Overcoming Stress as a New Teacher
Aug 26, 2008 Teaching 3917 Views
When I first started teaching, it was exciting. I loved education and working with young people. I was very idealistic and as corny as it may sound, I thought in my own way I was changing the world.
Through the years, my initial excitement turned to stress and anxiety. Teaching was an overwhelming responsibility. The stress of dealing with students, papers, lesson plans, report cards, principals, supervisors, co-workers, and parents would weigh down on me and I would doubt why I even became a teacher. Don't get me wrong, I never stopped believing in the value and importance of education but my passion for the work would erode sometimes.
Stress is common in new teachers as well as veteran teachers but this doesn't have to lead to burn out and leaving the profession. Here are a few tips that may help.
Organize: As a new teacher, you must be organized. Paperwork will quickly pile up as you embark upon the school year. It was not unusual for me to have piles of papers on my desk. These papers would include homework, staff memos, attendance sheets and other things. You may also receive a lot of staff handbooks from your school. Get a hold of paperwork right away. Organizing papers in a file cabinet, file crates, or any other way that is suitable for you. The point is to get organized, not how you do it.
When it comes to student work, try to get it back to your students as quickly as you can. As you give assignments and tests and students turn them in, you could easily have over fifty papers on your desk waiting to be graded! It is extremely stressful trying to read and grade numerous papers at once. You may wonder how you will get through them all and still get to your lesson planning and other teaching responsibilities. Get these papers back to your students as soon as possible and this will reduce your stress level significantly.
Planning: Know how you are going to run your classroom before the first day of school. Know the physical layout you will have, the types of assignments you will give, what behavior you expect from your students, how you will communicate with parents and how you will handle student discipline. One of my favorite sayings about life is "Without a vision, the people perish." In teaching, if you have a vision about what you expect of yourself, your classroom, and your students, this will help you feel more relaxed and in control. This is really all stress is, the feeling that you are not in control.
Expect the Unexpected: Unexpected things WILL happen when teaching. This is a given. You may plan a lesson you think is absolutely wonderful and it falls flat. You may have a great book you want the class to read only to discover the majority of your students are not reading or grade level. You may have been told at teacher orientation that the principals and supervisors will be there to support you but other commitments keep them from being available to you. Parents may be unsupportive. These things cause you a lot of stress and can make you think "What am I doing here?" Unanticipated problems can wreck havoc on your confidence as a teacher and even lower your self esteem. This doesn't have to be the case. Every problem should be looked on as just challenges to overcome. Challenges only test us and can even make us stronger.
Reflect: I have always been a believer in self-reflection. If you are having difficulty in teaching, I think it is important to look at yourself, to see if there is anything you can do better or differently. Reflecting does NOT mean beating yourself up if things are not going the way you want them to in the classroom. Reflection is just looking at things objectively without guilt or blame. If your students are just not "getting" what you are trying to teach them, what skills might they be lacking? If a lesson does not go well, review the lesson to see what might have gone wrong. If your class is unruly, have you been authoritative and a leader in your classroom? Have you been respectful? Reflection helps you see things more clearly.
Relax!: Boy, is this an important one! There are a lot of demands placed on teachers. You are faced with demands from the government, the state, your district, your principal, parents and your students. It is very easy for teaching to take over the majority of your life. There are always lessons to plan, work to prepare, grades to complete, and parents to contact. This is very stressful. That's why it is essential to take some time for yourself and relax. How you relax is not important. It just matters that you take some time to unwind. Whether you exercise, take walks, go to church, watch TV, read a book (Not a textbook!) or even go shopping, you should be sure to schedule some "me time" to unwind and relax. This will actually make you a better teacher!