Think Better: Staying Present and Leaving Shouldville Behind

Lindsay TitusBlog, Reflect Better, Self Care Better, Teach Happier


  • Many teachers battle with shouldville—all of the things we should do or have done.
  • Dwelling on all the things can cause stress, anxiety, and resentment.
  • Make sure you are really focusing on what is most beneficial including your own personal time.

As an educator, August was always the month that I quickly found myself living in shouldville. I would find myself saying phrases like, “I really should…” more often than I could count. Whether it was something like, “I really should get into my classroom this week to start setting up.” Or, “I should start prepping materials for the first week.” Sometimes it was thoughts like, “I should be more excited about returning to school.” Or, “I should already have more done than I do for the school year.” No matter the thought, if it was related to shouldville, emotions such as frustration, anxiety, guilt, and overwhelmed were never far behind. 

By proactively scheduling your time, you are able to schedule activities you desire to do that will inspire and fill your cup, so you can continue to support others during the week. Click To Tweet

Tug-Of-War Game

I used to equate the month of August to a tug of war game, constantly feeling like I was being pulled in different directions. Maybe you’re familiar with the pull I’m referring to.  The pull of prepping for the upcoming year, but also wanting to enjoy the time off during the summer months. And this tug of war concept doesn’t just appear in the summer for educators. It can occur during the school year too! Especially during breaks from school, or even on the weekends!

It’s no surprise to any educator that there is a lot to do prior to the start of a new school year. But one thing I’ve learned is that when we’re busy preparing for the year ahead, we may feel that we are losing out on the present day. Our personal excitement for the school year can then diminish because we become frustrated with how much of our time our careers are taking up. When we feel trapped in picking just one role to dive into, such as the role of an educator, our resentment can grow which impacts our passion and purpose. 

To Prep or Not to Prep

In the past, I used to spend all summer prepping materials because it’s what I thought I should do. I thought it was what I should do for my students because that’s what I saw everyone else doing. But, when I think about it now, I was prepping specific materials without even knowing my students. This isn’t to say not to prep anything, but be mindful about where you are spending your time and energy. If you are creating things because you think you “should,” I encourage you to pause so that you can identify actions to take that will truly serve you in the upcoming school year! 

Leaving Shouldville Behind

Yes, it’s true that at the beginning of any school year, there are things to do. But let’s be honest, as educators, there is always something to do! That feeling of overwhelm can be, well, overwhelming, if we allow it to.  And with this feeling of overwhelm, it can be really easy to fall into shouldville. So what are we to do? Is it possible to stay out of shouldville at the beginning of the school year? I’m here to argue that yes, it is possible. Here are three action steps I take to stay out of shouldville and stay present each day the best that I can. 

Simple and Easy Action Steps:

Mission Statement and Values

Create, or update, your personal values and mission statement and place them in your classroom or office so you can review them as often as you need to. So often we write these statements but then keep them on our computers or written in a notebook. Make them visible!  Our inner thoughts are influenced by our environments, so the more we can surround ourselves with words, pictures, and items that fulfill us, the more likely we will stay present, especially during challenging situations. Also, by keeping your specific values and mission close by, you are more likely to anchor into your beliefs, instead of falling into shouldville, or anyone else’s beliefs. 

Gratitude and Celebrations

Start each day with gratitude and finish each day with celebrations. The energy that is created through gratitude and celebrations is truly remarkable. These two practices will help you stay grounded in the present moment and therefore out of shouldville. If you are new to these practices, start small and keep it simple! At the beginning of your day, say out loud, or write down three gratitude statements. Then, before you leave work for the day, do the same practice for three things that you are celebrating from the day.

Taking Control of Your Calendar

Before school begins (or as soon as you can), schedule activity days for you during the month! I personally like to select two weekend days during the month and schedule them as “me days.” I put a heart on the calendar to remind myself that this day is dedicated to me. This helps to create a blended schedule during the school year and helps me feel that I am still able to have time for myself and my family, even during the often busy back-to-school season.

Purposely scheduling this time helps you reduce the guilt that can often be felt at the beginning of the year, as we may try to tell ourselves we “need” to do all the things on the weekend. By proactively scheduling your time, you are able to schedule activities you desire to do that will inspire and fill your cup, so you can continue to support others during the week. 

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Practice Is Key!

It’s important to remember that staying present is a choice that we can choose every day. Yes, it takes practice. And yes, there are times we might find ourselves in shouldville. The key is to become aware of when we are entering shouldville, so that we can use our strategies to return to the present moment. Once we return back to the present moment, we can remain in control of our purpose and passion as educators and continue to share this with our students and staff every day! 

About Lindsay Titus

Lindsay Titus is a K-12 Behavior Specialist with a license in behavior analyst. As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Lindsay coaches and trains educators on the study of behavior and how to implement evidence-based behavior principles in simple and easy ways! With experience as a classroom special education teacher, and behavior specialist in public schools, residential placement, and private settings, Lindsay enjoys working with all educators looking to reignite their passion for education, connect with all students, and conquer challenging behavior in any classroom setting.