Teaching has always been a career that can feel both physically and emotionally consuming. Now, add on a global pandemic, constantly changing rules and regulations, and widespread staff shortages. As a teacher, you can probably empathize with those who are feeling more overwhelmed now than ever—and maybe you are even feeling that stress yourself!
While a lot remains out of our control, there are things we can do to help ourselves mitigate some of our stressors. Not only will we feel more energized and capable of being the best versions of ourselves for students this school year, but also we will build healthy foundations for our future.
3 Strategies to Reduce Teacher Stress
1. Build your teacher team. When I first started teaching, I was scared to ask for help for fear of looking like I was unprepared. This attitude followed me into my next year of teaching and made it incredibly difficult to feel successful at work.
About halfway through my second year, I realized that a teacher on my team had a strong relationship with a student whom I struggled to reach. I decided to put my ego aside and ask him for some help with that student. To my surprise, he was eager to help and not only offered me ideas on things to try but also was there to celebrate my growth with this student throughout the school year.
This sparked a new attitude toward my coworkers. I realized that I would genuinely need to view them as my team and be willing to ask for and receive help. By cultivating relationships with the teachers in my school, my teacher team, I have effectively created a support group for myself that understands what I am facing each day in the classroom. I am able to rely on this team whether I am struggling with a specific student or just need someone to talk to throughout the day.
2. Prepare for planning. One thing most teachers can agree on is that there never seems to be enough time in the day. This can cause us to feel overwhelmed and overworked. One way teachers can address this is by preparing for and prioritizing our planning time.
During my first year of teaching, I found myself frozen during my planning time, unable to get anything done because I was too overwhelmed by everything that had to get done. Now, I approach my planning time with a completely different mindset.
At the beginning of the week, I schedule out the things that must get done each day during my planning. I am practical with how long things will take and only list the absolute necessities. I have a second list where I put the things that I would like to get done but could live without accomplishing. By explicitly organizing what I will focus on in advance, I am able to get started on tasks right away.
Once you have prepared for your planning time, you need to make sure that you actually do what you intended. This means that you might have to say no to someone or something. Early in my career, I felt obligated to say yes to everything—helping someone make copies, checking in with a student, bringing something to the front office, etc.
While it is great to help out when you can, it is important not to help out when you can’t. Consider what is the most important thing you are addressing at that moment, and if you need to say no to something, say no.
3. Create space. As teachers, we love our students, and we care deeply about doing everything in our power to see them succeed. Sometimes, this means we are thinking about our students and our work all the time, which isn’t always sustainable. Instead, we can create space between our work and our lives outside of work. Luckily, this doesn’t mean we love our students or care about their success any less!
In my experience, this has meant leaving my work at work. While it isn’t always possible, especially as deadlines creep up, I do my best to complete everything that needs to get done for school while I am at school. Once I leave, I know that I am only responsible for focusing on myself and my family.
At home, I often found myself talking about and thinking about school from the moment I left in the evening until I arrived the next day. This made it incredibly challenging to be present for myself or my family at home. Now, I push myself to limit how much I talk or think about school once I leave the building. It isn’t always easy, but it has opened up so much space in my mind that I feel far more refreshed when I arrive back to work each day.