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Back to School for Educators: The ABCs for a Healthier School Year

Whether you are dreading the return to school or extremely excited about the new school year, these ABCs are for you!

A is for Affirmation.

It helps to have confidence in yourself as you start the school year. If you aren’t the kind of person who stands in front of a mirror and says I am enough, you are not alone! Affirmations don’t have to be sayings that you repeat to yourself in the mirror. One affirmation I would recommend is to declare that you are a competent educator. Think of five positive teaching experiences from last year, go back and read a positive email or note you received, or remember the look on a student’s face who “got it” or thanked you for helping. Focusing on the positive will help you get motivated for this year and hopefully turn your dread into excitement.

Another way to affirm is to remember what made you decide to become an educator. Did you want to make a difference? Did you want to help children? Remembering your “why” will help motivate you to start the school year in a positive way and help you get up every morning. I kept my philosophy of education statement written years ago when I was in college. I love to pull it out, read it, and think, “Oh yeah, I can do this!” Think of interview questions you answered to get this job and your responses that convinced the people in the interview to hire you. As you prepare for the school year, remember you want to teach and can make a difference.

B is for Boundaries.

I wish I had known about setting boundaries when I started teaching. I should have set boundaries for the amount of school work I did at home and for how I communicated with families. Boundaries provide protection - protecting your time, your feelings, your relationships, and your physical and emotional health. Start the school year by making a list of what you want protected and make a plan for setting the boundaries. What time of day will you stop reading emails? What will you do to leave school at a reasonable time? What committees will you say “no” to? What staff members will you say “no” to? How are you going to handle parent communication this year?

An important boundary for you to set is with parents. Try not to get in a back and forth email conversation, especially if the parent is upset. Reply to the email with something like this, “Thanks so much for emailing me and letting me know your thoughts. When is a good time for me to call you?” I know that calling parents can be intimidating and you might think, “I don’t have time for this,” but talking on the phone can be much more efficient than an email thread where you have to be careful of every word you type. If you talk to the parent, you can establish some kind of resolution in a timely manner.

C is for Cultivate.

One meaning of cultivate is to nurture and help grow. As an educator, you need to consider how you will cultivate yourself and your students. When working with students, you need to ensure that you are helping them grow emotionally as well as academically; the same is true for you. How do you plan to nurture yourself? What will you do for self-care? It can be as simple as listening to a motivating song on the way to work and a calming song for the way home or making time to work out several days a week. Think of self-care like a doctor’s appointment. It’s too much of a problem to change the appointment, so you have to keep the promise to yourself. On Sundays, make calendar appointments to work out, rest, read - whatever it is that your soul needs for nurturing.

Another definition of cultivate is to develop or improve something. How are you going to improve yourself this year? How will you develop your boundaries? How will you develop yourself professionally? As an educator for over 30 years, I still love and recommend personal professional development. Personal PD should motivate and challenge you to be your best. What podcast could you listen to on the way to and from work or when you walk? What PD could you do on Zoom or in person that will motivate you and feed your soul? What will make you a more productive and healthy educator this year?

In a career where we are often told, “It’s all about the students,” think about YOU. How can you take care of yourself so that you will be a better and more balanced educator and human being? Best wishes for a fabulous school year! (You truly are enough!)


Cindy Matney
Cindy Matney
Aug 27, 2023

Love this Annette!


Well said! Thank you, Annette!


LouAnne Metzger
LouAnne Metzger
Aug 20, 2023

Love this Annette! This is spot on for our educators to know and explore this year. As a human being, ardent supporter, retired educator, grandmother, and now coach, the question of how can we meet the needs of the "whole" educator just like we expect them to meet the needs of the "whole" child plays over and over in my mind. Even though they often don't feel like it, educators are enough and I am mighty grateful for each one living out their calling personally and professionally every day!


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