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How to cope with stress as a teacher

30/04/2019 Anthony

Like in any job, teachers face their fair share of challenges and as a result of this, 67% of teachers experience stress at work. However, while stress amongst teachers is commonplace, there are things you can be doing to mitigate pressure and strain in this profession.

No matter the cause of your stress at school, the following management techniques can help to get you back on track and ensure you’re providing high standards of support and education to pupils.

Manage your workload

Teaching workloads can be extremely heavy, especially when you look beyond the day job of teaching in the classroom. Factor in lesson planning, marking, assessments and running extra-curricular activities and the average teaching week is actually 54.5 hours per week. Ofsted and the government recognise that teachers’ workloads need to be reduced, with the Department for Education releasing a workload reduction toolkit, publishing an advice document and offering advice on marking, planning and data management.

While governing bodies are working towards reducing workloads and therefore stress in the industry, there are also things you can do to help yourself as a teacher. Prioritisation sounds easy but is often complicated as a teacher, where urgent problems, unexpected changes and high-touch issues push less critical - but still important - long-term projects and tasks down the list. Keep a working document of urgent and quick-win tasks as well as those which may take longer, crossing off and re-prioritising activities as you work through them. This TeacherToolkit guide can help teachers to self-evaluate tasks and maximise their teaching and non-contact time.

Researcher Brené Brown found that many people who feel stressed or unhappy also constantly believe they are not achieving enough. If you identify with this, it could be adding to your stress —remind yourself that you are only one human and that you are performing your duties to the best of your abilities. Teachers who struggle with perfectionism may magnify small mistakes that other people don’t even notice, which is more likely to lead to a burnout.

Behavioural management

Students can mirror behaviour and standards that you set in the classroom. If you set a standard of positivity and respect, students are likely to respond positively to this.

If you are finding it hard to manage and teach disruptive students, there are many useful behavioural management techniques you can use to manage this. It’s been reported that establishing routines, using a calm but assertive voice and reinforcing positive behaviour are very effective in managing children’s behaviours. Taking advantage of this will, in turn, lower your stress at work.

Work-life balance

It’s great to love your job and want to do your best for your pupils, but taking too much of your work home can have a detrimental impact on your overall wellbeing. In order to look after others, you must look after yourself first — this will increase your happiness in all areas of life as well as your ability to perform your job. Practising mindfulness meditations daily can be a great stress-reliever after a hectic day, just as yoga, sports and art are also great stress-relieving hobbies to consider.

Ask for help

Just as you would advise your pupils to ask for help in solving a problem, so should you seek support when it comes to managing your stress levels. If you have a senior authority you can go to for help managing your workload, utilise this option and discuss what work is reasonable to undertake and what is unreasonable. Similarly, there will be co-workers who can help to ease your workload or discuss strategies for managing your workload. Simply having someone to talk to about your stresses can do wonders to boost your wellbeing and mental attitude.

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