I know several kindergarten teachers who give parents a back-to-school survival kit. It’s got those big pencil grips the kids need but often lose, important dates and phone numbers for the school year, and of course it has a packet of tissues. As they are busy packing up these kits it got me thinking about what would be in my own kit. While I do have a box of tissues in my office, most of my survival tools are digital. As teachers, we often talk about how challenging it is to keep up with the pace of the school year while maintaining a sense of balance in our lives. We need to be mindful of taking care of ourselves in order to be the best for our students. There is a reason why you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others!
Gear up with these digital tools and you’re sure to survive (and even thrive) this school year.
- Mindfulness/Meditation Apps. Mindfulness and meditation have been around forever, so why is it that we are just now realizing the benefits? I don’t know. I do know that I can’t do it by myself and there are lots of fantastic apps that will guide you so you can be your calmest, most centered self in your classroom, at home, on the phone with parents, at faculty meetings, etc. My two favorites are Calm and Omvana. I’m currently using the free versions of both of these apps. They both offer guided meditation and mindfulness tracks of varying lengths and for a wide variety of purposes. I have even been using them for sleep. School hasn’t started yet and I’m already having those crazy classroom dreams!
- Exercise. A great compliment to mindfulness and meditation is exercise. I love my gym but sometimes my crazy schedule just doesn’t allow for me to make it in. Work off those extra calories from the snacks in the teacher’s lounge with these easy to use fitness apps. Seven is a high intensity interval training app that requires no equipment, besides a stair to step up and a chair for dips. It is a seven minute workout and you can decide how many cycles you want to do. I didn’t believe it until I tried it but it is legit. I love to sweat but I also know the value of yoga and I often struggle to make it to class. The Daily Yoga app is remarkably good. The instructions are easy to follow and you are watching a video of an actual person demonstrating the poses. There are lots of “classes” to choose from and they very by length so you can decide how long you can handle.
- Organize and Prioritize. Long ago I lost the ability to keep track of my to-do lists in my head. I love a good sticky note but I don’t keep them with me and they don’t jump out and bite me when a task is suddenly time sensitive. I am a fan of GSuite tools in general but Google Keep is an often underutilized and underestimated tool that every teacher should know about. Think about a sticky note that can remind you on a certain day and time or even at a specific place. Imagine a sticky note that you can share with multiple people and they can add items without needing to be in the same place at the same time. Google Keep is a collection of digital sticky notes that can be color coded. Images, links, voice notes, to-do lists with checkboxes, and even drawings can all be added and connected with your google account so you can access them from anywhere.
- Communicate and Collaborate. Teaching can sometimes feel isolating. Sure, you’re in a classroom full of kids, but you might not actually have an adult conversation all day unless you happen to find time to run to the bathroom and you also run into a colleague at the same time. Spend 10 minutes a day on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook and follow the educational hashtags and leaders of your choice. I am partial to Twitter and have an account that I use only for education. Stay away from the other social media noise and focus only on one or two hashtags that get you excited. If you’re new, confused, or overwhelmed by this idea, take a look at this post by teachthought.com on the complete guide to Twitter hashtags for education. Feel free to follow me, @LisaBerghoff, and I can help guide you through it. Making these connections outside of your building is important because it can help you gain perspective and also give you insight and ideas that you have not thought of. Spend ten minutes a day and see what happens.
With these digital tools, I’m ready to start the new school year and not lose my sanity.
What’s in your back-to-school survival kit?
*I was not financially or otherwise compensated for this post.