I had my first panic attack at twenty-seven. However, I thought it was a heart attack. In the midst of teaching thirty-two students, my knees began to quake, sweat rolled down my forehead and my heart beat out of my chest. I was whisked away to emergency whereupon I was given a clean bill of health. The third doctor, however, suggested I learn how to deal with my stress. Hence, my intense interest in managing stress grew.
There is a national teacher shortage. Eight percent of educators leave each year according to Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of Learning Policy Institute and founder of Stanford University's Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.
Those who remain report the overwhelming stresses related to the profession. Unsafe working conditions, large class sizes and the lack of administrative support are just some of the stress teachers face everyday.
Stress has pervasive and damaging effects. I have witnessed colleagues complaining about migraines,constant body aches, laryngitis and fatigue. Long standing stress can result in hypertension, autoimmune and heart disease, and it has links to certain types of cancer.
However, some stress can be managed with targeted effort.
Teaching teachers proven stress management strategies and helping them devise and implement a self-care plan can go a long way in keeping teachers healthy.
Here are two of many strategies I've shared with my teacher participants at the yearly event I host: "Self-Care to Avoid Burnout for Teachers"
Learn to say NO
External pressure from administration, the public and the district can warp our perspectives as teachers. Unrealistic expectations can have us overreaching in our jobs. Are you a parent? Are you a psychologist? Yet, there is an overlap between teaching and these roles. However, contact a parent immediately when students pose a threat to the learning environment. Ultimately, It is their role to control their child's behavior or to seek more expert services.
We are EDUCATORS, striving to be excellent ones. There are times I reread my job description when I'm under pressure from the public to occupy any other position.
Secondarily, respect your physical, mental and emotional limitations. Many teachers consider themselves super teachers, and continually extend themselves beyond their capacities. Here's a formula I'd like you to keep in mind: If you are dealing with more duties than resources to undergird them, you are heading towards burnout. Do you really need to sit on the calendar committee, be the teacher association rep and pursue your Masters in Education--all at once while parenting two children? A better approach is to meter out your energy on those things that are in line with your values, and consider the timing in the pursuit of your goals.
Learning to keep first things first can protect your emotional, physical and mental energy.
Lastly, delegate your duties.
Again, aligning your behavior with your job description, can save you a lot of energy. Research suggests that eighty percent of your time should be spent on your expertise--crafting lesson plans, designing and implementing assessments, establishing an effective classroom management program and delivering lessons. So, what can you delegate to a parent, an aide, a student teacher that you can supervise to lighten your load while you focus on the main thing? Some suggestions? Taking roll, correcting papers, inputting grades, presenting parts of a lesson and doing other time and energy-saving tasks can go a long way in supporting you as you develop the art of teaching.
Aggressive attention to self-care is key to maintaining the health of educators. By creating a plan, and implementing it on a daily basis, perhaps this will impact teacher burnout and promote teacher retention.