As educators, we often acknowledge that this time of year is stressful for many of our students. A long break during which schools are closed is often not a joyful thing for students who don’t know where they will be getting food during this time or worry about who will be taking care of them while adults in the family work. While it is important that we recognize the stress our students may be feeling, it is also important to recognize the stress we are under at this time of year. Many educators are hanging on the edge by their fingertips hoping they can make it to that magical event we call “winter break”.
Did you know that behavior referrals tend to spike in late November and the month of December? Is that because students suddenly become that much more difficult to deal with or is it possible we as teachers simply run out of patience for things we have been able to work through up to this point in the year? I don’t have a definitive answer but I do know that teacher stress is very real and can have a very negative impact on students. When we as educators are stressed and not fully engaged in our work, we inadvertently cause our students to become disengaged as well. A disengaged student is often one that then misbehaves, which would help explain our behavior referral spikes.
So what can we do? Here are some tips that may help you not just “hang on” until winter break, but reach it feeling good about the profession you chose and the job you do each day.
1. Identify what is stressing you out
Get out a pen and paper and write it down. Sometimes writing things down helps reduce the enormity of the situation you have created in your mind. It also allows you to systematically tackle the issues before you.
2. Interrupt negativity
Your thoughts can swirl out of control and spill over into your physical world. Stop them in their tracks. Don’t let your thoughts barrel down the tracks of your mind and drive your decisions.
3. Keep a joy journal
Take a minute each day to write down something that day that made you happy/smile/laugh. If you are struggling with a particular student, set a goal in the morning to focus on that one student all day until you find the thing that makes you smile regarding that child.
4. Make time to sleep
We get so overwhelmed with all the things there are that need doing that sleep is often the thing we reduce first, when it is probably the thing we should be increasing first. Get good sleep. Everything seems less daunting when you aren’t exhausted.
5. Spend time with friends who make you happy
While many of us like to commiserate together, it is more important than ever to avoid this type of interaction during high stress times. Instead, treat yourself to time with people who make you laugh until it hurts!
6. Commit to being in the moment
When you catch yourself caught up in rehashing something that has already happened, or worrying over what might happen in future days, pause and bring yourself back to the moment you are currently in and focus on just that moment and the person/people with whom you are spending it.
As we navigate through each of our individual stresses and glance at the calendar to count down the days until we reach that magical “winter break”, I encourage you to remember this; our profession may be stressful but it is never boring. When you reach what you think is the end of your rope, remind yourself why you chose this profession in the first place and grasp that rope with renewed energy.
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
Enjoy our Blog!
Members of the Elementary C&I team post useful tools, tips, and tricks on a weekly basis to help you help students.