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Prepare to succeed this school year

New York Teacher

The first few weeks of the school year can be overwhelming, even for veteran teaches. As the school year begins, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared to care for yourself as much as you care for your new students.

Teaching isn’t always imagined as a physically demanding job, but the first few weeks of the school year can feel grueling. You may feel ready for a good night’s sleep before the sun sets; rest assured that it’s perfectly normal to be tired!

Take stock of the things you need physically and mentally to make your life and your job easier. Your students likely have supply lists — you’ll want one for yourself, too. What are the items you’ll want to have on hand to refresh and energize you during the day?

“I’m always thirsty from talking and the air in the room can get a little dry and stale, so I always have a very large jug of water and throat lozenges,” says John Ottomanelli, a third-year math teacher at PS/IS 30 in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Be intentional about how you manage your time.

“The best way for me to keep balance and perspective, especially as things get challenging, is to make sure that I’m grounded in my goals and outcomes for my lessons,” says Ottomanelli. “The more I plan, the more prepared I am, the better I am at taking care of myself and not only meeting the needs of my students but feeling comfortable and confident.”

But planning doesn’t have to mean sitting in your classroom for hours.

“I like to find a nice cafe with outdoor seating or a park,” Ottomanelli says. “Getting out and bringing my work to a place that’s relaxing is a way to switch up my environment and enjoy my time while getting work done.”

Balancing the demands of work with your personal life is a challenge that all teachers face.

“The thing that has helped me the most as a new teacher is really making time for the things I love to do,” says Leslie Martinez, a third-year special education teacher at Humanities Preparatory Academy in the Bronx. “I love writing, so during the school year, I write in my journal on the train for 15–20 minutes every day as I’m going to work. I make time even if it’s hectic because it helps calm my anxiety throughout the day.”

You may even find a way to bring your personal passions into the classroom.

“I’m a big reader and I go to a lot of author events, and my passion project in my school is bringing authors into our classrooms,” says Martinez. “In some ways, it’s an extension of self-care because it’s important to make time for the things that matter to you most.”

Lastly, remember that no matter what kind of day you’ve had, you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a colleague, a mentor or your UFT chapter leader for support. The UFT’s Member Assistance Program supports new members in a variety of ways; visit for details.

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