. You can print out a scantron on their website with any numbers of questions you need. After students complete your test, you scan student papers with your phone and you will receive the grade. The app offers item analysis and will also save a digital copy of your students’ tests. You can create classes and add your students to the website. You can print personalized Scantron sheets. This is only a multiple choice assessment, so add quick responses or essays on an additional page. I create my tests or quizzes on Google Docs or Microsoft Word. Then, I print out the Scantron to use with the test. This app cost 7 dollars for the year and will save you a tremendous of time.

Class Dojo: Rating: 9.5/10

I teach 8th grade ELA, and this is a great app for classroom management. You can give points for positive behavior, take away points, create digital portfolios, contact parents, and communicate with your class in mass announcements. Apps like Bloomz, Teacher Kit, ClassCraft, Class Tag, and others lack the polish and simplicity. It’s beautiful, easy to use, and even has translation features for families. Despite the childish monster creatures, the app features outweigh the immature look. My middle school students still enjoy earning points for participation and effort points. Also, group creation, timers, focus music, and random student selector make this a must-have in the classroom. Check this out if you need help with behavior management.

Remind: Rating: 8/10

Great communication app to use with parents and students. I really appreciate the auto-translation features that exist within the app. Families can choose their preferred language. This app connects with Google Classroom, OneDrive, SurveyMonkey, and Smore. I use the app to alert families about homework and school events. You can even log into the app through the website and send out a text to your students without your phone. This lacks the other features of Class Dojo, but is a great and simple communication tool to use in the classroom.

One Calendar by Code Spark: Rating: 9/10

This is a fantastic calendar app that can connect multiple accounts from Apple iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo, Mailbox, Google, and more. My work account is connected to this app and so is my personal calendar app. The app displays everything on one widget, allowing me to see my school events and personal events together. You can have this removed, but I like to have one calendar displaying the entire month with all my events added. The integration between Google and Microsoft with this app makes it worth it.

Turboscan: Rating: 7/10

Great app that can connect to your cloud services. You can email yourself, convert to PDF or JPG, print, fax, and have copy features. I use this app to upload short-stories, worksheets, and other materials to Google Classroom. Note: Google Drive offers a scan feature, so you may choose to stick with Drive, especially if you keep your lesson plans and materials in the cloud.

ChatGPT: Rating: 7/10

This app/website is great for creating rubrics and brainstorming ideas. I often use this app to create vocabulary sentences, write rubrics, adjust reading difficulty of passages, and brainstorm ideas. Copy and pasting are not perfect and often results in color problems with the text copied. Edit the text to be presentable to students. Font color and type need to be adjusted.

I don’t understand. I try to be super kind, fun, helpful. They just don’t like me. Welcome to the actual world of handling student criticism and hate! Well, at least it feels like that! For me, rapport is everything, and—this I promise you—students will dislike you. No matter what you say or do, there will always be 1 or 2 students who will find something to dislike about you. Know this—it’s them, not you! Don’t worry about student judgement and dislike. Keep your head high, be you, and carry on because this experience is one of life’s great lessons: The sooner you accept that not everyone is going to like you, the easier your life will be. Please read my advice below on handling this uncomfortable feeling or emotion.

1. Let Go. Students are young. Students’ brains are not fully developed or mature yet. Sometimes impulse control is absent. Remember their ages when you’re dealing with this part of teaching. I still need to remind myself that we are super imperfect beings dealing with other super imperfect beings. If you’re being affected by their comments, it might be time to address your own insecurities and lack of confidence. Practice affirmations, read quotes, and remind yourself daily that you can’t make everyone happy. The best people in the world receive criticism. So what really excuses you or me from judgment and criticism?

2. Discipline: If the student becomes disrespectful, then you need to hold the student accountable to your classroom management plan. Make sure you have a set of class rules with a general list of consequences displayed in front of your class. Speak with the student after class and follow through with a consequence. Recently, a student of mine was unhappy to see me upon my return from an absence. He then changed his seat without asking and talked with his friend. I sent him back to his original seat and spoke with him after class about his behavior. This was his first offense: I conferenced with him about his behavior and clarified that from now on, this will not continue. I didn’t yell or take it personally, but I became very serious and firm in this interaction. First offense: I go with a conference and a warning. If the behavior continues, I typically contact a parent because we should never tolerate disrespect.

