It’s the Most Dangerous Time of the Year


Ben Franklin once said that “guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” I am certain that my wife and I once smelled like three-day-old fish to some of our best friends. We had driven many hours to visit them and had decided to stay for four days. They insisted we sleep at their house instead of a hotel. We accepted. Since we’d always had a good time together, we anticipated a tremendously fun visit. It was, for two days. But by the third morning, we had begun to prove Franklin right. Their kids seemed tired of our presence and resentful of the disruption to their routines. We felt like mooches. Conversations were brief and strained. A few of us were attempting to get work done on laptops instead of enjoying each other’s company. What had happened?

According to Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert, our imaginations had fooled us. In his book, Stumbling on Happiness, Gilbert explains how our brains fill in details. He uses the example of a party:

“Our spouse asks us to attend a party next Friday night, [and] our brains instantly manufacture an image of a cocktail party in the penthouse of a downtown hotel with waiters in black tie carrying silver trays of hors d’oeuvres past a slightly bored harpist, and we predict our reaction to the imagined event with a yawn that sets new records for duration and jaw extension. What we generally fail to consider is how many different parties there are — birthday celebrations, gallery openings, cast parties, yacht parties, office parties, orgies, wakes — and how different our reactions would be to each.” (Gilbert, 2006)

When we planned our trip, my wife and I imagined all the things we would do. Our imaginations selected positive memories from our shared past: karaoke nights, delicious grilled food, beer consumption, juvenile humor. This produced a tapestry of good feelings that lacked detail. We didn’t envision our upcoming visit so much as we assumed the good feelings we associated with our friends would be duplicated once we got together.

Gilbert warns, “Just as we tend to treat the details of future events that we do imagine as though they were actually going to happen, we have an equally troubling tendency to treat the details of future events that we don’t imagine as though they were not going to happen. ” Our brains fill in some details and leave other important details out, and the details we create or omit are often based on our circumstances at the time we’re doing the imagining.

It’s our faulty imagination and our confidence in its accuracy that make the first couple weeks of school the most dangerous time of the year for teachers.

The start of every year brings unbridled optimism. We’re rested, full of energy, and surrounded by similarly enthusiastic colleagues. The stress and struggles from the previous year have evaporated under the summer sun and we’re renewed, ready to embrace a fresh start. We’ve got new ideas we can’t wait to implement in our classrooms.

These are dangerous feelings because it’s hard to imagine a future where we’ll feel so different. It’s difficult to anticipate our feelings about attending an after-school meeting on a snowy night in March when we’re imagining such a meeting in the moments after our vivacious principal pitches us on joining a committee during the heady days of August.

In these first few weeks, you will likely be offered many opportunities to contribute outside of your classroom responsibilities. It’s important to remember that your imagination is not reliable. The future lacks definition. Your calendar may appear empty now, but that is a temporary condition. When the day of the meeting, or the science fair, or the parent night you pledged to attend arrives, you will no longer have nothing better to do. You will likely be just as overscheduled as you were last March, and you’ll wonder what in the world you were thinking when you said yes.

This is a common problem in all professions and behavioral economist Dan Ariely suggests three tools to combat your faulty imagination and protect your future self from your current self:

When presented with an opportunity,

1 Ask yourself if you would accept the request if it were for next week. This will force you to look at your calendar, which will be a more accurate representation of how your calendar will actually look when the time to follow-through arrives. Now consider whether you would be willing to move some events around or cancel them to accommodate this new opportunity. If you would be willing to do so, accept the request.


2 When you receive a request, pretend the future date is entirely packed with events that cannot be rescheduled. How does that make you feel? If you’re upset about the fact that you can’t squeeze in this offer, then accept it; you’re obviously excited about it. If you’re relieved to find your calendar stuffed and happy that you have a legitimate excuse to say no, then do so.


3 Imagine that you do accept the request, and then, when the day of the event arrives, you discover that it’s been canceled. If this thought fills you with glee, then you have your answer.


The beginning of the year is an exciting time, and we work in one of the few professions that allow frequent fresh starts. Teachers should channel their renewed enthusiasm to form relationships with new students and design engaging lessons. But they should also beware. The start of the year is a dangerous time for teachers who allow their current emotional state to influence decisions that will affect them during the time of the year when that enthusiasm has waned or been exhausted. Your imagination will fool you, so take steps now to protect yourself later.


This article has been excerpted from my book The Teacher’s Guide to Saying No. It has been lightly revised.

