While all educators understand the evolving nature of learning and the challenges that come with this, few stop to put into place some self-care until it is too late. True educators tend to have two passions – supporting students (whether that be children, young people or adults) and a love of their subject area. But teaching continues to change and encouraging students to love learning is often impeded by social issues, health problems (physical and mental) and a national obsession with grades!
Changing pedagogies, benchmarks, Naplan, assessments and target grades all add to the stressful life of students and teachers and ultimately impede learning from a very young age. Despite research telling us that assessments, assessments and more assessments do not make for better learning, the mainstream Australian school system continues to judge learning by achieved grades and benchmarks. This means that both teachers and students are under an enormous pressure to ensure their students perform at a very young age, and learn to pass exams.
The 21st Century classroom is a different space however, and students no longer automatically respond to a teacher at the front of the classroom. New technologies and devices make it easier for students to access learning and experts from anywhere. Engaging students becomes a daily challenge for teachers and managing classroom behaviour, supporting anxious young people and dealing with the requirements of a school can cause stress for all – students, teachers and school leaders.
In the short term, a stressful work environment can contribute to headaches, stomach aches, disturbed sleep patterns, short tempers and difficulty concentrating, all of which are not helpful when you need to face a classroom of individuals with their own varying needs day in day out.
If the cycle continues, chronic stress weakens the immune system and may lead to insomnia, anxiety and health conditions, not to mention being difficult to live with!
As educators we tend to think we know how to cope and manage stress – after all we spend our whole working day helping our students through their problems. Then one day we wake up and find we haven’t stopped to look after our own health needs – both physical and emotional. So where do you start? With you!
Steps to Managing Stress in the Learning Space:
- Start with the basics – how do you deal with stress?
Overeating? Unhealthy eating? Cigarettes? Alcohol? Drugs?
- Track your stressors – which situations cause the most stress and how do you respond? What can you control?
- Support network – Who are in your support team? When we are most tired and most cranky we need to socialise and with supportive people. (Not those who will continue to be negative and keep you in your cranky state!)
- Take time to recharge – teachers spend a lot of their weekends marking, thinking about school and their students, planning and overthinking! Take the weekend to do something for yourself with your partner, family or friends. Some activities are “breathers” and provide a chance to take a break from our stressful thoughts and often can distract us for a while allowing the body and mind to re energise.
- Learn how to relax – meditation, exercise and yoga! Exercise reduces the body’s stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol and stimulates the body’s natural endorphins, a mood elevator and natural painkiller. Meditation and yoga helps us develop skills to focus and relax – both necessary for managing a stressful classroom and its responsibilities.
If your work as an educator is causing you stress, learning strategies to manage these is worthwhile. Sometimes we need guidance and direction in finding suitable strategies.
Revive Health and Happiness can support you in finding the most suitable strategies that will work for you. Call us on (08) 6381 0297; email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment that suits.