Tips to Help Instructors Feel Inspired at the Start of a New School Year

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Dr. Terri Moore
Smiling African American teacher giving lecture.


We survived teaching through the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching in the early days post-pandemic, and this year we thought we would be returning to some new normal in our classrooms.

But wait, there are new (and not so new) mine fields I’m expected to navigate?!

  • ChatGPT??
  • Political climates influencing what and how we teach??
  • Continuing updates to accessibility??
  • Commitments to inclusive teaching??

I feel a weariness creeping in as I struggle to stay enthusiastic about this new school year. So, I sought solace from like-minded educators and sources to help renew my excitement and confidence about stepping into the limelight with a whole new, unknown group of students.

I found this quote from a fellow teacher.

With these motivational thoughts in mind, I decided to develop a list of resolutions to keep on my desk as I design and redesign the three psychology courses I will teach this fall. 

  1. I won’t start designing with a singular focus on the course content (PSY 2012, 2013, 2014). I will begin my design with the outcome as my focus. What is essential for my students to walk away with following the conclusion of the unit, the chapter, the course? 

    After Chapter 2, I want my students to appreciate how the lived experiences of famous psychologists defined what they studied and how they interpreted their findings. I also want them to think about how they lived experiences of each of us can both enlighten and limit how we view new information.

  2. I will design with my students’ future trajectories in mind. Again, not designing just for the mastery of course content. Most of my students will not go on to become psychologists. Why should they take my course, and what insights will they gain?

    At the conclusion of the psychological disorders chapter, I want students to understand the pitfalls of diagnosis, as well as the benefits for those with serious mental illness. I want them well-armed should they feel overwhelmed by life, seeking good counsel and guarding against over-medication and overly diagnostic determinations.

  3. I will ensure inclusivity is the cornerstone of my course activities, interactions, examples, research, and assessments.

    While studying each unit, I want my students to find examples of experts in the field of psychology that are representative of their identities. Using BIPOC library sources, I will infuse and fortify the content with research and researchers that represent the diversity of my student population, so all students feel included, and content becomes more relevant.

  4. I will be the teacher I wish I’d had, or I will be like the ones who inspired me, failed me, and made me reach for more.

    I will examine each activity and assessment to ensure I am the champion of my students’ success, rather than the punitive professor weeding out “unworthy” students. I will ask myself Does this assessment really allow each student to show me what they know, or is it simply there to catch slackers and fail those who don’t follow the “rules?”

  5. I will practice gratitude. It’s so easy, particularly at the beginning of the fall term, to wax negative with all the “Welcome Backs” our administrators demand we attend, when all we want to do is get about the business of teaching. The public grousing and eye-rolling in our faculty lounges about how hard our roles are becoming is an addictive pastime I simply cannot afford.

  6. I will focus on the gift I have been given to enter the lives of so many people and give them some tools to help them be successful in the future. At the end of every term, I give my Facebook information to my exiting students and tell them to stay in touch and that it is the greatest privilege of a teacher to know some of the paths our students travel beyond our small classroom worlds. The most remarkable thing is that many of them have availed themselves of this, and we stay connected for many years after my psychology class has ended. 

Once in a while, I’ll be in an airport, or in a café, or at Disney World, and a long-ago student will come up to me and say, “Professor Moore, you may not remember me, but …” I feel a surge of gratitude for being given this chance to enter so many lives, to see so many paths and adventures through their eyes, and to be remembered with kindness and appreciation. 

So, WELCOME BACK (and I mean that sincerely) to the greatest job you've ever stumbled into, thinking you would be a psychology teacher, only to find you are really a life coach.