The One Thing School Leaders Must Do During Their Welcome Back Presentation


One of my favorite education writers, Peter Greene, recently wrote two articles about back to school PD presentations. One, titled Six Unforgivable Sins of Teacher Professional Development, describes the missteps too many speakers take, including my personal pet peeve, the reading aloud of slides to people who are going to find every grammatical error before it’s spoken. The other, a deeply satisfying romp identifying The Thirteen Presenters Who Will Ruin Your First Day Back imagines what some of the worst welcome back speakers would say if they were 100% honest.

Both articles, which have resonated with teachers to such a degree that the ubiquity of such talks are in little doubt, demonstrate the many pitfalls presenters face when welcoming the return of teachers from their summer vacations. Teachers are a tough crowd on a good day. Teachers who are forced to listen to a welcome back speech when they have a thousand other things they need to do to get ready for the school year can be especially critical.

The Worst Speech I’ve Ever Heard

The worst welcome back presentation I ever sat through occurred seven years ago. After some initial pleasantries, the thanking of the kitchen staff for the breakfast that 70% of the staff had skipped in favor of more sleep, and the annual request for teacher contributions to the district scholarship fund, our Superintendent, a Hobbit-like woman with a Napoleon complex, took the microphone and spent the next 30 minutes telling us how awful we were. There were graphs that proved it. One memorable moment was when she spat the name of a neighboring district in venomous disbelief and embarrassment over the fact that they had outscored us on some test in some grade. Our test scores weren’t good enough and it was clearly because we were slackers. She ended her talk by imploring us to become 10% better each year. Those in attendance that day have forever after called this the “Welcome Back, You Suck” speech.

It was horrible leadership. So horrible I was left wondering how in the world she had ever risen to such administrative heights (I know better now). Maybe she thought she was showing us “tough love,” or “setting high expectations,” or adopting a “no excuses” attitude. Maybe the Board had sent her the message that she needed to project strength. Maybe she saw red when the state released the test scores and waited until she had a (almost literally) captive audience to unleash her fury. Whatever the reason, her speech accomplished two things: it made her look like an ineffectual leader who refused to take any personal responsibility for the performance of the organization under her control and it made every teacher in the room want to walk out the door and never return.

It’s Not That Hard

While there are many ways to mess up a welcome back presentation, there is one thing speakers can do that will cover up a lot of sins. Simply focus on the positives.

I’m not talking about the rah-rah-teachers-are-great-I-couldn’t-do-your-job type of positivity that always comes across as disingenuous. And I’m certainly not talking about the kind of toxic positivity that denies reality and brooks no dissent.

I’m talking about the kind of positivity that chooses to focus on the good that has already happened and ignore the bad for one day.

Most teachers fall into two camps on the first day of school. Many are refreshed from the summer and enthusiastic about the new year, ready to implement new ideas and fix things that didn’t work as well as they wanted the previous year. Others feel beaten down by foolish government policies, scapegoated by the public, and unsupported by parents and administrators. Both groups need to know that their efforts are appreciated.

And that’s exactly what the Superintendent of my new school district did this past Monday. There wasn’t one negative mentioned during the hour-long presentation. When challenges were discussed, such as the construction going on in buildings that prevented teachers from getting in and setting up their classrooms, it was done by thanking teachers for their patience and highlighting the community’s support that allowed such improvements to take place. Only test scores that portrayed the district in a positive light were shared. Comparisons were made to districts we outperformed. Only those goals toward which we were progressing were included in the slideshow. We knew such data were cherry-picked. We didn’t care. It made us feel good about being back to work. It made us feel good about our employer. And I think it made the Superintendent feel good to do it. The contrast with my previous district was stark and it showed how easy it is to ignore the negative for one day and make teachers feel appreciated. It’s a shame all leaders can’t figure this out.

Yesterday was the most positive welcome back day I've been a part of. The contrast with my previous district was stark and showed how easy it is to ignore the negative for one day and actually make teachers feel valued. Shame more… Click To Tweet

It’s really not that hard. The first day back to school should be ALL POSITIVE. And if you’re leading a district that is struggling academically – if the state has labeled you a priority school, if student enrollment and funding is in decline, if you were in the news for some embarrassing incident – then your welcome back talk should be EVEN MORE POSITIVE. Build your people up. There’s plenty of time to address problems on days 2 through 185.

It's not hard, administrators. The first day back should be ALL POSITIVE. And if you lead a district that's struggling academically, it should be even more positive. Build your people up. There's plenty of time to address problems on… Click To Tweet

Any school leader can look at the data and find problems, and they should. But the first day should be reserved for appreciation, gratitude, and drawing attention to all the great things happening in your district. If your teachers don’t leave the room feeling valued by and proud of the district for which they work, then you’re not the leader you believe yourself to be. And if you can’t look at your district and find excellence, then you’ve got no right telling your teachers to do the same thing with each of their students. You’re also working in the wrong place, and probably in the wrong profession.


