Stress, by definition, is the way that your body responds to demands. People experience different levels of stress based on their personality and lifestyle, and of course, because of their profession. As a college student, the most stressful times of my year are during midterms and final exams. I am a student athlete as well, and balancing my sport and schoolwork can be very demanding also. As stressful as my days and weeks can get in college, sometimes I feel like I need to have some stress in my life to make sure I get tasks done on time. I also believe that the stress I experience now will prepare me even more for life after college, because meeting the demands of my job will be a totally new form of stress that I need to learn how to deal with.
When your demands come from a classroom full of diverse students, it’s no wonder that teachers experience high levels of stress from their jobs. Every one of their students has different needs that can be challenging to meet and there are constant pressures coming from outside your classroom: administration, coworkers, and parents.
No matter what grade level or specialty, there are many different stressors that every teacher faces on a day-to-day basis.
Causes of Stress
1. Difficulty motivating students: every student learns at different speeds and levels, but what can be more challenging is motivating students to want to learn. As a student, it was frustrating for me when other students did not care about their work or put in positive effort, so I can imagine how hard it would be on the teacher.
2. Administration coming in for observation: I never usually noticed when my teachers were stressed out, except for when administrators were coming in to observe their class. Worrying about students being on their best behavior, making sure their lesson plan is perfect, while looking calm and collected is stressful for any teacher, new or experienced.
3. Constantly running out of supplies for classroom: supplies only go so far with a classroom full of students, and constantly running out is just another demand to worry about.
4. Budget cuts causing teachers to spend more out of pocket: going along with the point above, adding budget cuts into the mix can make it even harder on teachers to always be supplying your classroom with various school supplies.
5. Papers turned in with no name: grading homework, classwork, and tests are time consuming enough, but having a paper with no name on it adds another challenge.
6. Negative note/phone call/conversation with parents of students: having a negative conversation with a parent of one of your students is always a hard conversation. Even though it can be stressful at the time, knowing how the parents feel may make it easier to deal with the problem in the future.
7. Falling behind in curriculum: there are always deadlines to meet and guidelines to follow for teachers and it can become difficult to stay on track, especially if you are ill or have to take off of work for other important reasons.
8. Student chronically missing school: having one student fall behind can be very stressful, especially when they don’t come to school enough to catch up on work.
9. Classroom that never seems to stay clean/neat: keeping a classroom clean and tidy isn’t always the first priority on a teacher’s list because meeting their students’ needs is much more important. However, messy classrooms can still cause stress, especially when there are certain events going on where people will be coming into their classroom, such as parent teacher conferences, administrator observations, school fairs, etc.
While it seems there are endless amounts of things that cause stress while teaching, there are also many things that teachers can do during the school day that can help relieve stress. Here are some easy ways to ease stress that teachers face:
Managing Stress in Classroom:
1. Having a strong routine/rules-break down into smaller tasks: I believe that this is necessary in any job setting or lifestyle; routines make it easier to accomplish daily goals. When the tasks are broken down into simpler and smaller forms, they become more realistic and not so daunting.
2. Connecting with students to earn more respect: invite students to eat lunch in your classroom with you and learn about their favorite movies, what sports they are playing, and other non-school related topics.
3. Look at positives before negatives whether it be about students, your classroom, or yourself: even the worst days have a silver lining, and bad days make for a better tomorrow. This year, one of my professors told me that “everything is always ten times worse in your own head than it really is to everyone else”. Thinking about that alone when I feel down or stressed makes me feel a little better.
4. Integrate parent/student volunteers: it’s okay to ask for help, and many parents would love to be more involved with their child’s school and education.
5. “Eat the frog first”: this means, complete the task that is most difficult or that you are dreading the most, first. After you complete this task, you’ll feel very accomplished and the rest of the things that you have to do that day will be much easier.
6. Keep items around that make you happy: whether it be photographs of family/pet, plants, candles, or items that are your favorite colors, having things that you love around will help to keep you in a better mood.
7. Make your lunch break work for you: take a walk, either by yourself or with another coworker, eat lunch in a quiet spot alone, or visit the teacher’s lounge if you don’t normally. Exercise is one of mine and my mom’s favorite ways to reduce stress. She often walks during her lunch period with a friend and outside of the classroom, she enjoys doing spin classes in the evening. I am a swimmer, and swimming is a great stress reliever for me. Exercising allows you to focus on something that is not part of your job and gives you an outlet to release your stress.
8. Self-care: During a lunch break or a free period, take 10-20 to give yourself “self care”. Self care can be anything that helps you escape from reality and focus on yourself. So it can be just sitting, doing absolutely nothing with yourself but relaxing, reading, coloring, meditating, singing, etc.
9. Keep a gratitude talisman/trinket in your pocket: having a small item within your reach can be used to remind to not feel stressed during certain situations.
“When I’m having a stressful or overwhelming moment in class, one thing that I have done that helps me to relax is having another staff member watch the room for a moment so I can step out. I take a walk, down to the office or to my mailbox, just so I can take a breath and refocus before returning to class. Having a classroom with an open, comfortable environment for students is also very important because it keeps your students at ease” -Lisa Watroba, K-4 reading specialist.
Find out what works for you when dealing with your stress. It can be a combination of these things or something completely different. If it makes you feel better and allows you to remain productive and happy, then it is important to incorporate into your life. Stress is not always a bad thing, and learning how you deal with your stress can be rewarding.