Stress in Teaching

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Guardian Newspaper September 2012

Posted on October 18, 2012 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Chris Hunt, psychotherapist, life-coach, author of ‘Stress inTeaching’ Winner of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2012

One Hundred new terms and counting!

Teacherstaking time off with stress-related illnesses need help and support. They account for an estimated £4.5 million each year in school costs. There is aduty of care.

 

 

 I have started many a school year just like the students: keen to get going, shaking the BBQ’s out of my system, seeing which of my forgotten ‘school’ trousers’ still fit, storing the rest of the summer wine in a cupboard ready to be consumed at the weekend, and dusting off the briefcase from where I left it in those heady days at the end of July!

So what’s next on my agenda? Performance management will start again: just as onerous for managers as for NQTs, the exam results, dread and excitement in equal measure: avoiding the head’s gaze or trying to catch it on the first day, depending on how well my students have done. How quickly the first few weeks go: like the holiday never happened. And every day there is a new challenge: reports having to be written ridiculously early, open day to get ready for, etc. etc. Why did I moan about putting the gazebo up last month!I have had exactly one hundred terms like this: 33 Septembers. I have really loved it!However there have been times when I have carried on with a sense of fear, especially on certain days of the week. I have even started to dread those days. If things hadn’t improved, my self-confidence might have dropped, my life affected, not just my teaching.So here are some of my top tips for thestart of the school year, ways of reducing the stress before it has evenstarted, or as Bill Shankly, the great Liverpool manager once said, ‘Get your retaliation in first’!

1.    Don’t try to be perfect. Nobody is, and all you can do is fail. Allow yourself to failand learn. It’s called being human! "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." Henry Ford

2.    Get out of your ‘Black and White thinking’: this is where everything is either good or bad, including the students! Allow for shades of different colour in your teaching and in your life.

3.    Don’t define your existence by calling yourself a teacher: make sure there are plentyof other things you enjoy.

4.    Whenthings get on top of you, re-frame your thinking. There might be a student who disrupts your year 9 class, but how many good kids in the room make up for that?

5.    The only way to solve a problem is to solve it! Teachers are good at knowing what to do when something is not right, but not very good at doing it! Talk to a colleague about things more often than eating comfort food at break! (Although the odd cream cake can work wonders)!

6.    Don’t be a yes man/woman. If a colleague is constantly telling you how stressful the job is, you don’t always have to agree. Challenging negative communication can be good for both sides.

7.    Keep your ‘to-do’ list up to date, and do it! It’s one of the biggest stress relievers.

8.    Stop telling everyone how busy you are: it becomes self-fulfilling.

9.    Seek advice from teachers you trust.

10.  My top tip: talk to students on corridors,especially the ones you don’t get on with in class! It really affects and improves your relationships, and therefore the teaching and learning in your lessons.

You could just count up to 10: but rememberthe words of the immortal of Nigel Tufnel in Spinal Tap, ‘yes but the dial on my amp goes up to 11’! 

Keep smiling, when you’ve retired you’ll miss the hurly-burly, and talk about your school like it’s an old friend. Enjoy!

 

Guardian Newspaper September 2012

Posted on October 18, 2012 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Chris Hunt, psychotherapist, life-coach, author of ‘Stress inTeaching’ Winner of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2012

One Hundred new terms and counting!

Teacherstaking time off with stress-related illnesses need help and support. They account for an estimated £4.5 million each year in school costs. There is aduty of care.

 

 

 I have started many a school year just like the students: keen to get going, shaking the BBQ’s out of my system, seeing which of my forgotten ‘school’ trousers’ still fit, storing the rest of the summer wine in a cupboard ready to be consumed at the weekend, and dusting off the briefcase from where I left it in those heady days at the end of July!
So what’s next on my agenda? Performance management will start again: just as onerous for managers as for NQTs, the exam results, dread and excitement in equal measure: avoiding the head’s gaze or trying to catch it on the first day, depending on how well my students have done. How quickly the first few weeks go: like the holiday never happened. And every day there is a new challenge: reports having to be written ridiculously early, open day to get ready for, etc. etc. Why did I moan about putting the gazebo up last month!I have had exactly one hundred terms like this: 33 Septembers. I have really loved it!However there have been times when I have carried on with a sense of fear, especially on certain days of the week. I have even started to dread those days. If things hadn’t improved, my self-confidence might have dropped, my life affected, not just my teaching.So here are some of my top tips for thestart of the school year, ways of reducing the stress before it has evenstarted, or as Bill Shankly, the great Liverpool manager once said, ‘Get your retaliation in first’!

