Ideas on How to Reduce the Stress of Teaching
Aug 26, 2017 Career Development 1021 Views
Over almost fifty years in the classroom, I found I needed to find ways to reduce stress. Stress became greater as I accepted more responsibility in the second half of my career as a head of a large Mathematics department. During this time, the school grew and there were significant changes in the Mathematics syllabi and in the teaching of Mathematics.
I found that my time was not mine anymore with students, parents, teachers and the school administration wanting my time. Below is how I chose to meet stress head on.
The first thing I realised was that I had always to be available for consultation for thirty minutes before and after school so that teachers, students, parents and the administration could see me. This left me no recourse but to use the time before and after these periods for my planning, setting and the marking of assessment. (In normal term time, I was always reluctant to take work home. Only at exam marking time would I do that so that I finished my marking quickly to allow me time at school to sort out issues that might and did arise around the testing and marking process).
So it became obviously that I had to use the times before and after school when most teachers and students had left the school campus. Here are the reasons why it helped reduce the stress levels.
• It reduced interruptions to planning and marking by students and others
• It was a quiet time which meant I could work with greater efficiency.
• I would try to plan meetings with students, parents, teachers, and administration then.
• I would have these and my staff meetings then because the bell to start school becomes an end point encouraging quick resolutions in these meetings.
• I was always more efficient in the mornings because I was fresh.
• It was always easier to get resources that I needed for lesson planning.
With my classroom teaching, I would plan my term's work where I would finish the allocated learning work for the term two weeks before the testing period. This gave me time to create a revision program as well as allow for unplanned interruptions to the teaching program. The revision program put the onus on the students to do the work. My role became advisory, rather than having to plan lessons during this time.
Litigation has become an issue for all teachers, more so in the role of a Head of Department. So it is important to document any decision you have made that you think might be challenged. I did this in my personal diary rather than my school teaching diary. It was also important for me to detail any of my concerns with the school administration before making any decision that might be called into question.
It is also important to have outlets in your school life that reduce stress. For me, it was school sport. I coached the school's Baseball and Australian Football teams. In my early career, I was involved in the School Cadets. Other teachers become involved in drama, musicals and debating to give some examples. In these activities, you see a different side of your students. They see you in a different light as well. This helps reduce stress in your relationship with them in the classroom.
In the classroom, the students want to know you are there to help them. So I would always detail to my classes when I was available outside class time to offer help. I would always allow time at the beginning of each lesson for questions and have information for students who had been absent from the previous lesson.
I always had a "To Do" list to make sure I kept up with all my responsibilities. It was divided into urgent and not urgent tasks. I would review it daily adding and deducting items as necessary. My goal was always to complete these tasks ahead of time allowing me time to tackle any unexpected task that rears its ugly head from time to time in every teacher's life.
Finally, I would want to know how I was going with my planning for the term, semester or the year. So I would create a set of goals, short, mid-term and long term. These I would write on a white board in my office where they were always visible. They would also be in my diary. I would review them regularly, crossing off those that had been achieved. I would give each goal a priority. If a goal was not achieved, I would consider why and re-orientate the goal if possible. At the end of a term, semester or year, I would review all I had done and achieved during the time. Often you feel you have not achieved much. This review shows you that you have. It is an excellent stress buster.