15 Ways to Be Kind to Yourself on the First Days of School

Whether you’ve been back for a few weeks, or just a day or two — you did it!

You made it out of bed at an ungodly hour, rocked a fresh first-day outfit, and presented your Teacher Self to a new crop of kids.

You’re taking attendance, writing those first parent e-mails, planning lessons, doing lunch duty, attending meetings, assigning first homeworks, and collecting first homeworks.

Maybe you’re teaching a brand-new course this year, or taking on a new responsibility as coach or advisor, too.

Through all of this, you’re delivering instruction to multiple groups of differently abled, very distractible kids.

So, please remember — it’s OK if…

1. You don’t know most of your students’ names yet.

2. It takes you a full five minutes to remember old students’ names when they say hello in the hallway.

namesticker

It’ll come to me…

3. Your desk is already a mess of papers.

This week's grading

100% authentic piles of grading

4. You didn’t have time to make that perfect bulletin board / seating chart / welcome letter like you’d planned to do.

marvelous-multiplication-bulletin-board

I’ve never made a bulletin board this pretty. Ever.

5. You already had to change a lesson because the copier was jammed or occupied.

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Sad sight for sore eyes

6. You already had to change a lesson because the computer / projector / DVD player / TV / internet didn’t work.

test colors TV

“Hey, who here is good at TV stuff?”

7. You forgot to turn off your phone during class.

8. You forgot to go to the bathroom, even when you had a minute.

Imagine going to the bathroom when you need to...

Should’ve gone during prep!

9.  Your perfect “first days” lesson was not the raging success you’d envisioned.

10. You haven’t had time to catch up properly with your colleagues because of all the work that needs to be done.

11. You’re already grading or playing on your phone during the first full faculty meeting. (Do as I say, not as I do…)

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Official story: teachers don’t have friends or use Facebook.

12. Your second-day outfit was not as polished as your first-day outfit. (Soon, you’ll be proud to have made it to school with matching socks!)

13.  You didn’t have time to make lunch and/or dinner.

School Food - Chicken Nuggets

School lunch it is…

14. You didn’t have time to make that doctor’s appointment.

15. You’re already falling asleep on the couch when you get home!

It's OK to be dog-tired!

It’s OK to be dog-tired!

Remember, teachers do heroic things, but you’re still human!

Rinse and repeat if you’re a first-year teacher.

Also: what would you add to this list?

Dicker-Brandeis, Redux / Badass Teachers, Past and Present

One

Last week, I wrote about Freidl Dicker-Brandeis as the first subject in a new series on great teachers in history.

But then I realized, Dicker-Brandeis wasn’t just “great.” She was a badass. Here’s why:

1. She helped hundreds of children cope with the soul-crushing conditions of living in a ghetto during the Holocaust, forced to live separately from their parents and facing down their own deaths.

2. Before being sent to Auschwitz, Dicker-Brandeis had the foresight to hide two suitcases full of her students’ art so they wouldn’t be destroyed by the Nazis. If she hadn’t done so, we would have lost 4,500 testaments to the power of art to create hope and humanity in the worst of circumstances.

3. To prepare for teaching in the Terezin ghetto, she brought largely art supplies with her, instead of personal belongings and other survival items.

4. She was an accomplished artist in her own right — a student of the Bauhaus movement who studied under famous figures like Paul Klee. Here are two of her paintings.

5. Some of her students went on to become respected artists themselves. Georg Eisler and Edith Kramer are two now-famous students she taught while still living in Prague.

Two

I’m hereby renaming the series Badass Teachers in History. This is also a conscious choice to draw an alliance between history and the present — namely, efforts by groups like the Badass Teachers Association to fight education “reforms” that destroy individuality, creativity, and teacher morale in public schools.

And thanks to the Twitterers (Tweeters?) over at the Zinn Education Project, I have a whole bunch more Badass Teachers in History to write about.

Great Teachers in History: Freidl Dicker-Brandeis

Never heard of Freidl Dicker-Brandeis? Neither had I, until my first visit to Prague last month.

Friedl-1936

While visiting the city’s Jewish Museum, I learned about this woman’s amazing impact on the children in the Terezin ghetto (also known as Theresienstadt), located about 50 miles north of Prague.

Dicker-Brandeis was deported to Terezin in 1942. She organized daily art lessons for over 600 children during her two years there. Like many art teachers, she helped her students learn the basics of line, color, and shape, and encouraged them to express their feelings in their work.

But her classes were held in secret, and materials were severely limited. In preparation for teaching at Terezin, she had stuffed her allotted suitcase with mostly art supplies.

Along with her unshakeable belief in the necessity of art, what makes Dicker-Brandeis remarkable is the emotional support she provided to children experiencing unspeakable trauma.

These children had been torn from their homes and forcibly separated from their parents, who would be sent to concentration camps like Auschwitz to die.

Freidl herself was sent to Auschwitz in 1944, along with 60 of her students.

Helga Kinsky, one of her few surviving students, said of her teacher:

“[She] transported us to a different world…. She painted flowers in windows, a view out of a window. She had a totally different approach…. She didn’t make us draw Terezin.”

Eva Dorian, another student who survived, said, “I believe that what she wanted from us was not directly linked to drawing, but rather to the expression of different feelings, to the liberation from our fears…these were not normal lessons, but lessons in emancipated meditation” (Quotes from Yad Vashem).

Before her deportation to Auschwitz in 1944, Freidl buried about 4,500 drawings in two suitcases. The drawings were discovered ten years later. Here are some of them.

terezinart1

terezin photo 3

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For more on Dicker-Brandeis and her students:

I Never Saw Another Butterfly

Through a Narrow Window

And, I’d like to make Great Badass Teachers in History an ongoing feature, with your help.

Who else should be remembered for teaching “lessons in emancipated meditation”? Which educators deserve wider recognition by history?