Today was my first day back-to-school, face-to-face with students since March 12. If there was ever a year that we needed Back-to-School Survival Strategies, it’s this year!
There isn’t a teacher I know who isn’t struggling with the immense weight of keeping students, coworkers, families (and ourselves) safe. I am sure that parents are feeling similar kinds of stress and anxiety right now. There are just so many unknowns to navigate.
Get Your Head in the Game
The first, most important, back-to-school survival strategy is just to get your head and heart in the right place. With all that’s going on in the world right now, that’s easier said than done. 😞
There are two mantras that I’ve been reciting in my head right now that have been helpful. The first, teaching related one, is this:
When I stop worrying about the new technology, the new protocols, the politics…. the unknowns…. and just focus on the checklist above, I can breathe and remember why I’m here, and what my purpose is in this mess.
The second, personal coping strategy, is my favorite Bible quote (Jeremiah 29:11), which is on this bracelet that I bought recently, and wear to school everyday.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I like having it right there on my wrist as a reminder.
These beautiful bracelets come in your choice of dozens of inspiring quotes, as well as a variety of lovely bead options and metal tones.
When they randomly popped up on my Facebook feed a couple of weeks ago, I knew I had to have one. It’s always a bit of a risk buying something blind like that, but I couldn’t be happier! It’s simply lovely.
Some others that would be appropriate for navigating life right now might include these:
You can use my code to get a great discount right now too. Just enter SILVERADO at checkout!
Having these two simple mantras to focus on when I get anxious about things out of my control, really makes a difference in my mindset. And mindset can make or break you in any given situation.
The next important Back-to-School Survival Strategy is getting organized. I’ve always been a big believer in planning. “Failure to plan, is planning to fail.” Yup. I 100% believe that.
A sucessful work week begins on Sunday for me. I find that if I take a little time on the weekend to prepare for the upcoming week, things go so much better.
I really like to have Sunday afternoons and evenings free of errands and “to-do” lists, so I make a point to get as much done on Saturday and Sunday morning as I can. Protecting Sunday evenings as a time to relax helps me get emotionally/mentally prepared for the week, especially right now.
I actually have a reminder set in my phone to “Get Gas” on Sundays. Now that we live in a more rural area, there are no gas stations on my way to work until I am nearly there. So if I got into my car on a weekday morning and was low on gas, it would throw a real wrench in my morning by having to go quite a bit out of my way to fill up. If I start out on Monday with a full tank, that’s one less thing I have to worry about for the week.
I used to always plan my outfits for the week on Sundays, after I did all the laundry. This year, we are allowed to wear scrubs or jeans/t-shirts, so that is one less thing I currently have to plan ahead for. Not having to waste extra minutes in the morning figuring out what to wear is a big time saver, so it really serves to minimize morning chaos.
When I was planning my outfits ahead for the week, I used closet tags similar to these. I even made sure to pick out my jewlery and shoes and put them all toghether on hangers with these tags.
Meal planning is a Back-to-School Survival Strategy that is necessary this time of year. During the summer, or after school settles into a more comfortable routine, I can get away with “winging it” a bit when it comes to meals, but not at this time of year. 😫
I like being able to come home from a long and stressful day at work knowing I can sit outside on the patio and decompress for a little bit, because we already know what the dinner plan is, and have all the ingredients ready and waiting.
Especially right now, planning ahead like this keeps me from having to make multiple visits to the grocery store over the course week, which would just add unnecessary exposure also.
I have been looking for a piece of vintage wood to make my own menu board for quite some time, but just haven’t come up with the right piece yet. In the meantime, I found this chalkboard for cheap at Hobby Lobby, and decided it would work until I can make my own.
I have this hanging in the big hallway right outside my kitchen, and it works perfectly for outlining the plan for the week.
Cook Extra Meat
One favorite Back-to-School Survival Strategy that’s a really big help, is to cook a bulk amount of meat, and store it in the freezer. When my kids were small, I’d buy hamburger 10 pounds at a time. It’s often cheaper to buy it in larger amounts too, so that’s a bonus! Then, I’d brown it all at once, and divide it into individual freezer bags of 1 pound each.
Whenever my husband gets his smoker out these days, we make sure to smoke extra meat, so that we can have some saved in the freezer for quick and easy use for other meals during the busy work week.
