Take a load off teaching

Findings from recent Ofsted research (2018) have found that teachers are highly stressed and anxious. Stress in teaching is not new, indeed research into teacher stress dates back to the 1970s. More recently, issues of teacher recruitment and retention are associated with stress.

To help manage stress we can help ourselves to some extent and the following may be helpful:

Recognise the stress

The first step is for us to recognise what makes us feel stressed and anxious. Most of us in the profession will have multiple stressors such as lack of time, marking, planning, inspection (internal and external), student behaviour for example. Some of these stressors may be long term, others more short term. Identifying the most immediate stressor(s) is one strategy that can help to minimise the feeling of being overwhelmed. Tackling the most immediate stressor(s) can help to put the other stressors into perspective and hopefully bring some balance back into our working life.

Be active and proactive

Looking after ourselves helps to keep balance. Exercise, relaxation and making time for ourselves are all important for well-being. Finding time to build relationships with colleagues can also help as collegiality provides an important source of social support in our work.

Be creative in problem-solving. Once you have identified the immediate stressor(s) and analysed potential solutions based on your own personal reflections and experience, then asking colleagues for their support and advice can be helpful, not only in practical solutions but also in furthering collegiality and avoiding feelings of isolation which can sometimes accompany teacher stress.

Use the power of conversation

The saying a ‘problem shared is a problem halved’ is a truism. There will be times when stress is unavoidable within teaching. There will be peaks and troughs. Recognising this will help to plan and prepare for the peaks and to take advantage of the troughs throughout the academic year. However, this alone does not minimise the impact of stress and anxiety during the peaks. What can really help is talking, talking with your colleagues can lighten the load, but so can assertive communication with your managers. Sometimes we have to say “no” rather than agreeing to taking on extra duties.  “No” is a difficult word to say, especially for a new teacher, but one that can help to avoid taking on too much, but also one that may be an opener for negotiation.

Teaching will always involve some stress. However, there are some steps we can take as described above to help manage our own stress. Our verbal and non-verbal communication with students contributes significantly to the overall level of stress in the learning environment, so, the last thing students need is a stressed-out teacher!

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