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I’ve had a wonderful, relaxing Winter Break. I’ve seen friends that I haven’t seen in a while, spent some quality time with family, and enjoyed numerous good books. While I’ve done a little school work during the holidays — from finalizing some planning with my teaching partner to completing our day book plan for the first Monday back at school — I’ve largely taken the break to relax. I definitely feel ready and excited to go back to school in a couple of days. I decided to really enjoy these last few days so that I’m mentally and emotionally prepared for returning to work. Yesterday, I found a couple of new books online that I want to read, and I thought that this weekend would be the perfect time to do so. I downloaded them and started reading. The problem is, I can’t stay focused.

  • I keep on getting out of the Kobo app and checking my Twitter and Instagram accounts.
  • I peruse blog posts.
  • I read news stories online.
  • I chat with family members and friends.
  • I go out and run errands.
  • I find and purchase new items for the classroom.

I basically do anything I can think of to avoid reading … and the book that I just started is incredibly good. As I found myself once again unable to focus on reading today, I started to hear Stuart Shanker‘s voice in my head, and I began to wonder, “After easily reading 10 books so far this holiday, why am I struggling now?” I think that I’m getting nervous. This is not the first day of the school year — even after 15 years of teaching, I still get “back to school” jitters — but it’s the first day back after an exciting two week break.

  • How will the kids adjust?
  • Have we planned with the students in mind?
  • What are some calming options that we’ve considered?
  • Do we need more outdoor learning time, and when might be the best time for this?
  • If it’s too cold to go outside in the morning (the windchill from the night before might create a problem), when could be another smooth transition outside?
  • Which children might struggle with goodbyes, and how can we reduce this stress?

My mind is swimming with questions, concerns, and worries, and while I know that so much is out of my control, I can’t seem to calm my anxious thoughts. Usually reading is calming for me, but it’s not working this weekend. This is why I decided to blog, for blogging really does help me self-regulate, and even as I write this post, I’m starting to feel better.

This experience makes me realize just how complicated feelings can be, and even as I get excited to return to work, I also feel nervous. I wonder how many of our students and parents feel the same way. I think of my experiences in the past, and how often I would have responded to concerns by thinking, “There’s nothing to worry about. Calm down. Everything will be fine.” Contemplating my own feelings now, I think about the problems with these words, and how telling somebody to “calm down” can just increase the stress. Maybe these are really the times that we need some additional kindness and empathy.

As I head back to school on Monday, I’m going to try and remember these last few days and my feelings right now. Hopefully they’ll make me better able to connect with children and parents that are feeling the same way. Will I be a better listener, give an extra hug, and/or just provide the additional time and space needed as we all adjust to a new term?I hope so! What about you? Off I go to try reading my book again, but with at least a clearer view of why it may be a challenge. Sometimes knowing why matters the most.