Strategies for Managing Anxiety: Transitioning from Summer Break

As the summer break draws to a close, it’s time to gear up for another exciting year of teaching. However, we as teachers understand that changing seasons from the laid-back summer vibe to the structure and demands of the school year can bring about feelings of anxiety for both you and your students. In this blog post, we will explore three practical tips to help you manage anxiety and create a smooth transition from summer break to school. So, take a deep breath, grab a cup of coffee, and let’s dive in!

1. Establish a Welcoming Environment

One of the key factors in easing anxiety during the back-to-school transition is creating a welcoming environment in your classroom. Learning about social emotional learning is great way to create a welcoming environment, and you can read more about that here!  

But here’s a quick list how you can achieve that:

a) Greet Students

The best way, that is also the easiest is to start the year off on a positive note by greeting each student individually with a smile and a few words of encouragement. This simple act can go a long way in making them feel valued and accepted.  This is not just for younger children, no matter the age you teach- greet each student by name and watch the change.

It can be so easy to get the last minute things together as students are walking in, and let’s be honest- some days we need that.  However, if you can make a consistent effort to greet students by name as they walk in- that simple act alone can diffuse so much anxiety for your students and can help create that welcoming environment you want.

Why does this help? Some students do not have good home lives, we know this. So when they come to you after a night away they may not have any good adult interactions. You may be the first good interaction- and they look forward to seeing you. It can help build the foundation of your relationship and make the rest of the year much easier.

b) Arrange the Classroom Thoughtfully

Organize the physical space in a way that promotes a sense of comfort and safety. Consider creating cozy corners, designated areas for group work, and clear pathways for easy movement. These arrangements can provide students with a sense of structure and predictability, reducing anxiety. If you know that there are some children who would transition better being near certain school friends, it is okay to seat them near each other!

​Think about yourself at a professional development day- you want to sit with your friends! Same goes for students.

Some students need more consideration where their desks are.  Some need to be closer proximity to the teacher, others to the board and even others may need their own space and enjoy being on an island.  Of course this is not something you will know on day one, but being reflective of your classroom set up is another great way to decrease stress and anxiety for your students this time of year.

c) Promote Inclusion and Acceptance

Foster a sense of belonging by promoting inclusivity and acceptance among your students. Encourage them to embrace diversity, share their experiences, and learn from one another. This inclusive environment helps alleviate anxiety and creates a supportive community within your classroom.

One of the best ways to do this is have students share about themselves from day one.  Reach out to parents and have them tell you several important things about their child and their family.  This way you can start infusing these different cultures into your classroom daily!

By doing this, you can help student establish new social connections. Having the connections to their peers can help them make a new friend that can ease a lot of the anxiety they may have as well. Although spending time on this at the beginning of the year may seem like no big deal- try to do this throughout the year, whenever you can!

2. Establish Predictable Routines

A predictable routine and structure are essential in reducing anxiety. By establishing predictable routines, you provide students with a clear understanding of what to expect, thereby minimizing uncertainty.

Remember, the start of a new year is a new routine and sometimes a big change for students, but preparing them for this change can help you in the long run! Here are some tips to help you create consistent routines:

a) Develop a Daily Schedule

The beginning of the year is an ideal time to outline a daily schedule that includes specific times for different activities such as lessons, breaks, and group work. Go over this schedule at the beginning of each day to prepare students for their day and what it will look like. This helps transition from summer mode to school mode. Display this schedule prominently in the classroom so students can refer to it throughout the day. Knowing what comes next helps students feel more at ease and mentally prepared.

Don’t just put it up and forget about it, be sure to refer to it throughout the day as well as a whole class.  Having a visual marker demonstrating where you are during the day can help students as well look forward to checking items off to go home!

Having a structured and good routine allows students to know what to expect and start to eliminate uncertainty they may have. If you are feeling up to it, send it home at the end of summer so students can start to wrap their mind around what is coming.

b) Provide Visual Cues

Use visual aids such as calendars, timers, and checklists to help students visually track their progress and manage their time effectively. Visual cues are particularly helpful for students with special needs who may benefit from a visual representation of the daily routine. Having pictures, instead of just words, in your daily schedule, for example, can help all students access it even if they cannot read!

Visual cues can also be things like modeling of steps they need to take to get ready to go outside (check that out here) or it can be visual expectations. Try these ones that can just go on your lanyard for easy access!

Try these ones that can just go on your lanyard for easy access!

c) Communicate Changes in Advance

If there are any changes in the routine, communicate them to the students in advance. Whether it’s a field trip or a modified schedule, providing ample notice allows students to mentally prepare and reduces anxiety caused by unexpected disruptions. Be sure to remind students several times about this change and work through any fears or uncertainty they may be feeling.

Since there are so many changes at the beginning of the year, this may happen as you get a bit further into the year. However, communicating the daily schedule and preparing for any changes can still happen from the start of school.

3. Foster Open Communication and Support

Maintaining open lines of communication and offering support are crucial during the back-to-school transition. Here’s how you can foster a supportive atmosphere:

a) Encourage Peer Connections 

Facilitate opportunities for students to engage with their peers and build relationships. Group activities, icebreakers, and collaborative projects can help create a supportive network within the classroom. When students feel connected to their classmates, they are more likely to feel supported and less anxious. Playing getting to know you games can be a fun way to do just that! Here is a zero prep getting to know you ice breaker game to try out.

This is a great first step in developing the foundations of relationship between students as well as between the children and you. 

 Here is a zero prep getting to know you ice breaker game to try out.

b) Be Approachable and Available

Let your students know that you are there for them by being approachable and available. Encourage them to share their concerns, ask questions, or seek assistance whenever needed.  A supportive and understanding teacher can significantly reduce anxiety and create a safe space for learning.

Remember that this takes time.  Some students will open up to you right away, and others will take weeks or months.  Just try to always engage in active listening by validating students feelings, giving them ample wait time, and asking open ended questions.

c) Provide Mindfulness Techniques

Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily routine to help students manage anxiety. Teach simple breathing exercises or guided visualization techniques to promote relaxation and focus. These techniques can be beneficial not only for students but also for you as a teacher. It can be hard coming from warmer weather with extra time to play and enjoy to a structured school schedule. These strategies can help them navigate all types of stressors.

The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to teach these skills but teaching these techniques can be challenging- that is why I have a freebie you can use with your class! Grab yours here to prep and get your students calm and ready to work. 

Grab yours here to prep and get your students calm and ready to work.

Transitioning from summer break to school can be a challenging time for both teachers and students, but with the right strategies, we can make the process smoother and less anxiety-inducing. These strategies can work whether you are working with older children or younger!

By creating a welcoming environment, establishing predictable routines, and fostering open communication and support, you can help ease the back-to-school jitters and create a positive learning atmosphere for everyone involved. Remember, small gestures and thoughtful planning can make a world of difference. So, let’s embrace the new school year with excitement and a commitment to supporting one another!

Wishing you all a fantastic start to the school year that is a seamless transition!

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