Top 5 Habits For Surviving the 2021 School Year - You’ve Got This!

Teacher friends, how are you holding up? You may have noticed that we have been absent for just a bit because we too have been trying to figure out how to navigate teaching in 2021. Stress, anxiousness, and fatigue are all hitting the education world hard this year. Everyone said, “Oh, once we get through the 2020 school year we can make it through anything.” Well, I don’t know about you, but someone highly underestimated the impact of this current school year on students, teachers and administrators.

So what are we going to do about it? What can we do about it? Do we just have to take this experience and hope for better luck next year? Well, you’ve come to the right place if you’re looking for some answers. We have put together our TOP 5 Habits To Survive the 2021 School Year. Yes, we usually focus on primary teachers, but hopefully these habits can help a variety of teachers. (Pssstt…if you read nothing else in this post, please be sure to read Habit Number 5.)


Surviving The 2021 School Year - Habit #1 Classroom Management 

Without a shadow of doubt that no matter what year we are living in, classroom management will always be a core ingredient to surviving the school year. This year this is especially the case because so many students have forgotten how to behave at school. And you might be thinking, “But it’s November. We’ve been working on classroom management since August and we’re still not there.” That’s okay. Keep going. The day you stop implementing management is the day that you no longer have control.

Here are some strategies that have worked not only with our experiences this school year, but for many other teachers sharing on Instagram.

Chunking Tasks - Simply take whatever lesson you are planning and chunk it into 5-10 minute pieces depending on the grade. Instead of having a student feel like he/she has to complete a whole worksheet, explain that we are going to work on “x” number of problems now and then we’ll take a stretchy hand break. You could even state that students will finish the rest during centers. The point is to give small amounts of a task even if you have to circle back to it throughout the day.

Secret Student - The Secret Student concept has been flying around social media like crazy! It’s really quite simple. You choose a student, and compliment how well the Secret Student is performing a task or following directions by giving specific feedback. Other students will work so hard trying to follow the same behavior because they know the Secret Student gets to choose from the prize bin or have extra tech time. If behavior isn’t going so well for the Secret Student, then you can also comment on that too, but you don’t reveal who the Secret Student was for the day. Here is a great highlight from @teachingwithcass.

Interactive - Why are video games and YouTube channels so popular? Well, for most children and adults alike it’s because they are interactive. We are engaged while we are working or learning. So why would school be any different? We need to be sure we are creating interactive learning experiences for our learners so they continue to follow along. Adriana, creator of the Heart-Centered Classroom has so many examples of teaching with interactive style. She is the epitome of modeling how well this can be done.


Surviving the 2021 School Year - Habit #2 Communication 

Communication is a huge part of our jobs as educators. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” This-is-everything. The methods and words we use to communicate with our students are crucial. If you phrase a task as a question even though it’s not a choice, then you are opening the door for the learner to choose an option. Be clear and specific as you speak to your students, especially this year.

This also goes along with communicating with parents. Newsletters and class updates are great, but let’s face it, parents want to know about their child. So as you send home a newsletter each week could you spin it into a Friday Folder Note? Share a couple sentences updating families on topics being covered in class, but also share a sentence or two updating parents on their child. What did he/she do well this week? What challenged the student? Then, leave a place for comments so parents can write back if they so choose. Such an effective method to keeping those lines of communication open.

Finally, communicate with your administration. This is a hard year! If you think that you are doing yourself or your admin any favors by keeping frustrations or troubles bottled up inside you, well you’re not. Your admin may not have all the answers you need, but helping you through this process is part of their job. Your admin is navigating this school year just like the rest of us, but you never know what insight they can bring to help you.


Surviving the 2021 School Year - Habit #3 School Routines

How will you know when you’ve successfully mastered this crazy pandemic of a school year? Once your students are in solid routines and your classroom can flow without you being there.

Your students thrive on systems and routines. They love knowing the schedule for the day and how to work at centers appropriately. As much as they love surprises and the newness of activities, they also appreciate familiarity. They love knowing that on Mondays they will get to share about their weekends, on Thursdays they have a flash card race, and on Friday morning they will take a spelling test. These systems and routines are what help to set your students up for success.

If you are still trying to figure out what works best for your students, that’s okay. Once you find what works, keep it going. As we approach the holidays you are definitely going to want routines in place to keep students focused so they know what’s coming. This helps with parents trying to handle the school/life balance that has been bestowed upon them.


Surviving the 2021 School Year - Habit #4 Home Routines

So just as important as establishing those school routines for yourself and your students, so too do you want to have a solid routine in place at home. Have a plan and map out your day. If it’s not a “must do” then kick it off the list. You want to utilize your time at home in the best ways possible which might mean saying, “No.” if there’s something you don’t want to do. Guess what? It’s okay!

We here at Lesson Plan Toolbox are such firm believers in having a schedule, that we’re including our daily schedule here for you to help you get started. If working out is important to you, then decide when you’ll workout and add it to your schedule. If meal prepping is important, then decide how that’s going to look for you. The important thing is that you don’t waiver from how you manage your time. Keep on track and don’t be afraid to say, “No.” 

Can you schedule your time digitally? Yes, absolutely! Our experience is that when it is done as a hard copy we are more likely to look at our schedule and stick to it, but you do you.

Surviving the 2021 School Year - Habit #5 Mental Health

If your school is anything like our school, then finding subs the day after Halloween was a struggle. We had so many teachers out that our principal had to pull the art and STEM teachers to cover classes for the day. The reason is probably pretty obvious…these teachers needed a mental health day. You know what? That’s okay.

 Most teachers are given a couple personal days and can earn sick days throughout the school year. That time is there for you to use so take advantage of it without feeling guilty. After almost 20 years of teaching, if there is one thing I wish I could tell my younger self it would be to use my time. It is amazing how taking a break for yourself can work wonders in both your personal and professional lives. 

So as we head into the holidays and that feeling of overwhelm begins to take over, don’t be afraid to use a mental health day. Once you get into the habit of treating “sick” time as “mental” time, you too will begin questioning why you haven’t done this before.

Beyond just taking time off, be sure to find an individual or community that you can confide in about your day. Yes, you can tell your significant other, but the truth is that unless that person has been in your shoes it’s really hard to relate. Find someone who understands the workload and work/life struggle. Once you do, don’t just share about your experiences but listen to what the other person is saying too. So many answers can be found by just listening.


So there you have the Top 5 Habits to Survive the 2021 School Year:

  1. Classroom Management 
  2. Communication 
  3. School Routines 
  4. Home Routines 
  5. Mental Health

And if these 5 Habits to Survive the 2021 School Year intrigued you, then you’ll also want to read Top 3 Game Changing Managment Tips For 2021. You’ll find ready to use and easy to implement ideas.

You probably have plenty more ideas that could be added to this list. We would love to hear your thoughts so feel free to message us on IG

As always, we are here to help serve primary teachers as best we can. You are always welcome to join our community and have that extra support that so many of us need right now.


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