Managing Stress as an Educator
posted by: Alix | May 31, 2012, 02:11 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 that 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.

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