Sound off in the comments or on Facebook:

What’s the worst welcome back day you’ve been a part of?

What’s something your district does that you think all districts should do at the start of the year?

5 Ways to Avoid Burning Out As a Teacher

Guest Writer: Serena Dorf


Burnout is a real threat, not just for high-profile businessmen but for teachers, parents, schoolchildren and more. In fact, burnout can affect anyone from any walk of life, and we all need to be aware of our feelings and to be able to spot the warning signs before burnout becomes a problem.

For teachers, it’s particularly important to avoid burnout because they have a responsibility to the next generation. If our teachers start to suffer from burnout, they’ll be unable to deliver the quality of education that today’s youth deserves. That’s bad news, because the youth is always the future.

And so with that in mind, in today’s article we’re going to spend a little time looking at five of the ways you can spot and avoid burnout as a teacher. Let’s get started.

5 Ways to Avoid Burning Out as a Teacher

Learn to meditate

There’s a reason why so many high-profile figures, from athletes to entrepreneurs and movie stars, have publically stated that they’re advocates of meditation. It can help you to relax when you’re stressed and it can give you a sense of perspective. The best part of it is that you can develop a style of meditation that works for you. You don’t have to light a bunch of incense in the staff room and put on a CD of Tibetan chanting to make use of meditation. Simply learning a few breathing exercises and stepping outside for five minutes on a coffee break can be enough.

Get help marking homework and essays

Handing out homework is important if you want your students to learn their subjects as much as possible, but actually marking that homework can be time-consuming. Plenty of teachers have found themselves burning out after handing out homework and then having to work hours of unpaid overtime to mark it, and it can become an endless downward spiral. 

Show students where they can go if they need help

Different students have different abilities, and some of them need more support than others. If one of your students is dyslexic, for example, then you need to be able to spot it and then to tell them where they can go to find help. You should also be able to direct your pupils to additional resources such as useful websites and extra reading.

Practice good sleep hygiene

Getting a good night’s sleep will help you to make sure that your body and your mind are both as relaxed as possible. Sleep hygiene is all about maximizing your chances of a good night’s sleep and includes things like making sure that the room is a comfortable temperature, that background noise is as quiet as possible and that you minimize screen time before bed. Meditation can also help, as per our first tip in this article, and you can also contact your local healthcare practitioner if you’re still struggling to get a good night’s sleep.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Ultimately, one of the most important things you need to remember if you want to reduce the chances of burnout is that there’s help out there but you’ll need to ask for it. If you’re struggling with your workload then your boss and HR software will understand, but if they don’t know that it’s a problem then they’re not going to be able to help. The same is true when it comes to your mental health – there’s help out there if you reach out for it, but you’ll need to be brave enough to reach out to someone in the first place and to admit that you need help.

Conclusion

Now that you know just a few of the most effective ways to avoid burnout as a teacher, it’s over to you to put what you’ve learned into action. Take each of the five tips that we’ve shared in this article and make them part of your daily life so that you head burnout off at the pass. That way, you’ll increase your longevity and your performance and you’ll be a better teacher in the long run. Good luck!

Author Bio

Serena Dorf is a blogger, consultant and professional content writer for paper writing service rushmyessay.com and assignment writing help companies like Aussiewritings, MyAssignmentWriting and easy-essay.org. She has also been a research supervisor at assignment writing services for about three years. When she’s not writing for her clients, she studies languages and likes to read classic literature. 

Technologies That Help Students Build Real-World Skills

Guest Writer: Frankie Wallace

Image Source: Pexels 

English, math, science, and history — these are the subjects students often learn about throughout their years of public education. Although these are important subjects for students to learn about as a part of their educational foundation, there are some basic life skills that students don’t learn as part of their curriculum. This leads many students to struggle without basic knowledge of how to “adult,” or to complete basic tasks that all adults must do. 

Over the last decade, technology has had a huge impact on how school administrators have approached education. It’s now easier than ever for teachers and other education professionals to personalize their lesson plans. Instructors can easily customize the way they engage with individual students, even remote learners. By exploring some of these technologies, teachers can develop classes that will give students the type of education they need to be ready for life after graduation.

U.S. Education System

Technology is a great resource for students to use to apply themselves, especially when more formal resources are limited. According to a 2015 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, 94% of kids between 3 years old and 18 years old lived in a household with a computer, but only 61% of that group had access to the internet at home. Although schools could bridge this gap, many administrators don’t trust students enough to provide them with open internet access, which can undermine learning

This is one reason that students graduate without learning many important life skills, including money management, how to file tax returns, and even cooking. If schools offered and encouraged students to participate in classes that provided them with necessary life skills, more students would be ready to hit the ground running once they graduated. 

