Your spouse is out of work. The car is making funny noises. Your preschooler’s daycare center has warned of a virus going around. And you have to take a bus to your school-job in freezing rain, to spend the day in close quarters with twenty children still antsy from winter break.
How does a teacher keep going when Murphy’s Law seems out to get you, inside the classroom and out?
First and most important rule: remember your students aren’t responsible for most of your stress, and shouldn’t be made to pay for it. It’s tempting to vent your frustration by turning crabby and impatient, cracking down on behavior you’d normally tolerate, making a big deal over everything. Doing so, however, only makes things worse all around. When you’re impatient with your students, they resent it and become uncooperative; and the more uncooperative they are, the more frustrated you will become—and you have a vicious circle on your hands.
What you can do instead:
Where you have a good relationship with a class, it’s fine to admit you’re feeling stressed and to ask them to help by reducing noise and interruptions. Trying to hide every sign of “weakness” will only increase your stress. (This open approach can work even if your relationship with the class is strained; many kids empathize with teachers who show a human side. If you can’t be honest with the class, look for a wise confidant—not a gripe partner—among fellow teachers.)
Also, consider starting a class discussion on, “What’s stressful for you? How do you feel? What do you do about it?” You might pick up some helpful advice!
If your struggles are worse than an ordinary bad week, you can build on the class-discussion idea by incorporating related topics into the curricula:
Remember, there’s more to teaching than sharing what you already know yourself. Paying attention to your own lessons may bring the “aha” moment that helps you solve your problem. At the very least, it’ll keep you aware that others have weathered similar situations.
However bad things may seem, nothing is hopeless. Focus on “overall, life is good” emphases to create hope (and progress) for your future and your students’.