1.    Don’t try to be perfect. Nobody is, and all you can do is fail. Allow yourself to failand learn. It’s called being human! "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." Henry Ford

2.    Get out of your ‘Black and White thinking’: this is where everything is either good or bad, including the students! Allow for shades of different colour in your teaching and in your life.

3.    Don’t define your existence by calling yourself a teacher: make sure there are plentyof other things you enjoy.

4.    Whenthings get on top of you, re-frame your thinking. There might be a student who disrupts your year 9 class, but how many good kids in the room make up for that?

5.    The only way to solve a problem is to solve it! Teachers are good at knowing what to do when something is not right, but not very good at doing it! Talk to a colleague about things more often than eating comfort food at break! (Although the odd cream cake can work wonders)!

6.    Don’t be a yes man/woman. If a colleague is constantly telling you how stressful the job is, you don’t always have to agree. Challenging negative communication can be good for both sides.

7.    Keep your ‘to-do’ list up to date, and do it! It’s one of the biggest stress relievers.

8.    Stop telling everyone how busy you are: it becomes self-fulfilling.

9.    Seek advice from teachers you trust.

10.  My top tip: talk to students on corridors,especially the ones you don’t get on with in class! It really affects and improves your relationships, and therefore the teaching and learning in your lessons.

You could just count up to 10: but rememberthe words of the immortal of Nigel Tufnel in Spinal Tap, ‘yes but the dial on my amp goes up to 11’! 

Keep smiling, when you’ve retired you’ll miss the hurly-burly, and talk about your school like it’s an old friend. Enjoy!

 


Extracts from Guardian blog: what the teachers say

Posted on June 13, 2012 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Teacher Sue (made up name!)

I have never posted a comment on any website before but reading this thread reminded me of my year as an NQT, 15 years ago. It was probably the unhappiest year of my life due to bullying from the head of English, who was strongly supported by the Head.

I loved my PGCE year and entered my career full of enthusiasm and creative ideas. These were soon stamped out by a head of English who regularly put me down in front of students, shouted at me and told me my lessons were unsatisfactory. The three times I was absent that year resulted in me being reprimanded by her and the Head and told the school "couldn't carry passengers" and that I should be aware of my lack of professionalism in taking time off. When I produced a doctor's note I was yelled at for "waving it around as if it was a magic ticket". When asked to produce some display work with a class, we had started work at the end of one lesson with the intention of finishing it off the next. The Head of English arrived in my classroom early the next morning, picked up one student's work and told me that the display work "just was not good enough" - even though it had barely been started.

I was also made, as the standard of my teaching was deemed unsatisfactory, to submit all of my lesson plans for the entire week first thing on a Monday morning, as well as detailed evaluations of the previous week's lessons. They would routinely be dismissed as poor. I was in tears after I got home pretty much every night and longed to leave and I felt like an absolute failure. My parents, who were both teachers themselves and had aIways encouraged me in my dream career, became so worried about me that they actually thought I should quit before I made myself ill. I tried to speak to the Head of English about how much stress I was under with all the monitoring etc but was just told, "If you can't handle stress, you're in the wrong profession." The two other young English teachers were very much in her thrall and made it clear that I was on my own.

That Easter holiday, I applied for another teaching job and got it!! I will never forget when the Head of English came back to observe her next lesson and gave me damning feedback, telling me I would probably fail my NQT year (in the days before you could officially fail anyway) the huge satisfaction I had in telling her I already had another job to go to in September anyway!

Fifteen years down the line now, with 3 years in mainstream and 12 in special schools, I love my job, I work with a great, inspiring and creative bunch of staff and can only shudder with horror about that 1st year. It still makes me feel angry that, because of one dreadful Head of English, I could easily have given up within my 1st year. The one positive thing is that it has really made me count my blessings at work ever since!!


Teacher Helen (made up name!) I have chosen red text for a bit I think is very well made!

I've been a teacher since 2005 and my experiences would make the stuff of a great novel, although people might find the truth to be a little far-fetched! After completing my English Lit degree, travelling and teaching TEFL, at the age of 25, I began what is known in Scotland as the 'alternative' route into teaching. This meant i needed to teach in a school for two years before i could be deemed 'a fully trained teacher'. I was employed by the school at a reduced rate although my head of dept. did not agree with the school's decision to appoint me.