3. Treat fairly: After you discipline the student, treat this person with respect. Don’t be extra nice or give them extra privileges. Don’t use bribery or take your anger out on the student. Let your consequences do the heavy lifting and teaching. They are children who need a lot of guidance and positive experiences. Remind yourself that you’re an outstanding teacher, and unfortunately, conflict or problems with students are inevitable. Keep being you! Keep reminding yourself why you became a teacher. Sometimes, when I am really down on teaching, I think about all my successes in the classroom. Try to get out of your head! Teaching isn’t easy. We don’t always get the appreciation and that good karma in return. Take the high road always in this profession. Move on and focus on all the positives of what you’re doing. It’s super easy to dwell on negativity, but please don’t. Train your mind to seek the positive! You are a special person to have chosen this profession. Don’t forget that!

4. Get “whole”: After work, on weekends, do things that bring you happiness. See friends, exercise, read a book, go for a walk, get a counselor, meditate, or get involved in a sport. Try to keep yourself mentally healthy by getting away from teaching, especially if you’re really struggling. Every teacher has their rough days, but accepting dislike and criticism should be a priority. Do this for yourself now, because if you don’t, it will follow you into other areas of your life. Keep that smile on your face as much as you can. It is important not to personalize a lot of things in life. Opinions and judgments are not accurate, and this little wisdom should get you past these mental wounds of taking things personally. Carry on and again keep your head held high. Students need you!

I’m from the 90s and early 2000s—the birth of the dumb phone. Remember Nextel’s and Nokia’s? Yeah, me too! Fast forward to this new generation of heavily addicted teens who bring devices to school and spend upwards of 4-5 hours on average of screen time. Shockingly, a kid last year told me she averages 10 hours a day—I didn’t believe it until she showed me her phone. Yikes!

A few years ago, phones would really stress me out because of inappropriate videos and images being airdropped or shared. How is that educational? Who can focus nowadays, anyway? Students today will defend and assert they need to text their mom or family members, when in reality, it’s just a fib to text friends and go further down the “rabbit of hole” of distraction and addiction. Whose problem is this now? Do we blame the school or the teacher? Do we blame the tech companies who employ neuroscientists and engineers who purposely target our dopamine receptors? It’s like trying to avoid the calling of that brownie that is yearning to be eaten. Is it the parent’s fault? Should we still allow smartphones in school? Do the benefits outweigh the cons? Students should not bring phones into the classroom. Now that probably doesn’t help if students may bring devices to your class. Technology, in my life, is too much. My Google Classroom, this blog, countless emails, podcasts, Chrome, Safari, and more are just way too much. Brownies anyone?

This problem is not a teacher problem per se, but a bigger problem for your district to solve where you work. We have enough to do in the classroom and fighting this uphill battle is a monster in of itself. Schools should have a phone policy, and from the school policy, you decide your stance and class procedures. If the school prohibits phones, it solves your problem. If your district has a mixed policy, then you will have to create a procedure for handling this in the classroom. When I start my class, I tell students to put their phones and earbuds away. Should students persist in using their phones, I will record the infraction, lower their grade, and perhaps confiscate their phone for the duration of the class. If the student easily hands over their phone, I don’t make a big deal about it and just place it on my desk. If the student becomes defiant and disrespectful, I go to administration about it. Handle this situation with a matter-of-fact attitude and enforce your established consequences.

Phones are terrible additions to the classroom. I get the security and safety piece, but procedures and limitations need to be in place before students take their phones out in your class. The first day of school is the best day to teach your procedures and rules. If you address this issue strongly and hard in the beginning, it will make the rest of the year easier. The first time you take a student’s phone to the office will impart a draconian message to the rest of your students that you mean business!

Feel out the vibe of your school. Talk to fellow teachers about their procedures. Do what makes you feel comfortable. If you are a proponent of phones, maybe you can create guidelines such as 1) Students must pass your class to use their phones 2) Set up a day of the week, like Friday, where students can listen to music and work on an assignment 3) Create games that support phone use 4) Allow phones only when all assignments are completed. Still, this causes a lot of monitoring and oversight. How can we manage all of this when we have upwards of 35 students in a class with smartphones?

