I’m thrilled to introduce to you Laura Tingley from Simply Well Balanced! She is going to share with us all about how to manage teacher stress. This post is packed full of great tips to help us teachers live less stressful lives! Dig in!
Teacher stress is for real. It’s one of the main reasons that otherwise qualified and caring individuals leave the profession. Just hop on Facebook and you will most likely find that one of your teacher friends has a newly posted teacher stress meme or GIF popping up in your feed. You know why? Because if you don’t laugh about how stressful the job can be, you will definitely cry. When going to school to become a teacher the courses are focused on developing lesson plans and classroom management. That’s all fine and dandy, but if they want people to stick around for the long haul they really should be offering How to Manage Teacher Stress 101.
I came into teaching in a roundabout way that allowed me to work side-by-side and observe over 1,000 teachers for more than a decade before taking on the responsibility of my own classroom. I am forever grateful for those experiences because they allowed me to see the good, bad and the ugly that occurs in a classroom on a daily basis.
It also showed me that teaching can be one of the most stressful jobs on the planet, but only if you allow it to be. Through my previous experience I was able to spot those teachers who truly know how to manage teacher stress and ask them what their secrets were. Today I am going to share these tips and tricks of the trade with you so that you can love your job and learn how to manage teacher stress like a pro.
How to Manage Teacher Stress
Find a teaching mentor/partner who is successful and enjoys their job
My first teaching mentor was 72 and had been teaching since she was 20 years old. Yes, she had been a teacher for 52 years!!! Long after she could have retired because she loved the job and did not let the stress get to her. She came to school every day with a pep in her step and a smile on her face. I learned so much from her; most of all that a positive attitude is a great start to avoiding teacher stress.
Now, I know that most states require a teacher induction program that includes a mentor. If you are lucky (like me) to have been assigned an amazing mentor who is competent, charismatic and is all about maintaining work-life balance you basically won the mentor teacher lottery. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
There are lots of teachers out there who are quick to take every opportunity talk about every single negative aspect of being a teacher. STAY AWAY FROM THEM!!!
Create Start and End of Day Routines
We’ve all been there…running late in the morning. You get to your classroom just as the students are showing up and you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off. Well, if you have created routines for the start and end of the day you will be all set and ready to go – even if you are sliding in the door at the last second.
I actually like to focus on the end of the day routine first. This is where you prep everything you need for the next day before you leave the classroom. When I first started teaching my end of the day routine took over 40 minutes. As time has progressed I have created systems that allow my end of the day routine to be completed in less than 10 minutes if needed.
When I first examined what I was spending time on at the end of the day, I realized that a lot of it was non-essential and that I was taking on tasks that the students could do for themselves. Once you eliminate the “fluff” and teach students how to function independently you will be amazed at how little you have to do at the end of the day. My end of the day routine currently includes updating two charts (that tell the students what they need to do), switching the date on my calendar and turning off the lights. Bam – done! Most days I use the extra time to prep for weeks in advance – #superteachergoals.
Now, on to the start of the day routine. This routine actually starts before the students come into the room. When learning how to manage teacher stress, step one is that you need to be prepared and mentally available before the students arrive. This means that you have your personal items put away, technology set up for the day and any lesson materials set out and ready to go. A quick look on Pinterest and you can find a ton of ideas to streamline classroom morning routines. From taking attendance and lunch count to creative alternatives to morning work, I guarantee you can find ways to simplify the start of your day.
Leave School at School
My first year of teaching I was amazed at how many teachers were able to leave just a few minutes after their students were gone for the day. I was very curious, so I started asking how they were able to leave so soon. Many of them had the same response, “Oh, I just pack everything up and take it home.”
Sorry, but that just won’t work for me – for a few reasons:
1) I have kids at home and I am constantly interrupted anytime I try to do anything at home.
2) I would definitely forget whatever I brought home and end up at school without it in a panic.
3) I refuse to let my occupation consume my personal time.
I prefer to stay at school for a bit at the end of the day and finish any tasks and prep for the days ahead. This means I get to head home with empty hands, a clear mind and be able to enjoy my time with my family. Because I have strong systems and routines in place (see tip above) this doesn’t take hours at the end of the day. Just a little bit of time everyday means that I get to leave school at school and that is one of the best ways I have learned how to manage teacher stress.
Create a Must Do/May Do list
You are a teacher – but somehow we have allowed that title to include the expectation that we will produce parent letters, homework folder covers and bulletin boards that are Pinterest worthy. I know there are a lot of teachers who enjoy the “craft” aspect of teaching – but that is not part of your job. You are not a graphic designer, interior decorator and Mary Poppins all rolled into one. And if you have tried to be that you are probably trying to figure out how to manage teacher stress because you are starting to burn yourself out.
I often hear other teachers say things like “I was here all weekend creating my winter bulletin board.” Guess what…bulletin boards don’t make your students learn more or become better citizens.
There are a ton of tasks that teachers think they “need” to do, but are not essential to the job of teaching. I have been in the same classroom for two years and I have never changed a bulletin board. I do change the student work that is posted on them, but I use clipboards and other tools that make it take minutes to do the switch. Over the past two years this has saved me hours and hours of time.
Creating a Must Do/May Do list will help you to focus on what is absolutely essential to your job. You will quickly see how much time you were spending on tasks that were optional and really didn’t have an impact on the education of your students. Once your focus is clear you will become more efficient and teacher stress will melt away because you aren’t trying to do EVERYTHING – it’s simply impossible.
Limit Non-essential Chit-Chat
How many times have you gone into the staff room to make your copies and ended up getting sucked into a 30 minute non-productive conversation? Yep, me too! Obviously, you want to be friendly and build relationships with your co-workers, but there is a time and place for that and it is NOT when you have a million things to do.
Two strategies that have really helped me are:
1) Simply leaving the room if it is a group conversation. Often, you don’t even need to say anything in this situation, but if you do, a simple “Oops, I forgot something in my room” should suffice.
2) Setting clear boundaries. If someone comes into your room and you really don’t have time to talk just say that – “Sorry, I am right in the middle of something. Can I pop over to your room when I am done?”
Use your Lunch Time to Recharge
Your lunch break is sacred time. If you are an extrovert and you get energy from being around others, then by all means hang out in the staff room and chat it up! I am very social, but I choose to use my lunch break to recharge. Try closing your door, turning off those awful fluorescent lights and sitting somewhere other than your desk. Taking a few deep breaths before you eat your lunch can do wonders for your stress level too. You will probably find that just taking 15-20 minutes to re-set during lunch will give you the energy and perspective you need to make it through the rest of the afternoon.
More Stress Relief Tips
Knowing how to manage teacher stress is essential to your overall self-care routine. As a busy teacher-mom and former yoga instructor, I know how important self-care and stress reduction techniques can be. For years, I dealt with anxiety and other health problems related to overwhelming stress. Luckily, I was able to overcome those issues with a variety of tips, tools and must-have items for stress relief. I now use those same techniques to stop teacher stress before it gets the best of me.
So, there you have it! My go-to tips for How to Manage Teacher Stress Like a Pro. I would love to hear from you. Please comment below and tell us how you deal with the stress of being a teacher.
About the Author:
Lauren Tingley is teacher-mama who has a side-hustle sharing healthy and happiness tips for busy moms at https://simply-well-balanced.com. As a gym owner, yoga instructor and former medical researcher she is excited to share quick and simple ideas to help moms reduce stress and increase joy. You can find her lastest and greatest tips by following her on Instagram @lauren.simplywellbalanced.