Parents and students are constantly harping on the enormous strain and pressure they are under. Measures are taken to de-stress students before an exam, during an exam and after an exam. There is so much spillover on the subject that our ears are almost bleeding! However, no one talks about the kind of tension and pressure the teacher is subjected to every day on account of the (mis) behaviour of the students, the transfer of knowledge, the correction work, the mentoring, the counselling and therefore the inability to juggle a home life with the demands of a 24/7 job. I am a teacher and so I know what I am talking about. How do I de-stress so that I can enjoy myself inside and outside of class?
Many teachers are today reaching the burnout phase sooner than their predecessors because they are put under the microscope by the school management, the students, parents, and the examination system itself. With more and more responsibilities added to the list, and no additional help available, a lot of teachers either develop a chronic headache or a perpetual throat problem because of the unnaturally loud voice that they need to adopt in order to control a class of overflowing, energetic and sometimes uncontrollable children. Beginning the day with a lot of positive energy and ending it on a similar note might help reduce the stress that most teachers painfully live with. But that is easier said than done…
A wonderful way of beginning the day would be to look at motivational quotes about teachers. Let’s face it: it does require a lot of drive to teach a class full of children day in and day out and face the challenges of having a bunch of very energetic children who unfortunately cannot focus too much on the subject at hand. Here are some samples of quotes that can inspire you or make you see the lighter side of teaching:
Teaching is the profession that teaches all other professions.
Schoolteachers are not appreciated by parents until it rains all Saturday.
A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops.
There are many websites that provide motivational quotes. Why not look up one every day or write them on the blackboard so that you look at them while the children are shouting, screaming, demanding or quietly doing their work? It gives the children also an opportunity to understand how the world perceives the work of teachers and maybe eventually they will learn to appreciate your work too.
Children from the primary classes could download a quote a day and then write it on the board. This is an exercise in looking for the appropriate quote and also helps them improve their handwriting. Having a quick one-minute discussion on the quote is a good way of motivating and de-stressing yourself.
In case a class becomes too noisy or tedious, have a collection of jokes that you can tell your class. Joining together in wholehearted fun is a good stress buster not only for the teacher but for also the taught. If you think gathering jokes is a task, call on an assigned student to tell a joke every day and then submit the joke in the written form also. Pass around this joke to the other classes. Remember, you do not stress yourself out more by looking for jokes on the Internet. It needs to be delegated to those who not only have the time, but also have the interest!
Breathing exercises done before coming to school and even during school hours is a great way to de-stress yourself. It relieves you of the feeling of being drained of all energy and helps you do the teaching with more interest and enthusiasm.
The management and the principal must also consider the fact that teachers are dealing with different age groups and intellectual challenges throughout the day. They do need to be given a break after a series of classes. They could use the break to de-stress themselves by either sitting with their eyes closed or listening to some form of music or even reading a book or perhaps correcting notebooks so that they are away from the noise and demands of students. Schools consider this a waste of time; however, they should understand that this will enable teachers to get back their energy levels and enable them to deal more effectively with the students, instead of using the students as their means to de-stress.
Textbook publishers supply the school with a lot of audio material in the form of poems or plays. Play these for five minutes or else ask the students to choose a song related to the topic they are doing and play it in class. The entire class will feel uplifted and this short break will do wonders for all concerned. Since it is possible for songs to get played with the help of the mobile or the laptop, no elaborate arrangements will be necessary.
Most importantly, the teacher needs to understand the need to delegate wherever possible…in the form of writing sums on the board by students who have neat handwriting (students take pride in this), bringing in books from the staff room, collecting books from students, having students assist in making charts (not to be assigned as homework but get done during a craft period or a free period), thinking up of games to play (students can think of more fun games than adults can!), getting them to record nursery rhymes to improve their diction and then using this for the pre-primary classes where students are happier listening to a child’s voice, as opposed to an adult’s voice. Allow students to help wherever possible…they enjoy this and they learn more from this.
Go to school with a bottle of water. Make sure you keep drinking water so that your throat is not parched and you do not get dehydrated.
And most importantly, make sure you smile and laugh during your classes. You are less likely to feel the strain of teaching and will feel less like a control freak. Tell yourself that you chose the profession because you like it. Leave the school smiling, and after wishing all your students a great evening. They too will do the same and look forward to seeing you again the next day!
The author is a teacher educator and language trainer based in Chennai. She can be reached at [email protected].