To sum it up quickly:

1. Once students arrive in class and settle into their desks (after the bell), tell them to place phones and earbuds away. Say it calmly, without anger.

2. If students continue to play on their phones, give them a verbal warning. The next time I see you on this phone, you’re going to lose points on your participation or the assignment. If I catch you on the phone again, I’ll confiscate it. If the student escalates the situation or becomes disrespectful, take the phone to administration for maybe a parent pickup.

3. Follow-through with what you said above.

Sorry for my negative bias on phones. Yes, I admit it’s way too addictive. My students come to my class with Chromebooks, so why have another piece of technology? Hey—I’m all for dumb phones for students. I think the distraction hurts any phone positives, besides a security pro, but schools should have all these safety procedures in place, anyway. Stay positive and remember, some things are out of your control. Administration needs to establish guidelines and boundaries, and if they don’t, you do the best you can in your class. This is an uphill battle we all experience. Sigh... *Ring Ring*

Well, at least, that’s the goal. Teaching is overwhelming, stressful, and the grading just doesn’t stop—won’t stop. The first few years, no lie, you will take home your job to grade and make lesson plans on the weekends and over breaks. You might even think about canceling events, because you’re now in a full-time relationship with your computer. Hello Dell! You’re pretty warm over there. This will compound and cause you to feel frustrated and irritated. Then later the following day, deal with that really annoying kid in your last period class who is just waiting to press your self-destruct button. Trying to get away from this job is difficult. You will need to make time for yourself, no matter what. Even if it’s for only an hour, “teacher life” needs to be put away and put to bed. Remember, dedicate Friday night to yourself, no matter what. Go out and have fun! You should do the same thing during holiday breaks. Work hard when you’re at work. Don’t get too caught up in the teacher's lounge or going out to lunch; once in a while, do something for your mental sanity. If you’re super stressed, you may need time to sit in your car, listen to music, meditate, read, or play a phone game. Take a lunch break! Another idea is to go into work earlier to set up your day and to do some “housekeeping.” If you play the rush game in the morning, you’re adding a lot more adrenaline and anxiety to your day. Remind yourself in time this will all get easier and eventually you’ll laugh about all these crazy, beginner teacher days.

Still, occasionally, I have to grade over breaks. Recently, both my kids got sick, and being at home as a dad makes it difficult to get more of my job done. #Parentlife. During this upcoming break, I’ll be dedicating my time to grading student writing, just like it happens to you sometimes. You need to learn to work smarter and give yourself free time to keep feeling good. Teaching and life is a balancing act. If you get too absorbed into teaching, it can take over and invade other aspects of your life. Who really wants to talk about teaching when you’re out with your friends? I love being a teacher, but it’s just one aspect of my life. We wear this hat sometimes a little too often, yet you need to remember who you are and what you love to do. Did you just cancel a date? Maybe you just told your friends you can’t see that concert. Did you just forward a friend to voicemail? Balance your life because teaching in the beginning is going to demand a lot of you, and you must get good at finding small windows of time to keep yourself happy. An unhappy and stressed teacher makes managing students a lot more difficult. Students read us right away, and boy are they very good at it. I remember years ago a student telling me how stressed I looked. She was 100% correct. It’s also more fun for students to prod and push your emotions around when you look stressed and annoyed. Your vibe is also contagious. If you’re stressed and angry, your students will catch the vibe, and you may notice your students becoming like how you feel. It’s really odd, but when you’re in a good mood and very positive, you’ll get that vibe in return. Sort of like a karma thing. Positive energy breeds positive energy. As a new teacher, you’re juggling a lot! You’re going to have your meltdowns, tirades, and question this job a lot. You might even go to work with wrinkled clothes because you can’t keep up with life. I definitely did that Lol. Who doesn’t? Meanwhile, everyone around you seems to excel while you’re drowning in anxiety. I firmly believe every teacher needs to work on varying aspects of this art. Some teachers look like they have it all together; they only present what they want you to see. The ones who claim to be masters or who are fully confident aren’t perfect either—nobody is!! To conclude, work hard at work to prevent bringing a lot of stuff home. Find small windows of time to give yourself needed breaks. Eventually, you’ll have your vacations to yourself, unless you’re like me with kids who get sick. Keep your head up and focus on yourself! Give yourself a well-deserved break when you can! You deserve it!

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