“This has been a very rough year for me. I started the school year full of excitement and anticipation, but now I’m ending it totally burned out. Lesson plans, report cards, staff meetings, parent-teacher conferences, etc... all added to the daily work of actually teaching and managing a class have made this a particularly stressful year. What can I do to reduce the stress of teaching?” *
We all know why we get into teaching. It’s tremendously rewarding and something we do well. But soon enough, the thrill of teaching a new class wanes and is replaced with hectic juggling. Juggling classes, worksheets, reports, lesson plans. You wake up early to teach and go to bed late because you have too many tests to correct and grade. Yes, teaching can be stressful, but no more so than any other job on the planet, at least, it doesn’t have to be. Here are some ways to reduce the stress and maximize the joys of teaching.
Do the Following to Reduce the Stress of Teaching
Keep it Organized
You start the year with a clean, tidy desk, but it will get cluttered with papers, books and teaching materials faster than you think. It is essential to have a place for everything right from the start. Invest in a file cabinet or hanging file frames you can install into a big drawer so you can keep all of your attendance sheets, reports and school memos organized. Clean out one shelf or drawer where you can keep all of your flashcards, CDs, videos and other teaching materials. Don’t keep things scattered throughout the house. Form the habit of putting everything back in its place after you use it. Do this whether you keep materials in your classroom or at home.
Don’t Let it Pile Up
One of the most stressful things for any teacher is to have endless piles of homework, writing assignments and tests to correct. You can cut down on the homework you need to correct by correcting it in class or assigning other types of homework that might do more for your students than pages and pages of worksheets. As for the papers you do need to correct, try to get it done a bit at a time, over lunch or coffee breaks for example. Try to get things corrected and handed back to students as fast as you can. Don’t let papers sit on your desk for too long. Chances are, the pile will only get bigger, and before you know it, you’ll have accumulated several hours of work.
Plan it Ahead of Time
When planning lessons, there are several things you’ll have to consider. First of all, you should plans all lessons in advance – the night before won’t cut it. There are things you simply can’t get ready overnight. Also, bear in mind that some lessons may need to be planned further in advance than others, for example, special holiday lessons. So while you might plan most lessons a week in advance, you might have to plan the special Christmas lesson a month in advance, if you want to get your hands on all of the materials you’ll need. You won’t want to add the stress of planning a Christmas party to the usual holiday rush!
Take Time Away from It
Yes, we love teaching and really enjoy surfing the internet for hours, looking for the right materials, videos and worksheets for our students (FYI… if you need worksheets for your class, there’s no need to waste your valuable time searching for them online; look no further than BusyTeacher.org). But even though you may enjoy this, it is absolutely essential to step outside and get some fresh air. Take, at the very least, the weekend off to spend time with family and friends.
Take it in Stride
Unexpected things can happen, any day, any time, no matter how well you’ve planned your lessons. Although any number of unwelcome surprises, from a simple technical problem to a full blown power failure, can send your stress levels through the roof, the key lies in the way you react to these setbacks. So, if you’re ready to accept the unexpected and take minor setbacks in stride, you won’t feel as stressed.
Be Realistic about It
Few things are more stressful than biting off more than you can chew. Do you have time to organize a special Christmas party and grade all of your students’ tests? If you’ve already got too much on your plate, your best course of action might be to pass on other activities that are less important. Be realistic about how much you can do and prioritize if there is too much going on. Your body will thank you for it. Your mental sanity will thank you for it.
If you read carefully, you’ll see a trend in the tips provided above.
Good, solid habits do wonders when it comes to keeping your stress levels low. By doing things systematically, you cut down on the times you have to run around looking for something or catching up because you’re behind. We always want our students to be disciplined, but we need to be disciplined ourselves. It may be hard to develop them at first, but in the long run, solid routines will turn you into a well-oiled teaching machine.
* This question was sent in from a real ESL teacher, just like you! If you need any advice on a particular topic, share your question in the comments below. Or tweet your question to @busyteacher_org with the hashtag #ESLTeachersAsk. Your question might get picked and featured in an article!