How teachers can master their stress

How teachers can master their stress
It is natural and necessary for high quality teachers to care deeply about the children in their care, and seek to work with parents to provide a great education outcome.

However, one of biggest drivers of stress derives when a teacher ‘over-cares’ about the needs, opinions or behaviours of students, parents or even other teachers.

It’s not uncommon for teachers to cross the line between caring and sympathising with students, which can contribute to high stress.

Peta Sigley is the Chief Knowledge Officer at Springfox, a company that provides evidence-based resilience programs for individuals and organisations.

Sigley regularly presents programs that work to build resilience in teachers and resilient practices in schools, as well as programs to support Year-12 students mentally prepare for final VCE exams

Below, she shares some tips that can help teachers overcome stress and focus on what really matters in the classroom.

Tip #1: Understand the emotions of students without owning the emotion

Tip #2: When feeling frustrated and stressed about a student, step back, exhale and try to understand the motivation for their behavior.

Tip #3: Set and communicate clear boundaries on acceptable behaviour with agreed positive and negative consequences for actual behaviour.

Establish daily non-negotiables such as:

Tip #4: Getting into a structured sleep habit. Aim for 7 to 8 hours a night and wake up at the same time every morning (even on the weekend).

Tip #5: Prepare for the day with a healthy breakfast. It’s easy to set expectations for student to increase their opportunity for success, now is the time to take some of your own advice.

Tip #6: Take 10 to 30 minutes for relaxation or meditation practice. If students are soon to have meditation in the curriculum, it might be worth exploring the benefits of the practice for yourself.

Once you lay down these foundations, build good habits into your working day to achieve flow more regularly:

Tip #7: Divide your day into segments. Allocate time for certain work tasks, time to move your body, and time for mental breaks.

Tip #8: Every hour, take a minute to reset through focused breathing.

I’m not ignoring the fact that teachers get very little down-time throughout the day. But it’s important to take breaks. Breaks can reduce mental fatigue, boost brain function and creativity and can lower feelings of frustration, promoting a calm, productive environment. As a teacher, you might not have the luxury of taking breaks whenever you feel necessary, but what you can do is use your breaks effectively. Additional things you can do to use your breaks effectively to master stress:

Tip #9: Find a way to be active. You can stretch, stand up or take a walk around the yard. This is also a great tool to help your class refocus.

Tip #10: Sort out your priorities. Make a list of things that are important to you for the coming week and decide when you’re going to give them some time.

Some pressures of teaching will always hang heavy but it’s important teachers invest in their resilience, to better master stress in the classroom so they can maintain connection with the meaningful contribution that is the profession.

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