If you’re a teacher or an administrator, you know about teacher stress. You know the workload, schedules, and duties. You know stuff has to be done. You know your school’s success depends on the welfare of its instructors and their confidence to get their jobs done. You also want to retain teachers, and not see them leaving in droves for other careers or other school systems.
Given that teachers are frequently identified as caregivers, they may need encouragement and incentives to participate in activities that are directed at self-care. One incentive and additional benefit for teachers is that stress reduction programs have been acknowledged as meeting the criteria for recertification points for licensure.
As students are to teachers, teachers are to principals. How can we encourage health and tranquility among our teachers? What do we do to conquer teacher stress?
Tips for Administrators
We all know that teaching is one of the most stressful jobs. Having strategies to draw upon is half the battle. By making sure that the needs of your teachers are met, you are well on the way to fostering a team workplace where the members support each other and help each other to grow.
1. Get a Guide
A staff that knows they have somewhere to turn and that the principal cares enough for them to institute a wellness program does wonders for morale and teacher stress. Draw upon the expertise of guidance counselors. Establish a program that will allow teachers to seek help. Have your counselors provide strategies in stress management.
2. Mind the Externals
Pay careful attention to the physical environment. Having the appropriate lighting can affect the mood of teachers. Artificial fluorescent lighting, for example, can cause more adverse effects on us compared to the feeling of warm sunlight. Lights not working, dim hallways, and flickering lights can also have a subconscious negative impact on your teachers’ and students’ energy. Teacher morale is positively affected by facilities that are clean and in good working order.
3. Live Life
There are administrators who expect so much out of their teachers that they fail to acknowledge they have lives at home. This is reflected in the policies you incorporate regarding teacher leave and support for substitutes. it also addresses the attention given to your employees’ pivotal life moments such as weddings, family emergencies, home issues, newborn babies, and so on. Make teachers aware that you know they have lives outside of school.
Tips for Teachers
These are handy strategies for managing teacher stress on all sorts and levels. Consider them part of your stress-busting toolbox.
1. Go for a walk
Get some walk time in, preferably in the sun. Do it just to soak up some healthy Vitamin D and energy-giving warmth. If you live in a sun-starved climate, than simply step outside the doors of your school and inhale the outdoor air. Too much exposure to fluorescent lighting or dim closed-in places can wreak havoc on your psyche.
2. Get inspired
Visit the inspiring teachers in your school. Don’t have a mentor yet, or a like-minded colleague who’s passionate about teaching and infectious in their joy? Find someone. If you can’t find them in school, then send them an email. Open dialogues with people who can make a positive impact on your growth.
3. Get your hands in the jar
A “feel-good” jar, that is. I once knew a teacher who would keep good letters from parents, print out kudos that were emailed to her, or occasionally write herself positive notes. Then she would keep them in a big glass jar, specifically meant for nothing other than these positive messages from the past. Every now and then, she would pull one out and read it.
This is a simple idea that you can incorporate with your students as well. Get them sharing good things and feelings about themselves, their friends, and you.
4. Laugh a little
Laugh, incorporate humor, and be downright silly with a purpose. If you’re not having fun, then do something about it. Even if you’re not the comedian type, doing something out of the ordinary could indelibly etch any lesson into your students’ brains.
I once went out on a limb and showed my break-dancing moves to my music appreciation class. I got two things—I got both “street cred” and the kids remembered the lesson.
It could be as simple as wearing a wizard hat if you’re reading Harry Potter in class. Whatever it is, use simple things to make it clear that you care.
5. Ask for help
Delegate to students and willing parents. My job as band director had an enormous amount of duties that would not have gotten done had I not built up student leaders and reached out to parents. This can work on a smaller scale as well. Just teaching students to own their environment and have a hand in its care takes a lot off of your plate.
6. Practice separation
Leave your work at work. If you must, stay later to get it done. The rest of the night is yours. If you’re staying later and later, that’s a sign you need to plan and delegate better.
7. Stop winging it
8. Place yourself “in the space”
Come in early to survey your “kingdom.” Walk the room and pray, meditate, bless, or simply emanate gratitude for the space of your noble work.
9. Stick to your guns
Follow your procedures for student discipline. Don’t leave it up to random guesses or reactions to emotion. Play out the scenarios ahead of time and determine what system works for you and your values, and then decide the best policies beforehand. Make them clearly visible, so you don’t have to talk when reminders are needed. Just direct student attention to the posted “guidelines for success.”
10. Understand your role
This is not to ensure children’s success but rather to guide them to reach their own. You know the drill: accept that which you cannot change, change what you can, and know the difference. We suggest you read about locus of control for a deeper understanding of all this.
11. Concentrate on breathing
Breathe deeply. Inhale through the nostrils, exhale through an imaginary straw, and do them in a set of three. Deep breathing exercise is proven to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety instantly.