For example, this past week on my husband’s day off, he smoked a large amount of chicken breasts. He used some to surprise me with a beautiful dinner when I came home from work.
Then, we sliced up the rest and placed it in freezer bags for later use.
I used some to make my Meal Prep Chicken Burrito Bowls that I can easily pull from the freezer for grab-n-go healthy lunches.
We used it again to make an easy BBQ Chicken Pizza for dinner another night, and I have it slated for Chicken Wraps for yet another dinner this week.
If I had to cook the chicken separately for each of these meals, it would take longer and I’d have more mess to clean up. Having the chicken already done and waiting for me, makes the meal come together in a snap.
Grab ‘n’ Go Breakfasts
I am not ready for food first thing in the morning, so having something that I can pull from the fridge/freezer, throw in my bag, and enjoy after I arrive at work is ideal. Not having to prepare breakfast, no matter if you’re eating it at home, in the car, or at work is a big time and stress saver.
Here are things I prepare ahead of time to make mornings easier:
- Smoothie Bowls
- Make-ahead Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches
- Monster Cookie Energy Bites
- Fruit Bowls
- Overnight Oats
Simplify the Morning Routine
We’re fortunate that we don’t have daily medications to take, but we do take a variety of vitimins each morning. Rather than having to open multiple bottles, and set out separately every pill that each of us takes, it’s so much easier to just do it once, on Sunday, for the whole week.
I bought this pill organizer that has a slot for each day of the week, for both AM and PM. I chose this one, because each side was a different color. Rather than AM/PM, we use one side for my vitimins, and one for my husband’s. Plus, I like how the whole bottom opens up, making it easy to fill, rather than having to open 14 little slots at once.
My Computer & Computer Cord
I have a school MacBook that I carry back and forth from home and work. After using it to catch up on work at home, I alwasy make a point to put it right back in my school bag in the mudroom. I’ve made it to school without it a couple of times when I finished my work and set it down beside the sofa, and then forgot it in the morning rush! So making sure I put it back in my bag when I’m done avoids this problem.
Another struggle is dealing with dragging the long power cord back and forth. The outlet at school is not easily accessible, so having to undo that each day, wrap it up and tuck it in my bag, use it at home, and then make sure to get it back to school the next day, and struggle to plug it in again is just time consuming and annoying. The $30 I paid for this extra power cord was well-worth it to avoid the daily aggravation. Now I can just leave one at school, and one at home. Sometimes, spending a bit of money is worth it for the benefit of decreased stress and aggravation.
I used to have a Keurig in my classroom, because coffee is a necessity, obviously. But especially at school. And most especially during a pandemic.. at school.
But, because of the current situation, teachers were asked to take home all unnecessary personal items to make room for more social distancing and for easier cleaning and sanitation. While they do have a coffee pot in the faculty workroom, I’m still trying to avoid community shared items.
So the best option for me is to fill a travel mug with coffee from home. These Contigo Travel Mugs are the best I’ve found. They are easy to tote back and forth, because they are practically spill proof, and they keep my coffee nice and warm for hours. I have three total, so it’s easy to make sure one is clean and sitting next to the Keurig each morning, ready for me to fill and run.
Take Help Where You Need It
For me right now, that’s a delivery of 3 meal kits per week from Hello Fresh. We got our first delivery last week, and I really liked it. You can sign up for more meals per week, but three is the minimum amount, and seemed just right for us. It gave us a few days to be flexible, but also three solid days to know that we had all the ingredients ready and waiting for a delicous and easy-to-make dinner.
I really like cooking at home, and with Hello Fresh, you get all the ingredients, pre-measured and ready to go. This makes it easy to make a fresh meal with minimal mess! When we get a few weeks of it under our belt, I’ll do a full review, but here are the three meals we’ve had so far. We liked them all!
If you want to give Hello Fresh a try yourself, you can use my code to get $40 off.
If you have tips to share, I’d love to hear them. Day 1 went fairly well. I mean, at least as well as it can go for navigating a pandemic with nearly 1000 middle schoolers anyway. But if you have more ideas to help faciliate a great school year, lay ’em on me! Please.
Wishing you all a safe, healthy and sucessful start to this new school year,
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