How do you handle the stress of teaching?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by DannieJaeger, Mar 29, 2016.

  1. DannieJaeger

    DannieJaeger Rookie

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    Mar 29, 2016

    I like the metaphor that author Steven Covey uses to convey our level of trust in our relationships. It is the emotional bank account, and it works just like a money account. You can make deposits and you can make withdrawals, based on how you interact with other people. We all know it is much easier to function from a large positive account than it is to function from constantly being in the negative. There are six ways to make deposits (or reduce withdrawals):
    1. Understand others
    2. Keep commitments
    3. Clarify expectations
    4. Attend to little things
    5. Show personal integrity
    6. Apologize when appropriate
    We make deposits with our students because it helps them learn. But I see it being more one sided - students do not always have the capacity or maturity to make deposits in our emotional account. So we operate from a state of emotional debt. Many teachers also find that their administration is not making deposits, in the form of not understanding us as individuals, not keeping commitments, not setting clear expectations or not apologizing. This adds to our emotional debt.

    My question is this: How do you rebuild your emotional bank account? What do you do to decrease stress? Or in the words of Stephen Covey, how do you sharpen the saw? Thank you!
     
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  3. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    HOBBIES!

    Seriously, I have to have a life outside of my professional world. I'm currently training for a half-marathon and acting in a local production of The Skin of Our Teeth (I auditioned for and took a small role so I don't have to memorize a ton of lines). This summer is going to be a balance between taking a class for CE credits, playing with Rosetta Stone Spanish lessons, and vacationing without a computer.

    I am a teacher and a department chair, but that doesn't define me.
     
  4. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Admittedly, this is an area of struggle for me, as I have a hard time coping when not feeling as though I've helped a student as much as needed. One way that my "emotional bank account" is built is simply by noticing some of the successes that I'm seeing throughout the day, or seeing positivity in students. For me, this is more of a passion than just a job, and so much of my thoughts are surrounded by it. As catnfiddle said, another is hobbies (when I can): my wife and I love to hike and do Frisbee golf and such. That's part of why the past few months have been so hard - I've felt like I've been working three months straight without a single break, between school work at school and home and with the other work that I do (math competition test writing).
     
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  5. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    At my school most of our students have a lot of issues, so this "emotional bank account" will always be one sided. It just seems that they just take, take, take and give very little in return.

    The way I deal with it is the following:
    - try not to take it personal
    - don't take it home. I always say this to my students, but even more to myself: "I can't let a 16 year old have so much power as to ruin my day." No matter what happens at school, when it's time to go home, I forget all about it. The best thing to do is to think about what I could have done better in response, or to prevent the situation. Then just forget and go on with my day.
    - have fun and do things for me on most of the evenings but at least on the weekends. I go to the gym during the week, sometimes have drinks with friends Friday or Saturday night, go camping or long walks with my dogs and other hobbies. This way I am refilling my own "emotional bank account", it really does feel like I'm recharging my batteries.

    If you just work, work, work, it's easy to burn out.
     
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  6. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I keep my school life pretty separate from my home life. Sure, there is some overlap, like when I'm posting on here or when I attend a school event with my family on the weekend. In general, though, when I'm home, my focus is on my family and the activities that make me personally happy, like reading books, watching movies, and chilling in the backyard. Those things make me feel energized and rejuvenated in a way that school, even on the best day, can't.
     
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  7. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    In addition to the importance of having a personal life, I think those who make it as teachers have to be people who thrive off of giving. Giving to someone else's "emotional bank" is deeply gratifying for me. Also, you have to have a deep understanding of teenagers and know that they will not always be willing or able to give back. That way, when they do give even a little bit, you recognize how special and huge it really is. I treasure the tiniest things from students -- when they take the time to say hi, getting a real smile or laugh from a hard-to-reach kid, all the notes and tiny, sometimes a little strange, gifts -- they mean so much more than a bigger gesture from an adult might.
     
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  8. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    A well timed beer or two can be a life saver.
     
  9. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    I think that experience helps relieve the stress. The longer I have taught, the less stress the job gives me.
    Another improvements to my stress level was leaving a large public school to teach in a small private school. The biggest stress I have now is having to get out of bed so early!
     
  10. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    I'm not usually a drinker, but today would have been a great margarita day.
     
  11. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I work with a great team of professional. We buoy each other thru the tough times. Also, I've developed a great relationship with my P and with families. Open lines of communication is positive, appreciated and proactive.
     