Health Advice

Cooking classes aren’t commonly offered as humanities in public schools. The closest most schools get to teaching about nutrition is usually health class, which teaches students straightforward but important lessons about the human body. However, many people end up going their whole lives without understanding the huge role that nutrition plays in their health, which contributes to our American diet and lifestyle that is largely considered unhealthy. 

By teaching students about the importance of healthy eating, teachers can help them develop diets that keep them healthy and avoid poor eating habits. Although nutrition information is pretty straightforward, teachers today can use apps and other software to help students regulate their diet and exercise and to form healthy lifestyle patterns early on in life.

Platforms to Teach Health Advice

  • Fizzy’s Lunch Lab: If you’re teaching a class of young learners, PBS’s Fizzy’s Lunch Lab is a colorful and informative look into the building blocks of a healthy diet. With a mix of single- and multi-player games, informational videos, and music that encourage positive nutritional habits, this is a versatile platform that can keep students engaged for quite a while. 

While some nuance and context may be needed to help students gain a full understanding of the issues at hand, the experiences your students will have with this free site are good launching points for discussions regarding health and proper dieting. 

  • Real Talk: Certain topics can be difficult to approach in terms that teens can relate to. Students can feel uncertain asking questions about sex, healthy relationships, and online safety. Educators can feel uncomfortable about providing certain answers. Real Talk is a free app that looks to bridge this gap by providing middle and high schoolers with relatable stories and reliable information about these topics.

By reading and discussing these stories, students can learn a lot about sensitive issues without experiencing feelings of vulnerability or embarrassment. This can help them develop the skills needed for strong personal development.

Money Management

Another important life skill that students don’t learn, unless their parents themselves budget and take the time to teach them, is money management and fiscal responsibility. It’s not uncommon for adolescents to use their newfound freedom as adults to make some serious financial missteps for short-term rewards. If they are not taught to manage money, they can make some poor decisions — and get themselves in a lot of trouble when they realize they have found themselves in insurmountable debt.

For example, many young adults haven’t learned what the process of buying a car entails or the important differences between buying and leasing a car. This can cause difficulties when it’s time for them to do so and can lead them to make fiscally irresponsible decisions. Teachers could help prevent this bump in the road by exposing their students to technology that will help keep track of their budgets and act as responsible consumers. 

Platforms to Teach Financial Management

  • Pennybox: Managing income and expenses is a key part of financial management, though many students don’t get true experience with this prior to graduation. Pennybox can help remedy that. This virtual banking system allows students to manage finances in a risk-free environment. This free app has many applications at home as a teaching tool, but it can also be used in classrooms with young learners. 

Teachers can allocate funds to students, potentially as a reward for academic achievements or for setting a positive example in social interactions. Students can then manage these funds to “pay” for privileges. Discussing the importance of saving money for greater rewards could be an impactful lesson for young students.

  • $ky: Money Matters: If you’re looking for a platform more suited to students in elementary and middle school classrooms, $ky: Money Matters is a good option. Created in a collaboration between the Charles Schwab Foundation and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, this free game provides a look into life expenses students can expect to encounter later in life. 

Students will answer some basic questions about their goals in life (Will they go to college? What kind of job do they want to pursue?), then encounter a number of financial decisions. It’s a good representation of how financial decisions can impact the course of one’s life. While the specifics of these decisions are not provided within the context of the game, it is a good launching point to broader discussions about personal finance.

Finding a Job

Finding a job is one of the most important life skills a person can have when they finish school, as this will provide them with their livelihood when they gain their independence. However, by the time many students graduate, they don’t know how to successfully create a resume or a cover letter, both of which are often necessary for attaining a job. However, neither of these documents are easy to write, and they must be deliberately crafted with care. 

While resume writing would be a good class or class segment in and of itself, technology today makes it easy for students to learn. By showing students the right software to use to create these documents, teachers can give their students basic instructions that will help them figure out how to craft a good resume. 

With the stagnant wages that exist in the U.S., all young adults should know how to manage their money and create budgets that will help them succeed in the future. Money problems can be incredibly easy to get into when you’re new to financial responsibility or when you are just starting a new job and don’t know how much money you’ll have after bills. In order for students to be successful in life, they need to learn how to get a job, keep a budget, and be financially responsible.

