Monday, August 17, 2009

Easing Teachers' Anxieties

Let’s face it. When school starts, we all face anxiety – the student, the parents, and the teacher. It is a stressful time because we are facing the unknown. The student usually doesn’t know the teacher or the new rules and may even be facing a new school. The parents don’t know what their child will be facing or if their child will be able to succeed. The teacher doesn’t really know the student or what motivates this child. Everyone wants to do their best and be successful so it is always good to start off on the right track.

In 5 Ideas to Ease "Back to School Anxiety" from School Psychologist Blog Files by Erin N. King, there are some great suggestions for easing a child’s anxiety.

“1. Keep your own anxiety in check.
2. Get Familiar.
3. Have a trial run.
4. Talk.
5. Get help if needed.”

These are great suggestions. But what can teachers do to ease their own anxiety in order to help their students? Here are my suggestions:

1. Call parents before school starts. Introduce yourself and give a little background. This will help you know the parent and the parent will have a great impression of you from the start.

2. Get organized. Plan your first week ahead of time. You may not know the kids yet but have a tentative plan of activities. Nothing is worse for you and the students if they get bored. You may have to adjust and modify but at least you won’t be starting from scratch.

3. Make a list and prioritize it. Sometimes I would be so overwhelmed by the beginning of school that I would have tons of things I needed and wanted to do. It helped me focus if I made a list and started doing the things that had to be done immediately. When I was able to cross them off the list when completed, it helped me feel like I accomplished something and kept me from feeling defeated.
4. Determine your rules and consequences before school starts. Find a way to post these in your classroom before the students show up.

5. If possible, set up your classroom before your first day of work. (My husband would kill me for saying this because he hates the thought of me working and not getting paid. I always felt like this extra effort helped me from going crazy so it was worth it!) The first week of work usually involved lots of meetings and paperwork. When I didn’t have to worry about setting up my classroom, it helped me focus on other things I needed to do.

6. Stop for lunch! This is a biggie in my book. I have seen too many teachers prepare for students and not stop for lunch. You need this down time in order to reenergize your body. This is a great time to network and bond with your coworkers. These are the people who will be in your support group when you need it. Don’t take it for granted that they will always be there for you just because you work together. You need to nurture this relationship. You also need to nurture your body. The first few weeks are exhausting and you do not need to get sick during this time. In fact, eating right will help you face these stressful times because stress wears down the immune system.

If you have any other suggestions to add, please let me know in the comments. I hope some of these will help teachers start off their year successfully. It really does help if you feel on top of the world rather than bulldozed by it.

Original image: 'happy birthday, baby mantis (hello, cruel world)' by: woodley wonderworks


Jessica Harwood said...

I'm glad I ran across your blog. You are totally right about taking time for lunch- just the break and talking with other faculty helps me relax and recharge.

TGrant said...

One other item that reduces anxiety is experience. Unfortunately, only time takes care of that. Entering my fourth year in my current position there is much less anxiety than there was in my first year.
Planning really is the key to reducing start of the year anxiety. I try to focus on getting my students off to a strong, organized start, because their experience (positive or negative) affects the level of anxiety in my school year.
Also, thanks for the comment on my blog. It was encouraging.

Meaghan said...

These are all great suggestions. I also think taking time to relax, step back,recharge, and socialize during lunch is key!

raj said...

nice blog ....gud info..thx.

Work from home

Tom DeRosa said...

Don't just stop for lunch--make sure you make time for breakfast in the morning as well!

Meanwhile, I keep dancing said...

Thanks for the reminders..I needed them!