The Stresses of Work for Teachers

Teacher traveling

As supply teachers, peripatetic teachers, and teachers that work different schools on different days, it can be very tiring and very stressful doing the commute. Not only do we have to deal with the everyday stresses that come with the teaching job itself, there are the added stresses of getting to work on time. I travel on the London underground quite a lot and I am forever wondering if my tube line is going to be delayed or out of action, forcing me to get to work on a different route. Will there be another tube that stops nearby? Is there a bus route there? What number bus do I need? How far is the walk to the school from the other end? … And more importantly… will I be there in time for my first lesson?

Of course, none of this applies to the car drivers, whom take on a slightly different travel stress‚Ķ What will the traffic be like? What if a road is closed? What if there is an accident? What if I run out of petrol, I get a puncture or the car breaks down? … Again leading up to the same question‚Ķ will I be there in time for my first lesson?

We, as teachers have a duty to turn up early, and set up ready for our lessons to begin as smooth as possible.

Solution

Plan your journeys carefully, look for the shortest route if possible and always have at least 2 back up routes available… buses and tubes could be useful. Info of local taxis near to your school can also get you out of tight situations if you are just out of reach.

Planning and Marking

Every teacher does planning and marking of work, it comes with part of the job description. As peripatetic teachers, the workload for marking and planning can be multiplied by the number of schools we teach in, that’s not even mentioning double entry plus schools and the various year groups that we teach.

Solution

Don’t leave everything until the last minute. Mark the work throughout the schooling year so that you are always on top of things… easier said than done I know! Filming or audio recording your students will give you exactly what they did, so that you can mark in a half term… or even better, you can watch and listen to the recordings with the children in the next lesson and peer mark it with them… saving you lots of marking time and, more importantly, giving the children a chance for self-evaluation and reflection. Again, with the planning, don’t leave everything until the last minute. Six weeks holiday is a long time and you don’t need the thought of planning hanging over your head throughout the break, or even having to cram it all in on the last week. Start it early, get it done, enjoy your holidays, and refresh yourself a couple of days before you go back to school. This works the same with the Christmas breaks and half terms too!!!

The Children

The children are what the job is all about and that is our main concern, both as passers on of knowledge and as pastoral figures… and because they are our main concern, this causes us a lot of worry… are they happy? Are they sad? Why are they sad? Do they understand? Are they bored? Is it too easy? Is it too hard? The questioning is endless. A class wouldn’t be a class without one or two children, sometimes the whole class, making teaching that slightly bit harder. I’m not saying that there are naughty children in classes by no means, however, there can be testing children, or children with SEN or children with EAL that are making a smooth lesson run rugged. There will be times when the whole class are off course, distracted, or just darn right hard work… all stresses for teachers!

Solution

Planning is key… make sure your differentiation caters for all learners. Test your students by making things tricky but plausible, rather than difficult and hard to obtain. Seating plans and group choosing by yourself always work well because you can break up chatters, or mischievous children when in the same company, and you can mix and match accordingly to suit every learner in the classroom. There have been classes, this was in my secondary PGCE teaching, that I have absolutely dreaded teaching because the children were just real hard work… year nines aggghhh!! But this was due to bad planning on my behalf and not differentiating enough… not to mention a few hormones in the class that were on super turbo!! You need to know how to make the children tick to get the most out of them. This doesn’t mean knowing their favorite football team or their favorite boy band, but how they learn. Do they prefer auditory, kinesthetic or visual learning to get the best results? Knowing your class can be the difference between good lessons and grades and outstanding lessons and grades. Also, be on top of your classroom management (view my classroom management blog for tips), to ensure that individuals do not run your classroom for you. You are in charge, and that is how it should be. Adding all of these solutions to your teaching style should hopefully make you less stressed whan tackling tricky pupils and classes.

Tiredness

This is the one that gets me the most. No matter how early you go to bed, or how late you try and leave it to get up, you always seem to be super tired. Or, if you are like me, just seem to be restless, tossing and turning all night until you fall asleep half an hour before your alarm clock sounds to wake you up… horrendous!! This stress (tiredness) relates to a blog I wrote earlier in the year. Lack of sleep can affect your teaching immensely. It can make you moody towards the children, it can make you forgetful, and it can make you feel like you just want to go home and sleep! Not so good when you’ve got 30 young minds to inspire and share your passion for music.