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  12. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    Absolutely. My P is the one who told me today would be good for a margarita! :)
     
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  13. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Sipping on a nicely chilled Prosecco as I post.
     
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  14. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    It isn't just students with issues, we're all like that. Jesus told a story about healing 10 lepers and noted that only 1 thanked him. It is sadly part of our nature. I imagine in your case though it is even tougher.

    I love what I do and take lots of it home but certain parts have to stay at work. When I'm home I might design new lessons because it is something I enjoy but I refuse to grade at home or make parent calls from there.

    So, in short, video games!
     
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  15. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I spend time with my fiancé, animals, family, and friends. We go out to eat, see new things, or just have game nights.

    I love to travel so I do that as much as I can.

    My main thing though is I'm getting much more into fitness. I'm also training for a half marathon and aiming for a full next year. I also love lifting at the gym!
     
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  16. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I also want to add that some times it is very frustrating to feel that it seems like students take out their anger on us, project their fear, insecurities and whatever issues they're having in their lives. My P explained that they do this, because they feel that it's easier to take out their problems on us, because it's safe. We're professionals, teachers and we will not lash back, cuss them out, hit them, or do anything like that, but people in their families / friends would / could. So because of that they chose us.

    This is incredibly frustrating, because I feel like an emotional punching bag, I'm there for them, and then I have to endure some crazy name calling / door slamming / screaming across the campus and some other crazy behavior. Some days I was really angry and it was really getting old. It doesn't happen too often though, I haven't felt like this for a while. Understanding what my P said, and not trying to take it personally helps. Like I said before, I just keep reminding myself that I cannot let a teenager mess up my day, and keep me angry.
    Actually communicating this to them also helps. I just had a conversation with one class about this, there were no problems, but we were talking about some previous students who would act really bad. I wanted to make sure that my students know they can't get to me, so don't even try. Most of them looked very receptive and surprised to this information. Maybe because I'm female, they might think I'd be sensitive and easily hurt, but over the past 3 years I did develop some thicker skin and don't-care-so-much mentality.
     
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  17. linswin23

    linswin23 Cohort

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    I agree with a lot of the posts on here. Having that work/life balance as teachers is sometimes a struggle since our profession is dealing with people all day, every day.
    I work with my husband, too, so we end up chatting a lot about work. We established a rule that we DON'T talk about work at home, unless we are really upset about something. Usually the first ten minutes or so that we are home we let out our frustrations if needed, and then we are done. We've gotten quite good at switching off the work mode at home.

    My first two years of teaching I would constantly think about my shortcomings, but I finally had enough and mentally trained myself to STOP thinking about work and to leave work at work. I have learned that there's always going to be MORE that I could do and even sometimes when I plan my butt off the lesson ends up being a dud. That's the nature of our profession.

    I have a lot of little "projects" I have going on in my personal life and I think it's important to MAKE time for your own little projects that are solely about you or your family.
     
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  18. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    I agree that not talking about work when you are at home can be a big help. I feel so much more positive when I leave all my frustrations in my classroom. The problem I still have is when good friends (a current colleague and one from my last job) want to call to talk or text about work. I try to keep my life at home separate from work as much as possible, but sometimes it's tough to avoid when others want to have that conversation. I've told my family not to ask for details about my job anymore, but I'm struggling with how to tell my friends the same thing. I want to be a good friend and listen to their vents, but sometimes I just can't take anymore. And, I really hate getting a late night or weekend text about a new seating chart or lesson plans for the week. I often just straight up ignore those texts and don't even reply.
     
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  19. DannieJaeger

    DannieJaeger Rookie

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    I find it is such a fine line between the "I don't care" mentality to keep my sanity and oh wait, actually I really DO care (about my students as individual people and wanting them to learn how to make better choices). It is challenging.
     
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  20. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I've met a few teachers who care way too much. I'll see blog posts or even hear in RL of teachers who bawl their eyes out every day on behalf of their students--and I don't think the majority of teachers have such cases.

    For the original question: I work to keep my home life and school life separate. Sometimes, life in general requires an imbalance now and then, but admitting that is just going through the flow. I also browse teacher sites, teacher social media, etc. Seeing the awesome parts of teaching is very relaxing. I'll also shift it up in the classroom, clean up the room, reorganize books, etc.
     
