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Managing Stress as an Educator
posted by: Larisa | May 31, 2012, 02:06 PM   

You leave your house, coffee in hand, and it starts to rain outside.  You don’t have an umbrella.  You rush to your car, and, in a dash to save your freshly graded papers from rain damage, you put your coffee cup on the top of your car as you unlock the door.  You hop in the car, start the ignition, and, just as you pull away, you hear the clunk of your coffee cup hitting the sidewalk.  It’s going to be one of those days.

Once you get to school, you sit down in your meeting, which has already started, and your principal looks at you with pity.  “How much sleep did you get last night?” she asks.  You look at her and try to register her words.  You think she was speaking in Chinese – sleep? You have too many things to worry about to sleep.

You have meetings to make, lesson plans to review, papers to grade, parents to call, projects to stage, a classroom to pack, kids to watch, trainings to attend, letters to write, folders to organize, field days, fire drills, tornado drills, quizzes and standardized tests, assessments, standards, certifications, curricula, NCLBs, IDEAs, IEPs, ABCs, and that doesn’t even include the monumental task of keeping Johnny from pouring glue onto Stephanie’s hair again.  Sleep is NOT on that list.

As you wrap up another busy year, remember to work to manage stress before it manages you!

Teacher burnout is more frequent than we might think, and a lot of it has to do with the accumulation of stress over time.  According to statistics, nearly half of all new teachers leave the job within five years. If you start to experience stress, don’t bottle it up.  Instead, ask for help.  You’d be surprised at how unfairly time is distributed sometimes – there are days when your co-teacher is swamped and you’re just sitting pretty and there are days when you’re swamped and the math teacher is willing to lend a hand.  If you’re swamped, don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Also, don’t sweat the small stuff.  It’s hard to believe in the moment, but buying yellow yarn instead of orange yarn isn’t that big of a deal.  At the end of the day, all of these little things – coffee cups spilling and rain and parking spots – aren’t that significant.  It’s doubtful you will remember these little annoyances next week, so it’s best to just forget them now.  They don’t serve any purpose other than to eat at your ulcer.

Another helpful suggestion is to step out of the teacher role when you’re at home.  Sometimes, your husband/wife/significant other deserves that nasty teacher glare, but c’mon… is it the glare s/he needs or the all-terrifyingly-powerful teacher glare?  When you’re at home, don’t be a teacher.  Just relax and be yourself – namely, a human being!  And make sure that you demand homemade waffles on Saturday morning when you wake up after a solid eight-hour snooze.

Along the same lines, take some time for yourself.  You can’t do it all, so remember to reserve some quiet time in the morning or evening to do something that you enjoy.  Quilt, read, blog, cook, go for a run, drink tea and read the news, garden, play the violin… You are the wonderful teacher that you are because you have other interests.  Also, if you don’t take care of yourself, then you won’t be able to be the best teacher you can be.

Mostly importantly, don’t forget why you teach.  Did you go into teaching to help children learn to read?  Do you enjoy watching students’ interest expand when they look under a microscope?  Take a moment to put your stress in perspective and allow yourself to think of your many accomplishments as an educator.

It may be that time of the year, but there is never a time of the year to allow stress to dominate your life.  There will always be annoyances in life, so it’s best to manage stress before stress manages us!

Teachers, what do you do to manage stress? 

Comment below.

Comments (2)Add Comment
professor of chemistry
written by Bryan Sanctuary, June 01, 2012

Your blog sounds like my students all stresses out in first year university because they are overwhelmed by all they must do. I hear them say they are stressed and can't cope. I wrote a blog on it .

What I tell them is something like, there is good stress and bad stress. Good gets you up, going and motivated. Bad is worry you cannot do it, have't got time, the money, boy/girlfriend issues, long list.

"Stress is good, you need it" I tell them, and most do adapt. But I try to look out for those in real trouble and direct them to student services, but it seems to me that most work related stress is based upon time management skills.

You say don't sweat the small stuff, but I think it is more important to distinguish negative from positive stress.

I see you commute to work. Traffic can cause stress and waste time. If you can live close to your work, and ride a bike, rain or shine, then you will reduce your negative stress. Takes me 6 minutes to get to work in any traffic conditions, and I live in the heart of a big city.

And if someone else comes into work later than you, goes home sooner, and gets promoted over you, then you might look to see how s/he manages their time. They are doing it better than you.
elementary teacher
written by Becky, Colorado, May 31, 2012

I run, drink a lot of coffee, read before bed, and pray a lot!

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