How to Manage Stress As a Teacher

non dual teachers is a highly stressful job and is not, contrary to popular belief, an easy “half-day job with lots of paid vacation time.” Teachers on average, spend seven hours a day providing tuition and entertainment to groups of sometimes ill-behaved and disinterested students. After this they spend time on extra-mural activities, some of which they have no training for. Then they return home with piles of marking and related administrative tasks; after which they must once again prepare the content and resources for the following day’s lessons.

New teachers then need to enter the profession with their eyes wide open. Sensible school managers will spend time inducting new staff members into the school and profession. A well-structured orientation course will relieve much of the potential stress a new teacher will face. A new teacher should only be assigned classes which he or she is qualified to teach, to alleviate the stress of preparation. If the school Principal is too busy to walk the new staff member through the first two or three weeks of the quarter, a sensitive and empathetic more experienced teacher should be identified as a “mother-hen” to assist the “newbie”.

One of the greatest stressors identified by teachers the world over is classroom management regarding discipline and student behaviour, or misbehaviour. Teachers new to the profession or the particular school, need to be trained in the specific disciplinary procedures used at the institution. The age-old advice “Don’t smile until Christmas” should be emphasised at the outset. A firm, consistent, no-nonsense will be tolerated approach from day one will ensure that teaching and learning can take place, without unnecessary interruptions.

To avoid the stress of ill-disciplined students, teachers need to be well-prepared for every class. An experienced teacher will always keep a store of resources on hand to fill any “free time” resulting from a lesson which does not take as long as anticipated. If the average attention span of the class as a whole is fifteen minutes, then teachers should prepare a series of related, but varied activities for every lesson. If a teacher-tell approach is the greatest trigger for misbehaviour then this strategy should be minimised. The lesson could begin with teacher-tell, move to ten minutes of group work, shift to whole class participation activities, then move to individual paper and pen work.

Teachers should remember that slower students and those who finish tasks more quickly than the rest need to be accommodated in the lesson planning stages. Students who have nothing to do or who have been left behind, create disturbances in the classroom. Disturbances in the classroom lead to heightened stress for teachers. An organised teacher will spend time with slower students while the class is engaged in individual work. Resources such as subject-related reading cards should always be available for the more advanced students. Among these resources one can include crossword puzzles, word searches and similar fun activities for completion. A system of class rewards linked to extra work completed could be implemented too.

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