Solution

It’s hard to give advice or tell anybody how to sleep, especially when I struggle with it myself. But what I can offer is some sound (asleep) advice from the NHS website that offers tips on how to get a good 40 winks

If you have difficulty falling asleep, a regular bedtime ritual will help you wind down and prepare for bed.

Check out our 10 tips to beat insomnia

This ritual depends on what works for you, but the most important thing is working out a routine and sticking to it.

First of all, keep regular sleeping hours, says Jessica Alexander of The Sleep Council – a non-profit organisation that provides good sleep advice.

“A bedtime ritual teaches the brain to become familiar with sleep times and wake times,‚Äù she says. ‚ÄúIt programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine.‚Äù

Few people manage to stick to strict bedtime routines due to life’s competing demands, be it work or family duties.

This isn’t much of a problem for most people, but¬†for insomniacs, irregular sleeping hours¬†are disastrous.

Most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep every night. By working out what time you need to wake up, you can set a regular bedtime schedule.

Winding down is a critical stage in preparing for bed. There are many ways of relaxing:

  • A warm bath (not hot) will help your body reach a temperature that’s ideal for rest.
  • Writing “to do” lists for the next day can organise your thoughts and clear your mind of any distractions.
  • Relaxation exercises, such as light yoga stretches, help to¬†relax the muscles.¬†Don’t exercise vigorously, as it will have the opposite effect.
  • Relaxation CDs work by using a carefully narrated script, gentle hypnotic music and sound effects to relax the listener.
  • Reading a book or listening to the radio relaxes the mind by distracting it.

“Everyone will have their own way of relaxing,” says Alexander. “If you don’t know how to relax, you can get help and advice from your GP.”

No TVs before bedtime

Your bedroom should be a relaxing environment. Experts claim there’s a strong association in people’s minds¬†between sleep and the bedroom. However, certain things weaken that association, such as TVs and other electronic gadgets, light, noise, and¬†a bad mattress or bed.

“It’s important to create an environment that helps you to sleep,” says Alexander. “Keep your bedroom just for sleep – and possibly for sex.”

Unlike most vigorous physical activity, sex makes us sleepy. This has evolved in humans over thousands of years.

The bedroom needs to be dark, quiet, tidy, smell fresh and be kept at a temperature of between 18C and 24C. “Fit some thick curtains if you don’t have any,” says Alexander. “If there’s ambient noise, consider investing in double glazing or, for a cheaper option, use earplugs.”

A comfortable bed is essential for a good night’s kip. Research by The Sleep Council suggests that a good-quality mattress and bed frame will give you an extra hour’s sleep.

Dr Chris Izikowski of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, who led the research, says that people benefit from changing their bed if it‚Äôs uncomfortable. ‚ÄúIt’s likely that long-term insomniacs and those with inadequate sleep habits would benefit the most,‚Äù he says.

Keeping a sleep diary

It may be a good idea to keep a sleep diary. It might uncover lifestyle habits or experiences in your daily activities that contribute to your insomnia.

A typical sleep diary should include the answers to the following questions:

  • What were your sleeping times?
  • How long did it take you to get to sleep?
  • How many times¬†did you¬†wake up during the night?
  • How long did each awakening last?
  • How long did you sleep in total?
  • Did you take any sleeping tablets?
  • How well do you feel today?
  • How enjoyable was your sleep last night?
  • How much caffeine did you have before and after 5pm?
  • How much alcohol did you have before and after 5pm?
  • Did you do any exercise shortly before going to bed?
  • Did you take any naps during the day or evening?
  • Has anything made you anxious or stressed?

Firstly, your GP or sleep expert will ask you to keep a sleep diary as part of diagnosing your sleeping problems.

“The sleep diary might reveal underlying conditions that explain your insomnia, such as stress or medication,” says Alexander.

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/insomnia/Pages/bedtimeritual.aspx

I hope this blog has been helpful to you!

Andy T

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