5 Tips for Starting the Semester Off On the Right Foot

Back to school. Concept with pens, books, an apple and blackboard with inscription : Back to school
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

Ok, so aside from wearing shoes that make you feel amazing but won’t make your podiatrist cringe, this post will walk you through 5 tips that can send you off into the Fall semester strong and energized.

I know, I know, there are plenty of posts out there that are dedicated to giving you tips and hacks for getting ready for a new school year, but there’s a reason for that. We educators are planners (even when we think we’re flying off the seat of our pants), and we look forward to a new year and thinking about how we can make it incredible for us and our students. These tips are my go-to whenever I start a new semester and take inventory.

Tip #1: Stock up on pens

If you’re like me, pens (or pencils) can make a real difference in attitude. Maybe you like a specific style, size or even colour. You know what I mean, the kind of pen that whenever you pick it up, you can’t help but smile (even if it’s on the inside because you don’t want your colleagues to see you smiling at a pen).

I recently found pens that you can actually erase – not with whiteout, but with an actual pen eraser! It. Changed. My. Life! Working with student papers all day and giving comments, these pens have been my greatest companion.  Sometimes I’m quick to write a note or circle something and then I read more and wish I hadn’t made that previous markup.  With these pens, I can just erase and it’s like it never happened…amazing!

Tip #2: Have a sweater on hand

The Fall season is a tricky one; sometimes it’s chilly in the morning, so we wear warmer clothes already, but sometimes it doesn’t get chilly until a bit later (or if the building’s AC is still on), and we regret not wearing a sweater.

I solve this by bringing in a sweater in the first week and leaving it in the office.  Don’t have a permanent office? That’s ok! The great thing about cardigans is that they’re so compact. They want to please you, really they do! Just roll it up and stow it in your tote bag.

Tip #3: Invest in a good notebook

I am a paper hoarder – I’ll admit it! I can’t help it. I absolutely love notebooks. That feeling of opening a notebook and seeing a blank, crisp page waiting to be filled with ideas, action plans, goals, and knowledge brings me so much joy.

Yes there are fancy expensive notebooks out there, but I find ones that are on sale or inexpensive. If you work at a post-secondary institution, get a notebook that has the school logo/crest on it. Imagine opening that notebook up at a faculty meeting or at a conference.  Whichever you choose, find a notebook that speaks to your personality.

Tip #4: Pack snacks and lunches

Whether you teach part-time or full-time, this one is crucial. If I’m being honest, I still have to work hard at this one. It is so tempting to say to myself the night before “I’ll just pick up something in the cafeteria”, but the next day I find myself waiting in a long line with others who thought the same thing.

If you’re rushing between classes, meetings, or other commitments, being able to nibble on a granola bar or crunch down on some apple slices or carrot sticks keeps your brain awake. Oh, and I can’t do this tip without mentioning water – keep yourself hydrated. Sometimes I try to be fancy and put some lemon or lime slices, but mostly I drink it pure.

If you want other tips on eating healthy, check out our previous post from Toronto Public Health!

Tip #5: Be kind to yourself

This one is a biggie. With a new school year comes new interactions. Even though educators by nature have to be able to engage with people all the time, it can be hard for us. We put ourselves out there, hoping for a positive reaction. Even though I’m an extroverted person and I love social interactions, I still get butterflies when I walk into a new classroom or into a new team. Remind yourself that you’ve got this!

Remember to not only be kind to yourself in those interactions but also do things that help you de-stress throughout the day. Have lunch with colleagues that make you happy, go for a quick walk outside and let the fresh air rejuvenate you (especially the crisp Fall air), or connect with groups like a book club, craft club, or sports team to engage the other part of your brain and unwind.


Using these tips always helps me start a new journey with the best foot forward. What do you do to get motivated for the new year?

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