Are you Dreading a New School Year?

For teachers, the coming of a new school year can bring mixed emotions. For most of us we are excited, rejuvenated, and ready to get back into a structured routine. But the side of returning to a new school year that no one talks about is that little feeling of dread that creeps up as a transition is looming.

Teachers and students both face a few fears and anxieties about starting a new school year.

Will I remember how to do this job? I have so many great ideas, how will I implement them all? It’s so much work planning seating charts for 500 students, I’ll never get it done… And for those of you moving buildings, rooms or even starting a new job, I won’t even go into some of the feelings you all must be experiencing. Overwhelming!

All of these thoughts and more might cross your mind. As we declutter our minds today, let’s talk about the “dreaded feeling of dread” and help get ourselves off to a very positive note as we embark on this new year.

Declutter Your Mind. Overcoming Dread.

I think dread and fear go hand in hand. We dread something because we have a fear about our own capabilities in a situation. Because we fear, we put something off, which leads to dread. The cycle continues and it makes us feel just a little yucky.

I want you to think of the one thing you may be dreading about the new school year.

Maybe it’s traveling for the first time? Perhaps its a new grading system that is being implemented or even simply your morning commute. Do you want to know my dread? Don’t laugh. It’s standing. The simple act of standing has got me all worked up. Teaching K-5, I literally stand all day. I have 6 classes per day, back to back with only a 30 minute lunch and I rarely sit down all day long. I teach at two different schools and also facilitate for our art department. Under any circumstances, standing would be just fine, but I also happen to be 8 months pregnant as the school year begins. My feet can hardly handle the grocery store. HOW will I keep up my stamina to stand all day? For everyone their fear/dread is different.

Instead of stewing and putting off your feelings, or simply complaining,  I want you to think of 5 solutions or positive thoughts you can counteract this dread with.  

Maybe you decide it’s not a big deal or find a new outlook on the situation. What is the worst that could happen? So in my case, what is the worst that could happen is my feet hurt and I have to sit down and the class gets out of control. So… I work on stricter management, find new routines,  teach the older kids to come to me if I need to sit, bring 3 pairs of shoes to work every day to switch in and out of and sit at every chance I can when students are not in the room.

If I stop thinking about my dread in the situation, and see it as “not so bad” well, it becomes no big deal. This is the attitude I embraced when I found out I would be traveling between schools and now, after 3 years of doing it, it has become my new norm, and I find it second nature.

We are in charge of the way we react and think about situations. Our thoughts become our actions. If you think something will be difficult, it will be. If you think of something as “no big deal” or “easy to solve” it probably will be.

Christine Kain recently wrote a really good post on Dread called “Christine’s Proportional Theory of Dread” which also can help you take action on a dreaded feeling that has you down.

I shared mine, now you share yours- What are you dreading about the school year? 

What solutions do you have to remedy (everyone chime in- lets help each other out)

No sitting on the sidelines today…. Declutter you mind, embrace your fears and lets help each other start the year on a positive note!  

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Anonymous

    My solution when I was pregnant last fall was to have the students come to me when they needed help. I sat somewhere where I could see the whole class while helping them. It worked pretty good and also eliminated the problem of students saying they had their hand up first since they just got in line.

  • I am sure you are feeling not only anxious about the new school year/standing but also a new baby in the home! A blessing for sure but an adjustment. I am sure you will find the kids very excited about the baby and more than willing to help you out. But you are right….I am sure the thought of standing most of the day leaves you with anxiety because for teachers like us we are constantly up and around the room all the time. Sitting just isn’t really an option for good art teachers and difficult to do when we have to. You will do fine!

    I am anxious because my first official teaching job begins this fall. This blog post is very timely because yesterday I was beginning to feel a little anxious….and I am normally pretty laid-back. I have some really great art projects planned and I want to do very well. This is only a part-time job so if I do well then hopefully it will lead to a full-time job the following year. One thing that has helped immensely are some of the art teacher blogs I subscribe to. Information within this blogs has been so helpful as I prepare for the new school year. I can’t wait to meet some of you at the AEI Fall Conference!

    • Thank you for your kind feedback and suggestions. I am willing to try anything! … So glad you will be at the conference! Please come find me! I will be doing the Blogging for Art Educators session (surprise, surprise) and am helping to run the conference. I’ll be hard to miss- 9 months pregnant. Can’t wait to meet you!

    • Meg

      It’s my first year as well, good luck to you! I am a ball of nerves and excitement following the footsteps of a pretty hip and well loved teacher. What blogs have you found helpful looking to build up support and informational groups. :)

    • Good luck to you :)

  • I’m going into my fifth year of teaching and I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I’m still most worried about classroom management. I feel like I should have it down by now! I don’t think I’m horrible about it, but I could definitley use some work because I get so stressed out about it during the year.