Over the year that i worked 'under' her, she: threw a set of keys in my face, told me I'd be better off at home, told me to return to England as i had no respect for boundaries and referred to the black students as something unrepeatable. She had eyes of ice-fire, the air chilled when she entered a class room and she would regularly burst in upon my lessons and recline at the back of the room with her trade-mark frozen sneer- 'observing'.


Despite this, i found a love for teaching, so i returned to England to complete a PGCE as i realised that this woman would never pass me.Whilst training, I taught at three schools instead of the usual two. My first placement school was wonderful, close-knit yet not suffocating, the staff were creative, warm and inclusive and i got great reports. The second school i went to had a tiny English dept., presided over by yet another despot and a bullying side-kick. They told me my lessons were terrible and that I was useless. After getting the measure of them, four week into my placement, I told them i was leaving as i had promised myself never to tolerate bullying again. I then spent a few weeks on the phone ringing around other schools trying to arrange my own placement (my teacher training college washed their hands of me at this point and told me that I would probably have to accept that i'd failed my PGCE). However, I managed to get my third and final placement and passed with flying colours.


My NQT year was a success. The school was a rough, tough London comp. and their NQT provision was excellent. However, despite my success, i was very happy that my family circumstances meant that i emigrated to Australia in 2009. You see, during my NQT year i worked extremely hard to garner the approval from the management that i received but what tired me was the depression and stress of the older, more seasoned members of staff who were being circled by hawk-like senior management and were quite literally picked off one by one. The students at this school were raucous, rebellious, aggressive and there was a survival of the fittest playground culture that was chillingly mirrored by the staff-room culture. It seemed like anyone who was still a classroom teacher, over the age of 45 was deemed to be out of touch and incapable when actually what was happening was that kids' aggression was erupting in most classrooms and senior management were never there to support the staff in the aftermath of an aggressive incident. I handled the aggression by keeping a lid on it, just! I could feel it though, simmering every single day and it would only have been a matter of time before a disturbing, violent incident would have broken out between the kids in one of my lessons- had i not left for family reasons.


It was clear that aggression and fear were the ruling principles of that school. Violent perpetrators were treated leniently whilst staff with years of excellent service behind them were hounded as the ones responsible. It seemed so ignorant and myopic of this management to denigrate its own, experienced, wonderful teachers- for what is a teacher, if not someone who has lived, teaching young people how to live?


The problem as I see it, is that teachers in England are presided over by management teams comprised of transient, career managers. In other words, people whose sole aim is to leave the classroom and climb the pay-scale. Meanwhile the staff, the life-blood of the school and indeed the community of which the school is a central part, are all too often ignored by them or at worst treated like pawns in the management's wild and untutored experiments to 'meet targets', or 'increase learning'. These management expect to see all singing, dancing teachers when they enter classrooms with all students engaged on the task in hand. This is my style of teaching, but what the management need to understand is that the culture of a school comes from them and trickles down and out to the community.
If the management don't come from the area that the school is in, then they need to learn all the kids names and get to the know the parents- all of them. They need to get to know and love their staff for who they are and what they've got to offer. They left the classroom to climb the pay-scale. so they need to respect those stalwarts who are in it for the sheer love of teaching, attend fewer c
onferences and spend more time in corridors fostering respect.

 

Guardian newspaper blog

Posted on June 11, 2012 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Teachers don’t know what stress in says Sir Michael Wilshaw. (Who has added to it)!

Teacher-stress: what do you do? Count up to 11? Reach for the wine?

Teachers taking time off with stress-related illnesses need help and support. They account for an estimated £4.5 million each year in school costs. There is a duty of care.

You have a really difficult class/duty/meeting schedule. Or perhaps you are not achieving your target results and you are beginning to doubt your abilities. You finally pluck up courage to talk to your line manager, but he/she seems even more stressed that you! She tries to advise you, but you can’t describe the depth of your emotional state. You never seem to have the time to finish things … Familiar?

So how do teachers cope?

The answer is that they carry on but with a sense of fear, especially on certain days of the week. They may even start to dread those days. If things don’t get better their self-confidence might begin to decline, and this will have an effect on all aspects of their life, not just their teaching.

The extract below records a couple of meetings with one of my clients: real name not James! He has given permission to have these details released.

