Stress Alert!


Stress alert!  Stress alert!  You are getting ready to enter the danger zone.  (Cue up Kenny Loggins song "Danger Zone") Do images of Tom Cruise getting ready to jump in his F14 Tomcat float through your mind?  What does this have to do with teaching you ask?  Between Winter break and spring break is what I call the teachers' danger zone.  It's a high stress area when there are days where you feel like you've been through combat.  See if this list of possible stressors sound familiar:

You know you're in the teachers' danger zone when . . .

*You have more meetings than prep periods.  So, now in addition to not having your prep periods to plan for your students you need to do sub plans because you are being pulled from your class to attend yet another meeting.

*You have more inside recess days than outside recess days.  Can you say cabin fever?

*Your bag of tricks is getting mighty low!

*You rarely get a full night's sleep.  You wake up in the middle of the night with some epiphany that is going to be the new be-all-to-end-all for teaching this week's lessons.  Now you can't go back to sleep, so Starbucks here you come!

*You counted the days until it's time to give the standardized test and realize there is no way you can possibly teach all you need to in this amount of time. This has now given you a bad case of TMJ, migraines, your ulcer is acting up, immunities are down so you catch the latest virus, or a host of any of stressed induced maladies which means a trip to the doctor which means a trip to Walgreen's.  Does this sound like a teacher's version of "If you give a mouse a cookie?" 

*You're no longer clear what RTI means to you, for you, or for your students.  The lines seem very murky.  Exactly who provides which service, for how long, when do you do this or that, and then do something else?  It all seems as clear as mud!

Now that we're all on the same page, what is a teacher supposed to do when he or she is in the danger zone?  First of all, this time period is going to be stressful no matter what.  It is a high stakes time period in the teaching cycle.  But, what you can do is try to lessen your stress level.  If you stress level has been running a 12 on a scale from 1 to 10, sometimes a few interventions (yes, that's a word all teachers are familiar with nowadays) might bring your level down to a 7.  While a 7 is still stressful, it's better than being a 12.  Here's a few interventions to try:

*STAY HEALTHY:  Yes, it's easier said than done.  We all know the traditional advice about washing your hands, getting plenty of sleep, and taking vitamins. Those are great but another thing I've found helpful is your drink in the classroom should have a lid.  When I first began teaching I had a glass of water without a lid on my desk which was near my reading table.  I think when my students at my reading table coughed the germs floated through the air to my drink.  I was sick a lot!  Finally, one day it dawned on me that I need a cup with a lid.  It seemed to make a difference.  Try it and see what you think.

*SET REALISTIC GOALS:  Yes, we would like 100% of our students to turn in their homework each day or week.  Do you think 100% of the teachers at your school turn in their paperwork on time 100% of the time?  My guess is no.  So, if grown adults with a college degree can't do it with 100% accuracy, is it a realistic expectation for your students?  Maybe a better approach is to look at where your class is now.  Do 70% of your students consistently turn in their homework?  A realistic goal would be next week have 75% of the students turn in their homework.  Brainstorm with your class strategies to get them organized.  Maybe they need to exchange phone numbers so they can be homework buddies. If someone didn't understand an assignment or wasn't clear about the direction they have a couple of buddies that they can call.  Put links to your assignments on your website so if assignments are lost or left at school they can download them at home.  Once you have success at this goal for a couple of weeks, raise the bar again.  Take baby steps.  Remember Rome wasn't built in a day.

You can take this same approach with whatever issue your class needs to work on.  Maybe you have 5 students who never have their supplies ready when it's time to begin a lesson.  Set a realistic goal, brainstorm strategies, readjust if necessary, and watch your students rise to the challenge.

*ADD TO YOUR BAG OF TRICKS:  There are some amazing people on your campus who could fill your bag of tricks.  When is the last time you asked your librarian for some ideas?  Librarians were once classroom teachers PLUS they teach your students so they know their attention spans, personalities, and a fairly good idea of their language arts  abilities. If your students have been at your school for several years, the librarian has taught your students for several years.  Every librarian I've ever worked with has been worth their weight in gold.  Go talk to yours today!

Do you have ADHD students or students that you've tried every which way there is to reach them and it's still not working?  How about a little tech intervention?  Go talk to your tech teachers.  They may have a program or game that is just what your student(s) need.  Plus, there is something about putting on headphones that helps an ADHD student focus better.  

Another great resource is your special ed. staff.  True, you may not be able to send your students to them for help.  But, they are full of wonderful ideas and resources and I've always found them so willing to share.  If you have a student who has attention issues talk to the OT or PT.  He or she has fidgets and balance balls that work with some of these students.

Do you have a student that gets speech therapy and is also having trouble in reading?  Talk to your speech therapist!  I worked with this really top notch speech therapist who had my student bring her book that we were reading in class to speech class.  She had my student read the book to her and she tailored her speech therapy from the words in the story my student read.  My student was getting a double dose of reading.  Her reading scores took off after this!

There is support all around you, you just need to tap into it!

*INSIDE RECESS DAYS:  Visit your nearest thrift store and buy some board games.  The only time these games are played is inside recess.  The novelty of the games will keep your students more engaged.  Many times you can pick up these games really cheap. Usually the weekend of a holiday, thrift stores have sales.  Some will mark off the entire store from 33% - 50%.  Valentine's Day is coming up!  Hint!  Hint!

*CHANGE YOUR OUTLOOK:  When I'm having one of those weeks when it seems like none of my students are getting along which is making me a negative Nelly I know it's time for an attitude adjustment.  One anecdote to negativity is what I call "nominations".  At the end of the day, my students can "nominate" a classmate for a happy note.  They have to tell me exactly what this student did to earn a happy note.  It has to be something specific such as I dropped my supply box and she helped me clean it up.  My friend asked me to play with him at recess because he saw I didn't have anyone to play with.  Sometimes I will nominate someone, too.  Suddenly, your students are watching for the positive their classmates are doing so they can nominate them.  Your students are doing positive acts so their classmates will nominate them.  All this change from a little happy note! I keep a class chart on a clipboard.  Each time I send home a happy note I write the date beside the child's name. This lets me know if someone hasn't been nominated for a while. If so, sometimes I will either nominate him or her or I will have a private conversation with him or her to see how he or she can improve his or her behavior.  Plus, if a child goes home and tell his or her parent that he or she is nEVER nominated you can show your clipboard to his or her parent.  Here's a copy of a happy note you can use.


 I hope you're able to find a little stress relief this week!


Jessica said...

Love all your great advice! I am your newest follower and tagged you for the fun!


Apples and Papers

Michelle said...

Welcome! Glad you could join us!

Rebecca said...

Come by and see what it's all about!