Platforms to Teach Career Skills

  • Kidblog: This platform allows educators to create controlled environments in which students can share and react to content with their peers. There are many skills that can be taught with Kidblog, including digital citizenship, online content creation, and the importance of networking.

There are clear real-world applications for these skills when it comes to finding and securing a job. Regardless of your desired career, being able to engage with others effectively online is essential to maximize professional opportunities and growth.

  • VR Career Training: Countless VR applications can teach real-world skills necessary for specific professions. Students can learn a wide variety of skills by interacting with objects in simulated environments. Retail companies, police departments, hospitals, and many more employers provide VR training to new and prospective employees to teach integral skills while spurring interest in their respective industry.

These applications could also have applications in the classroom. Having a career day at your school? With this technology, you can expose students to a wide range of professions and give them a “hands-on” glimpse into the day-to-day work required of each.

Technology and Education

Technology is a hugely beneficial resource that has made it easier for people to do a large number of organizational and administrative tasks. It has changed the way a lot of work is now done. This has required teachers to change the way they approach teaching students about a variety of topics. Today, it’s more important to know how to effectively use software to complete certain tasks than to understand how to complete the work without it. However, technology devoid of context does not necessarily help students

Although technology is playing a larger part in how students learn, a good education requires more than the latest technologies. In order to teach well, educators need to structure classes and develop lessons that keep students focused on what they’re supposed to be learning and don’t simply provide them with potentially distracting technology. Teachers must determine the concrete ways that technology will help us meet educational goals before encouraging the school to invest in expensive technology and software. 

Proficiency in working within computer programs and computer skills in general are valuable skills for almost any profession. Some schools offer classes where students can learn to type and become familiar with computers. However, not enough classes exist for students to learn how to use Microsoft Office products and other software commonly used in office work environments. Getting students accustomed to this type of technology could greatly improve their future work opportunities. 

Teachers make a huge difference in the lives of their students, and their dedication to providing learners a well-rounded education can be the difference between a student that is prepared for adulthood and one that is not. Real-life skills are crucial, and the way that educators structure their classes can help students know what to expect as they set foot into the real world.

5 Ways to Prevent Bullying in the Classroom

Guest Writer: Rhonda Martinez

Did you know that one out of five students report being bullied, according to National Center for Education Statistics? In other words in your classroom, 6 out of 30 kids might be the victims of bullying. Right now, we as educators should take action, but what can we do?

We have talked to guidance counselors and experienced educators to find tips on how to create a positive classroom climate. We have singled out 5 main ways to prevent bullying and make the classroom an educationally safe environment.

  • Talk with Your Students

Talking about bullying is of utmost importance. Discuss with your students the consequences of bullying. Spend enough time teaching them emotional intelligence: developing empathy, teaching to be respectful and showing them how to understand emotions and feelings.

  • Keep an Eye on Small Behaviors

Small indicators can often help you detect bullying at an early stage. Things like eye rolling, laughing cruelly or ignoring can show that the problem exists and it can aggravate if no measures are taken. That is why it is vital to notice such small behaviors and take action.

  • Serve as an Example

You have probably seen teachers who were bullies themselves, or educators who were bullied by the colleagues. Imagine what your students feel and how they react when they witness such behavior. For this reason, make sure you do not let some bad mood or any negativity you may experience from colleagues influence the way you interact with your class. Be positive, open and supportive. Show your classroom that a healthy and safe educational environment is possible and be the advocate of such behavior in your school’s culture.

  • Solve Conflicts Immediately

The longer the bullying continues, the more disastrous the consequences may be. Do not hesitate to take care of an incident instantly. Make sure both a victim and a bully get professional help from the guidance counselor. Always talk with a victim and a bully separately and privately. Show the victim that you care and understand their feelings. Assure them that you will help with the conflict. At the same time, find out why the bully behaves in the following manner, try to tell them about other ways of communicating.

  • Help Students Connect

First and foremost, avoid letting students choose their own groups during group tasks and projects. This is how exclusion and ignoring are encouraged that may then lead to bullying. Assign students to groups yourself. This will help them learn how to interact, work and connect with different people, with different interests and hobbies.

Summing up, school bullying has lasting effects on a person’s life. It is shocking how many adults suffer from being unconfident and struggle with anxieties because they were victims of physical aggression or ignoring at school. Fighting and preventing bullying is not an easy task, it requires determination and constant awareness. Still, we believe that as educators we are shaping our society, and we can help it become a safe place to study, work and live.

BIO: Rhonda Martinez is a mom of two, a teacher of English language for adults and a senior editor at LegitWritingServices review website. Rhonda is keen on writing, tutoring English, and discovering new and effective ways of teaching her students.