  • I’m also worried about classroom management. My last year was ROUGH. And, like you, I would say it has always been my weakest area, too. I’m at a new school this year, so I’m also worried about new students, teachers, and principal. Though, I am also EXCITED about all of these things, too. I’ve read nearly everything I can get my hands (er, eyes) on about classroom management, and hope that I will be on the right track. Plus I have new challenges in teaching another grade level, whose curriculum works a bit differently.

    • You will do great, Angie! You always have such great ideas and we are in this together. The nice thing about starting fresh is you have the chance to implement a few new tricks with management and they won’t remember from last year. Keep me posted.

  • Last year I taught high school part-time, just 3 hours a day. This year I will be traveling between the high school and 2 elementary schools. My anxiety is high and I have even had to up my anti-anxiety meds to cope.

    First, how will I remember 300+ kids names? As you noted in your blog, here are some solutions:
    1. I could have the kids make name tags and punch holes in them and have them wear them around their necks each time they come into class.
    2. Be honest with the kids. Tell them it’s hard for me and I am working on it and to not feel bad if I forget.
    3. Seating charts

    Next, I worry about keeping organized. What if I forget where a class is at at the end of a day and start a lesson the next session in the wrong place?
    1. I could journal daily and then read the journal before the day begins each day so i will remember what happened during A day, B day, etc before the day begins.
    2. Prep the day before by making sure that supplies are ready the next time I come in so I wont forget.
    3. Hm…maybe a combination of the two?

    I’m scared of substitutes! What happens if I am sick and the sub completely screws up my classes. It’s a lot for me, how can I keep someone else organized whom I haven’t met and prepped?
    1. I could keep the journals available for the subs too.
    2. Have special sub plans that are simple and quick and across the board-whether they are teaching Kindergarten or 6th grade. That way they don’t have to juggle all the different lessons.
    3.I will remain immaculately healthy and never get sick. (Ha!)

    That is only three of my anxieties, but already I feel better! Thanks for your post!

    Megan in Missouri

    • Megan,
      I am so glad you shared all of that! I bet it feels great to get it out in the open. For some reason, substitutes used to upset me as well, and then somewhere along the lines it got better, not perfect, but better. I will be doing an entire segment on preparing for a sub when I get ready for my maternity leave in October, so hopefully that can give you some idea, although I really like the solutions you’ve already come up with.

      I also like your journal idea to remember what happened the last class, a week passes and it seems we forget. I also think jotting this down in your seating chart might help, so when you pull out that class, you’ll remember that ____ didn’t finish their project, etc.

      For names, I alphabetize by first name (Anna, Ava and Adam all seated together) and that helps me learn them quicker. I will be posting about this soon, too, as I work on my seating charts next week.

      Hope it helps- I appreciate your comments and wish you the very best!

  • Artleighart

    The name thing is something that always seems to get me. The grade book that we use let’s us print out photos of the students. I create a lamented colored seating chart for each class, a different color for each class. I print out their pictures and just tape them where they sit. A bit labor intensive but very helpful. The one year I missed two and a half weeks of the six week term. I had no idea who the kids were or who did what. I had them hold their projects up under their faces as a whole table, took a photo and then collect them. It made grading so much easier.

    • I alphabetize the names by FIRST name (All the A’s sit at one table) and this helps me learn names fast without relying on name tags or table tents.

  • Art-Tastic

    I am a first year teacher taking over for an art teacher who has held the position for the past 30 some years. I have been told by numerous people that I have “big shoes to fill!” Needless to say, this got my heart pounding a little with anxiety. I have had a chance to meet her and hang out with her many times, and she is a wonderful teacher who has been a great help to me while showing me around her room. But now, as I am moving into her classroom I realize that we have very different styles. To add to the usual first year teacher worries that everyone goes through, I am very worried about those teachers or even students who are used to the way the old teacher taught. During my student teaching I experienced my 8th graders having problems with me, based solely on the fact that I was not who they were used to. I’m worried that I will have this problem with some of the older grades. I’m trying not to rock the boat too much this first semester and am keeping some of her classroom management strategies (if it’s not broke don’t fix it) but am really looking forward to making the classroom and the curriculum my own.

    Your blog entry really got me thinking about how I will fix this worry of mine. I have decided this is a none issue, and that I will just go about teaching my class the way that I would like. I will remind my students that they get used to a new classroom teacher every year, and I am no different. As for my colleagues who may find themselves saying, “Well the old teacher did it this way….” I plan to bite my tongue, muddle through, and remind myself that I am just as good of a teacher as the one before me was. I have something that the old teacher may not have had anymore, ENTHUSIASM, and boy am I excited to jump in there and show them how well I can fill those shoes! Bring on the new school year, cause there’s a new art teacher in town :)

    Your blog has been a wonderful help in getting me to think in an organized way and given me a gateway to lots of other great art teacher blogs. Thanks so much for the information and I plan to share your blog with my other art teacher friends soon.