Session 12 March 2012

James came today with a worry about his demanding line manager. We talked about black and white thinking, where everything tends to be seen in very ‘stark’ terms. Also computer thinking, where people tend to try to be ‘perfect’ and anything that does not measure up is seen as a weakness. Then we looked at the MYE programme, (available through www.stressinteaching, see below) which also helped. I talked through a coaching scenario with his line manager, and suggested that he actually volunteers to take over some of the role and write this into his performance management targets: this will then be passed to the head.

This will have one of two effects. Either the head will back it, and it will be excellent for James' career development, and he will get some CPD to help him. Or, the head will tell James that the tasks he is suggesting he takes on should actually be done by the HOD. In either case, it will be a win for James. Session ended with some re-affirmations of James' strengths.

James story continues, see the blog at www.stressinteaching.com

James’ experiences are not unique. For many teachers though it is hard to get past the feeling that to admit to stress is a weakness. As a client once told me, ‘If I told the head, I would see my career lights going out one by one’.

So may teachers feel they have no choice other than to live with their emotional turmoil, by asking the doctor for anti-depressants, by over-drinking, over-eating, over-working, taking drugs etc. You may eat chocolate or cakes at break for the sugar-rush but regret it by lunchtime. You may put your head down and rush past students on the corridor in case you need to deal with poor behaviour, so you end up ignoring it. After all, other people get paid more than me. You may have to wait weeks/months to see a counsellor. How can this be right? If you broke their leg it would be treated straight away!

Stressinteaching.com offers 3 alternatives

1. The downloadable eBook, packed with practical advice for teachers and TA’s

2. One to one, small or large group mentoring or coaching

3. The MYE Programme

 

What is MYE?

• The MYE Programme is unique.

It is uncomplicated on-line emotional help.

• The MYE is aimed at teachers experiencing mild to

medium depression, anxiety, low mood or stress who perhaps might not normally ask for help.

How does it work?

• You fill out an online questionnaire which leads to an instant, personalised, confidential report indicating their current dominant state of mind. You might for example be a ‘Prisoner’, or you may be ‘Drowning’.

• You read the report and decide whether to change the way you feel. If you decide to make changes you can press the 'I Want to Change' button, which in itself is a very positive and powerful statement.

• You are then provided with your own instant online personal action plan.

• The action plan is designed to be followed by working from the computer and in your personal MYE Journal. The meditations within the action plan are also printed in the journal.

The Action plan includes many techniques and tools to help teachers to deal with their emotions and to make positive life-changes. After one week you will receive an invitation by e-mail to complete a follow-up questionnaire. This triggers a new report, showing your progress, and any impact on your emotions and thoughts.

Or you could just count up to 10: but remember the words of the immortal of Nigel in Spinal Tap, ‘our nob goes up to 11’!

 

Opinions

Posted on June 11, 2012 at 5:05 AM Comments comments (0)

If a fellow teacher is being unreasonable otr unfair over a particular issue, say out loud to them 'Your opinion is none of my business'. If it's someone you think can harm your career, say it inside your head!

What causes the stress?

Posted on May 16, 2012 at 6:15 AM Comments comments (0)

From Sahil My highschool is intregating these smart boards. We hate them. Installing them is causing alot of noise ( the ones we have screw into the wall) Simpler is always better. and it's especially frustrating having these, when your school gets rid of the microwave oven in the lunch room to save power, and an entire gym class shares one basketball to save money. and the school district is cancelling middle school sports to save money. Smart board are dumb. Regular white boards > smartboard

Prisoner

Posted on April 24, 2012 at 12:15 PM Comments comments (0)

A teacher who feels stuck in their situation. They feel stuck in the same room or area of the school, stuck with the same colleagues, stuck in the school, stuck in his/her role. They feel there is no way out, and they have no choice, like a prisoner.

Stop complaining about SMT!

Posted on April 23, 2012 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (2)

You, middle leaders, leadership teams are all in it for the good of the students. Everyone makes mistakes, even head teachers, but they don't do it on purpose ... like you don't!

Enjoy yourself

Posted on April 23, 2012 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (2)

When you are feeling low, remember why you came into the profession, and look at the good kids in the class, don't focus on those with the more challenging behaviour.

Support each other

Posted on April 23, 2012 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Listen properly to your colleagues when they have problems. They will appreciate it, you will enjoy the feeling, and they will do the same for you when you need it.


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