Looking for different ways to reduce teacher stress? Enjoy this wonderful guest post from Krystal Smith with three steps you can take at the beginning of the year to reduce teacher stress later on.
Three Ways to Reduce Teacher Stress at the Beginning of the School Year
Not many people know the stress that we teachers encounter as we near the beginning of the school year and actually begin with students. As we reflect on what worked well and what didn’t the previous school year, we frantically search for innovative ideas, new research based strategies, and fun activities to keep our students motivated, interested, and actively engaged.
Throughout the summer, we attend conferences, take traditional professional development courses or online courses, read books for PD and pleasure, or Pin all day and night (Can we get some PD credits for pinning or researching TPT?). We handle a plethora of affairs over the summer in order to prepare for the next year. The most important thing many of us do is get much needed rest! There is nothing like an extra hour or two of sleep.
But as we get closer to the first day of school, stress starts to set in. Sometimes the attention we give to ourselves, our loved ones and household chores are neglected as we plan to make this upcoming school year the best yet.
But teachers experience different levels of stress. While some develop extreme anxiety, others are able to flow like the wind as if nothing is stressful at all. Sometimes I exhibit a little of both depending on the year. Today I will share some tips that have worked, and always seem to work for me year after year.
1. Pre-Plan (Be Pro-Active)
You already know that back to school is a stressful time of year. Take a moment to consider what causes you the most stress.
Is it not being able to sleep in anymore? Does knowing your time will drastically change again haunt you? Creating lesson plans got you down? Organizing your classroom? Did you hear the worst about last year’s students? Are you changing grade levels/classrooms/schools/districts? Do you have a new partner teacher/administrator? As you learn and determine your triggers for stress, you will be better able to deal with them. So take some time to decide what they are, and plan accordingly.
When it comes to stress, you can be proactive or reactive. You can hit the stress before it happens or you can react after the stress hits you.
For me, the best time to plan in order to prevent stress in the first place is during the summer. This summer, I read a lot. I am really interested in complaining less, and knowing how to handle people that complain a lot. Negativity stresses me out.
I learned how to make quick meals so I would not have to cook every night. The Crock Pot and I are becoming friendly with each other. I enjoy working out after work (another stress reliever for me) so not having to cook when I get home is important on the days I do workout. Knowing that I have prepared a meal or that my husband has cooked one really reduces the stress that lack of time causes for me. (He usually cooks 1-2 times/week. YAY!) If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed reading this part because summer is now over, take a Saturday or Sunday morning to meal prep. This has become my saving grace. I will cook a pot of spaghetti while I have boneless/skinless chicken breast and a turkey meatloaf in the over. Then I’ll cut up tons of fresh vegetable to add to my tomato and avocado salad. This may take 2-3 hours, but I still have the rest of my Saturday and Sunday, and hardly any cooking to do when I get home from work, and packing lunches is a breeze. No more wondering what I am going to eat, or running to the nearest fast food restaurant wasting time or packing on the calories.
Therefore whether you begin creating lesson plans for the first few weeks of school, or chop vegetables at home to create freezer meals so you don’t have to cook a few nights a week for the first weeks back to school, you need to pre-plan to save yourself time which is many teacher’s biggest stressors.
2. Pamper Yourself
First and foremost, I am a huge believer in taking care of oneself first. That does not mean neglect your friends or family. It just means to have a little “me” time. This time should not be devoted to working on classroom activities or creating new activities unless it relaxes you. What I am talking about is pampering you.
Ladies and gentlemen – Get your hair and nails done. (Yep! Gents, your hair and nails done too! Get those nails filed and cuticles cut back. You can skip the polish if you choose. And a nice fresh cut, while you’re at it.) Get a full body massage. Go into a sauna or a steam room to purify your body. Eat healthy and exercise to your ability. Lie out and get some sun!
Read positive books such as Awakened by Angela Watson. I read it this summer and it has practically prepared changed my mindset. So far I have been avoiding all negativity because I do not have time in my life to deal with it. If a teacher in my building starts to complain, I have a quick positive response. I have noticed that many teachers are caught off guard because they know I am not going to listen to their rant and I am only going to reply positively. I look for solutions to problems because they make me more productive and complaint free. Your goal is to start the school year feeling good about you!
If you haven’t done this one yet, it’s not too late! Take a day after work or this weekend for yourself. Monday you will feel ready to take on the world!
3. Contact Families Early
This tip is primarily for grade K-5 teachers, but could possible work for teachers in higher grades depending on the make-up of your school and the time you have in your summer schedule.
Over the summer, about a week or two before the first day of school, I write a letter to my students and their families to welcome them back to school. My sole purpose for this is to build relationships with the families. Nothing causes more stress than an unfriendly family member of one of your students. Before I can even call home with something negative, the families of my students have had 1-2 (sometimes more) positive interactions with me. I have 1st contacted via mail before school started. I attend Meet the Teacher Night which is a few days before school starts. I volunteer at a local festival in my school district’s city before school starts in hopes to meet some families (this is hit or miss, but I often run into former students which is pretty cool too!) I often try to make positive phone calls home as well. I especially do this for students I know had a rough year previously. It just softens the blow a little for when I have to call home about a negative behavior. I usually do not meet hostile or angry families. Our conversations are like we have known each other for some time because in a sense, we have.
I have offered 3 tips that work for me. What are some tips that work for you? I cannot wait to see what you have to say! Happy Teaching!
About the Author: Krystal Smith is the author of RenewEDTeacherblog where she offers advice and support to teachers. She is a current National Board Teaching Candidate with 10 years teaching experience teaching 5th grade. She currently teaches math, science and social studies in an urban setting outside of Pittsburg, PA. Krystal She also hopes to offer inspiration to teachers who have lost their passion for teaching and feel that they may not stay in the teaching profession. You can find more about her here.
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