    • Thank you! Your story is one so many of us have been through. You have the right attitude. Do it your way, start fresh and before you know it, everyone will make the transition. Your enthuiasim will shine through and soon you will win them all over. Sometimes the students are more forgiving then the adults. Start of the year the way YOU want to teach and everyone will follow suit. Good luck and please keep us posted on how it’s going. I remember those feelings!

    • Marilyn Peters

      I agree with Jessica! I did a mid career change from elementary school teacher to high school art 14 years ago–wow, I’ve actually been teaching art more than half of my teaching career now. When I started high school I took over for my high school art teacher who had at least 30 years in the position. I had radically different methods and ideas about teaching. Not to mention the fact that the art room had probably not been cleaned or organized effectively for 20+ years. I went in cleaned and filled the dumpster–I’m not kidding–at least once. Everything neat and organized! Well the former teacher took a position in technology and had his office right next door to the art room! Talk about being under the microscope! I worked throughout the year bringing a new life to the program. At times when we had been heavily immerced in projects and classroom organization goes out the window–the ocd me was feeling this inner tremor and he would walk in and say Now this looks like an art room. Late in the year he admitted to me that I had taken the art program places that he never would have. I was what the program needed. Go do it your way–that is the best way for you!

  • Meg

    Hi. What a great blog first and foremost. Your writing is easy and fun, and I know exactly what you are saying. So, yes. I have dread. And fear. And excitement. I am teaching for the very first time after a long time aiding. I think do I remember how to teach, to draw and create. To plan. To talk to a middle schoolers about art ( I was with kindergartners). Will I keep my cool, or will they smell fear. Will I make a fool of myself, or will I be great. I feel like I can, but I am overwhelmed at the amout of stuff need to prep for in one week, and what If I don’t get it all done? How do I grade this stuff again? How to plan for not one or two lessons but all lessons for 4 preps…and does that need to flow into one another. How do I set my system up in the classroom….the list goes on and on. Did mention I am a perfectionist? A struggle to overcome,but we are staying positive and I am taking it one step at a time!

    • Meg,
      Thanks for commenting! It will all fall together and you are right, one day at a time. We are in this together. I am glad I could be of help. Keep in touch.

  • As the parent of a 9- and 11-year old child in public education, I’m SO grateful to see this kind of dialogue — thank you for making such an important impact on our children and seeking solutions instead of staying mired in the problems!


    • Mikalee- Totally my philosophy! Solutions not problems! Thanks for stopping by

  • have kind of dream. hope u can make it

  • Dreading the new school year? Need some advice, encouragement, ideas? Stop by The Education Cafe…


  • My friend, a third grade teacher, would SO appreciate this post :) I will have to share lol

  • This is the first year I can’t wait to get back to work! I need a paycheck!

  • Ah1 great post. im leaving teaching to pursue my mphil degree and m somehow dreading my university life again.

  • great article! Kudos. :)

  • What I dread most about the start of another school year is that it adds a higher number to the number of years since I graduated from High School. I hate when that happens.

    Mr Bricks

  • Dreading: The integration of a new program that does not have clear guidelines. It’s an experiment and I’m still not entirely sure how its going to work!

    Solution: Go in open-minded and optimistic. A positive attitude benefits my students, my colleagues and myself.

    Great post to get the new school year with a good start. :-)

    p.s. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  • Dreading: the constant whinging from certain members of staff.
    Solution: move away from or redirect the conversation, I’m determined to be a positive little fairy this year!
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  • beautiful Post!! Thank you so much!
    So important for teachers today, as so much is changing!

  • Though I am not a teacher, but rather a college student, sometimes I find myself over-whelmed by the amount of work that I will have to do this year, but I try to remind myself that outcome is dependent on effort input. So as long as I put in efficient effort, I will succeed.

  • catcha46

    This entry is wonderful! It serve as a guideline on how to tweak my girlfriend’s mentality in her studies.

    FYI: She’s a educator in training. Kudos to all educator!

  • WOW. This post totally spoke to me. I am just started in a teacher’s credential program right now and even though I am not going to be an art teacher this still relates to any would be teacher out there. I’m even about to get done with a class that just talked about how teacher expectations affect actions. I have quite a few fears about student teaching and the year to come–like will students listen to me(Im teaching secondary school), classroom management, engaging students in learning, AND the whole standing thing.

  • I’m not a teacher, I’m 16 and 2 years away from going to University. I study at a music school and recently I just changed my instrumental teachers. That’s what I’m dreading, new teachers! I don’t know what they’ll think of me either.

    Also the year above who have just done their exams (the important ones for Uni) all had such good grades, it’s unbelievable. I’m dreading having the pressure from the school to get perfect grades and keep my music up at the same time.

