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A Back-to-School Checklist for Teachers With Migraines

Back to school.

The three words that have the ability to send teachers’ migraines into hyperdrive.

Migraines thrive on stress, meetings, broken photocopiers, deadlines, screaming children, excess coffee and broken sleeps. Back to school. You’ve had your summer, teacher. You’ve had your time. Now it’s migraine’s time to shine.

Most likely Mr. Migraine is going to join you on your first week back. So, teachers, let’s make his stay as painless as possible. Make sure you get prepared and turn your new school bag into a survival kit with help from this back to school checklist.

Pain relief

Pack your bag/portable pharmacy with everything that offers relief when you feel an attack. Pain medication, heat pads, freeze gel and, if your medical room doesn’t supply them, ice packs.


Bring a massive refillable bottle. Carry it to every lesson and every meeting. Walk down the corridor with it. Take it on duty with you. Guard it with your life. Give it a name. It’ll be keeping you company for the whole day so you might as well get to know each other a bit better.

Leave the jumper at home

Wearing lots of thinner layers gives you more control over regulating your temperature and makes sure overheating doesn’t trigger an attack.

Fresh air

Stuffy rooms and lack of oxygen may also be a trigger. Keep a window open in your classroom to circulate the air and feel no shame about having to pop out of a meeting if you’re feeling an attack coming on.

Photocopy a day in advance

Get your planning and photocopying done at least a day in advance. That way, if you arrive at school with a migraine, you don’t have to use brain space to get yourself organized in the morning and can just concentrate on getting through the day.

Plan “fluency” lessons

If you have a full day make sure all your lessons are not singing and dancing. Strategically plan for down time lessons where students are practicing skills independently, developing their fluency.

Get on top of behavior

I cannot stress enough how important it is to get your behavior on point when you live with migraines. Take the time and energy to use your first few lessons to establish routine, firm rules and a hard working ethos. That way, in the future when a migraine comes knocking, you won’t have to use very much precious energy on behavior management. The students will already be very aware of your expectations and the consequences when they are not met. So, when your head is pounding and your speech is slurred, you can relax that bit more and let your previous behavior battles speak for you.

Find an ice pack monitor

When you meet your new classes, suss out which students are going to be the ones to help you out on a bad day. The compassion from these kids is so heartwarming and they are only too keen to run to the matron to get you a fresh ice pack. They have come to my rescue so many times!

Trigger ban

If there is something students might do in your classroom that acts like a trigger, ban it, and make it extremely clear why you are banning it. Sharing that you experience migraines and explaining your triggers to students can be such a powerful way to prevent an attack. Spraying deodorant in my classroom is a complete no-no. And, if a student does break this, it is so touching to see others students in the class tell them off for you!

Image Credits: Lsakatis