Whether you have just started your teaching career or are a seasoned veteran, one thing is certain, the teaching profession is stress-filled. Every single day you wake up and begin preparing to bring the best you possible into your classroom. Public, parochial, inner city, suburban school environments all have their own unique challenges and can bring about days that are hard to navigate through and bring about stress. Don’t get me wrong, I whole-heartedly believe teaching is the BEST.PROFESSION.IN.THE.WORLD, but every day is not easy. Many days I have walked out and felt overwhelmed and defeated.
While I wouldn’t change a second of my time in the classroom at the upper elementary level, I can give a few tidbits that have gotten me through my most overwhelming days where I have felt STRESSED.OUT. Here goes…
Not every day allows for this to happen, but reflection is necessary for all of us to grow. When my team and I walk students out of the building at the end of the day and head in to retrieve our stuff, we stand and chat for a few moments. This “DE-BRIEFING TIME” gives us a moment to share anything that was awesome or awful and we don’t feel compelled to stew over it during the drive home. Better yet, we don’t bring the frustration home. This time has also brought upon some quick-thinking improvements or lesson ideas that we can implement ASAP. Student behavior plans, intervention strategies, schedule changes, etc. can be shared, quickly addressed, and considered.
If anyone understands you, it is your teammates and teacher friends. If you don’t have an instructional team or teammate, make connections with others that inspire and bring out the best in you, and work to build a friendship. These friends will help you through the best of times and the worst of times. Teaching is hard, teacher friends make it easier. I promise.
I have been lucky to have many teacher friends that share my same passion for running. I run because it clears my head, but also gives me a chance to do some of my best thinking. There are times when I LOVE that time to myself so I can blast my favorite DMX and Justin Bieber hits (yeah, I said it), but it is those long runs with friends that I ADORE. Exercising with teacher friends is therapeutic because they get EVERYTHING and are THE.BEST.LISTENERS.
They will listen intently about stressful evaluations, tedious report card comments, and students that zapped all of your energy. By the time your run is complete you 1) won’t realize how far or fast you have gone, and 2) will feel clear-headed and ready to tackle ANY and EVERYTHING! Whatever exercise you choose, bring a teacher friend along. You will never regret a work out you tackled together.
Some days I drive home in silence. I need the peace and quiet to rejuvenate my ears, so I am ready to be a good listener and mom to my own three children. My ears have listened hard all day to my 80+students, but my own children also have so much to share with me about their jam-packed school day.
I find that Monday-Thursday, I drive in quiet because that is what my head needs. By Friday, those running playlist songs are on blast in my car and I am ready for my family-filled weekend. Quiet or loud, do what brings clarity and allows for you to feel refreshed when you walk through the door to your home.
Grading will ALWAYS need to be done. It is an animal I have just realized will always exist, especially teaching English language arts. As teachers we are optimistic, task-completers. There is nothing I love more than to have things completed and checked off my never-ending to-do list. What I have come to realize is that there are times that I need to just leave those ungraded papers on my desk, and set them aside until tomorrow, instead of shoving them in my school bag with the hope of getting graded at home.
If it has been a wild school day and you are in need of a break, take it. I can promise you that same stack of ungraded papers will gladly wait until tomorrow. If it isn’t pressing or needing to be completed to meet some sort of essential deadline, leave it. Your mind, body, and family will thank you for the break, and you will be more refreshed to do your best, focused work TOMORROW.
When all else fails, go hang out at Target. You don’t have to spend money, but you will. Clearly their merchandising and marketing is amazing because any stress I felt during my school day is eliminated as soon as I place those Dollar Spot pastel binder clips and holiday-themed sprinkles into my cart. Target, you are genius! You have figured out a way to make spending my hard-earned teacher salary, bring happiness. GENIUS!
Stress is inevitable and will always exist in our teacher world. You are stressed because you have a GIANT heart and you care about your students. Your work is AMAZING! Don’t change your heart, just make sure you take care of yourself. Your students, family, and friends need the healthiest, happiest YOU! All the best!