    Thanks for this post, it just shows the teachers are nervous too!

  • I’ve been trying to break into a competitive field and I feel that my lack of success so far there has been a motivation killer as well as close people saying it’s not going to happen for me but I’m staying put with my determination to strive hard or die trying.

  • nice

  • I have always dreaded school most of my life, especially when i was being taken to a new one. There are times i felt like faking an illness. But thanks to God i am what iam today. Otherwise, thanks for the post

  • Thank you for posting this! I’m heading back to university soon (second year!) It attached words to my feelings and made me realize that, yes, I was feeling dread. I felt better after pinpointing and overcoming. Good luck with the upcoming year!

  • All so true for students, teachers and parents. The excitement of a new school year is something I remember clearly, somewhat fondly, and also with that bit of sinking dread. So glad you tackled this topic and laid out some good advice for the “new start.” Great blog.

  • It’s amazing. I guess I’ve never thought about what’s behind a teacher’s face. I’d like to know what some of mine thought! Great story. Thanks.

  • Hi…This is my new experience. How nice to find a post that gives positive feedback like this. I am waiting for your next post. Great job!!! :)

  • i dread the new school year for difference reasons. i work at the local university, so i dread the return of the students and my daily commute on crowded buses.

  • This is strange experience, but it’s great. I hope your blog will be more exciting like this, thanks for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    Cant help but appreciate your work!!

  • I’m still in college but someday I’ll be asking myself these same questions as a teacher.

    I used to think being a student was more stressful…but after spending time teaching in classrooms…I think it may be very well the complete opposite.

    It’s really cool you are an art teacher. I would have been, but I was convinced out of it due to my lack of school art training and few jobs available…

  • I really enjoyed your post .Love the photographs and your story!Thank you for sharing that. I was waiting for someone with the correct perspective and background to post something.

  • Marilyn Peters

    I am dreading large class sizes. We have fewer teachers this year and many of my classes have large numbers.

  • Susan

    With new budget cuts I am dreading having to do recess duty, instead of having a planning period. I need to look at playing Four Square as my new stress reliever.

  • Lori Pickering

    This will be my 14th year in middle school. The same school, same principal and the same dread. This summer, I found help for my mental health. I have spent my entire life giving everything that i have to everyone around me. My students, I love like my own children and nurture with TLC but for years I have neglected to care for myself. As the summers have ended, I have found my anxieties had become overwhelming and I would start the year at a lighting fast pace that would leave me totally drained at the end of the year. I have also been Type 1 Diabetic for 47 years. I wear an insulin pump and the daily stress, the school schedule, the decreasing teacher pay in North Carolina- EVERYTHING -all of it was really beginning to show up in my diabetes. So….
    I took my life in my own hands. I found Specialists to help me manage my stress, my anxiety, an new insulin pump with Continuous Glucose Monitoring,and my depression. I cannot change my teacher’s pay in NC- I may need to relocate to a better state or even leave the teaching field altogether, but what I know for sure is that I will no longer dread each new year because of anxiety!

  • Lian Brehm

    I place a chair at the end of each table for me. I can sit and talk to each table and it gets me off my feet! My dread is having to cope with changes that are beyond my control and have to adapt to immediately. Most of them do not have to do with art or teaching art.I guess as I get older my tolerance level when having to quickly adjust to change, especially if I am not liking the change has lessened. I don’t mind change, I just need more time to adjust/adapt and make it work for me. I love my job and teaching art is the best teaching job in the world for me, and I have no problems with that, it is all the other things that come with the job that tend to bog me down. This is the first year in over 14 years that I get my own art room, and that is both challenging and exciting! Have a GREAT year everyone!

  • Colleen KG

    What I dread is the “starting all over again” piece. I think that teaching is one of the few jobs thst experiences the “Groundhog Day effect” every year. When non-teaching professions have vacation they return to work and pick up where they left off. We start all over from the beginning! Building relationships, learning names, understanding everyone’s IEPs, learning who works better with whom, a new schedule, new courses to teach and, for me, changing up at least half the lessons in my curriculum to keep things relevant and new(who wants to see the same projects on the wall year after year). And then there is the dreaded annual goal writing, usually centered around a district goal, which to me, often seems contrived and forced ( my goal would be something like…make time for the gym or make sure to go to at least one new art class of exhibit per month). Of course I’m an introvert so beginning school almost always overwhelms after such a length of freedom and solace by the water. Going back always seems like Monty Python’s, “and now for something completely different “sketch. The 5am wake up call…the very beginning of the cold, dark season…But then I remember, ” hey, I love to do this! I’m good at this life’s work! I love these funny kids! And when a student looks at me and says, ” I never thought I could do this…”well, enough said: I’m back, baby!