  21. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I've seen this too, less in real life and more on here and other places online. People describe having nervous breakdowns and being so depressed and anxious that they can't function in their daily lives. Those stories make me so sad, mostly because I think 1) they are in the wrong profession, and 2) they need to work on their coping skills. Teaching is stressful sometimes, but so is life. We need to be able to handle most things most of the time--that's part of being a functioning adult. Sure, there are times when things get to us or when something is just really, truly terrible. Most of the time, though, we should be able to let it be and move on. It's not healthy to carry around so much pain and anger all the time about anything, and especially not about our jobs.
     
  22. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    As someone who has been near that before and has found a way to bounce back, I'll agree with you. For me, personally, a lot of the stress, anxiety, depression came from thinking that, if I just worked hard enough during my first few years of teaching, I'd soon have it all figured out, and I'd be able to get everything done and get it all done right... That I'd be able to balance everything involved in teaching and then go back to also having a personal life. It took a lot of disappointments and also a lot of reading others' stories and advice on this site before I realized that I was never going to be able to do it all and go home with a blank to-do list everyday. I did, however, finally realize that I had to take control and set boundaries for myself. I had to set realistic expectations, accept that some things just wouldn't get done, and learn to be okay with that. For about the past year or so, I've been operating that way, and I haven't been this mentally healthy since before I was a teacher. Sometimes colleagues say or do things that make me feel a little guilty for not doing more, but I go home knowing that I'm doing what is right for me while still getting my job done in as realistic a way as possible, while still seeing my students make progress.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2016
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  23. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Though it hasn't "cured" me, it's certainly been a humongous help having a mentor these first two years who knows me as a person, and thus has focused on "reasonable self-expectations" more-so than developing a lesson plan. I'm thankful that in my student teaching, I had someone who had taught for 37 years, and thus was less focused on perfecting every little detail, but focused on holistically helping students grow, while maintaining a life balance. I think that a cause of many lacking many of those coping skills is because the experiences that you have and expectations you hear in teacher prep programs is so different than reality. Not that those experiences aren't important - many certainly are - but there's a big disconnect, in my mind.
     
  24. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I also have become pretty good at separating work and school life. The only exception is that I like working on lessons and grading on weekends at coffee shops. But that means that during the week, my teaching mode ends at 4pm everyday, and then its Netflix and dinner mode for the rest of the night.

    I also try to do less grading. My philosophy about it is, grading is the least favorite thing to do with my time, it doesn't really serve the kids any, because it's not always an accurate representation of their learning, and me making observations and holding discussions in class are far more accurate representations of their learning.

    Kids also don't always care about grades and so may not put effort into their work but they may still be learning, and most don't read most comments that you spend hours making. >_< So why put in the effort for it. That reduces a lot of my workload.

    I also figure out what I DO enjoy about teaching, and that is learning new things, developing exciting curriculum and lessons, and improving myself, so I invest a lot of time into that. That's what makes me love this job so much.

    My principal is also a HUGE supporter of teachers and has done so much for us to improve our work environment. I think I would follow her to another school if possible.

    I am also able to stay very emotionally detached towards students. I don't know why, but I don't get as mushy as many teachers do about students. That's just my personality. Sometimes that makes me feel like I might be a bad teacher because I don't "care" as much (get teary eyed at their graduations, or cry about their hard home lives), but I still feel I care about my students. Just not enough to be detrimental to my health or make me emotional. I care enough to do what's best for them, and to improve their learning and their lives, but I know that for me, teaching is not a crusade, it's just a job. I do as much for a student as I can, but I expect them to meet me halfway. If they don't even attempt to meet me halfway, then I know I did my best and continue investing in my other students. If they at least try to meet me half-way I will do all I can to help them succeed.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2016
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  25. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    I work out quite a bit. This does help, but I also have some strong walls put up. I know there's just things I cannot control. When I get home, I've learned to not focus on negatives of the day and just let it go. This comes with time and experience.
     
  26. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    1. I plan a trip during each and every vacation we get (for example, I'm currently on spring break and just returned from Seattle). When I'm having a bad day, I remind myself that vacation is coming up in x number of weeks.
    2. I always give myself something to look forward to after work--even if something as simple as cooking dinner with my BF and taking my pug for a walk.
    3. When I walk out the door from school each evening, the only thing I carry with me is my lunch bag. I do not bring home any work--ever.
     
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  27. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Exercise, inspiring books and movies, and time for recreational fun such as tennis or hiking.
     

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