So you’re looking for ten tips for stress management? Granted, stress management in the workplace is a serious business, please excuse me then, if I take a lighthearted tone in the following ten guerilla tips for stress management….the stuff most teachers will never tell you.
Most stress management articles are full of common sense so I won’t patronize you by telling you to keep fit and avoid burgers. After all that’s what we tell the kids, so why tell you? However, the following ten tips for stress management is a list of rather idiosyncratic stress management strategies that I have imparted over the years, normally in bars at around 9pm or later. So pull up a chair, take a grain of salt and indulge me.
1. Be Ruthless
With your time I mean. Teachers could work 24 hours a day and never finish. There is always more, there is always guilt. Decide when to stop work each day and stop. You may love it but its just a job and for you to do it well over the long term, you have to be happy and healthy.
2. Quit Your Job
This is really important. Every five years, make it habit to quit your job and take a sabbatical. Make it a year of doing whatever the hell you like. The sense of relief and pleasure is so great that it can, after your year, propel you successfully through another five-year stretch. I’ve been a teacher for 18 years: most people do less time for murder. The real reason I’ve been able to do this without murdering anyone myself, or more likely suffering a stroke is that I’ve quit. Twice. And boy did it feel good.
3. Read Erich Fromm
Understand narcissistic projection, comprehend the third reality and practice forgiveness. Picture the scene: I was 17. I was in my school library. Not revising. Instead I was totally and utterly absorbed by one of the only two books I have ever stolen. It was Erich Fromm ‘The Art of Loving’. In fact I was almost certainly reading about how Freud’s view of human relationships plays out in our daily lives. You see, we don’t really 'see' people at all. We narcissistically project our fears and fantasies on to them instead. For example, when I get angry at my manager for reminding me about deadlines; I'm not really angry with her, I’m actually angry with myself because she’s busting me on my secret fear of being lazy. Look at it this way: there’s my reality, your reality and the third reality, between me and you. Live in the third reality, sit outside your conflicts and observe them. You’ll feel a whole lot better (if a little foolish), when you realize that most of what upsets us is illusion and that we can only change others’ response if we disengage from our own. Cool huh?
4. Ditch The Crazymaker
Somewhere in your life lies a Crazymaker. These people are often close friends or colleagues and you often socialize with them and have generally positive feelings for them. Except for one thing. They make you crazy and cause you endless problems. It could be that they are disorganized, or often ill. Or genuinely crazy. Lets not discount that. My advice is: get out. However much you like or get on with them, they will suck every last drop of energy, enthusiasm and effort out of you. Your job will become twice as hard because you have to continually cover for them in a myriad of ways. In the end it will be you or them. Choose you. Unless of course you married one, in which case you may want to exit this site and try searching the web for other more relevant content.
5. Become A Wizard
I don’t really care whether you believe it or not. Magic works. When you get in to work and do not want to see your name on the cover board that day, visualize someone else's name and yours will not appear. The day you forget to do this will be the day you get cover. By the same token, when you get in late and need that last parking space, visualize it and it will appear. When you get into work feeling hung over, clearly picture yourself having a really good day and you will. Don’t argue with me, try it and then keep trying it. If you feel the need, have a read of The Cosmic Ordering Service: A Guide to Realizing Your Dreamsor even The Secret.
6. Give The Idiots What They Need
Some people are idiots. Accept it. They just are. And many of them get promoted way beyond their actual competence. Why that is I have not yet worked out, but it happens. Now the thing about promoted idiots is that deep down they actually realize that they are idiots. They can’t fully accept this fact, of course, but they do feel that something is not quite right with the world: people don’t show them enough respect, don’t immediately applaud or accept their idiotic ideas, opinions and ‘initiatives’. This is why promoted idiots need a lot of reassurance and this is why they seem to persecute those who do not reassure them regularly. Look, its not going to hurt you to play low status to these people who desperately need to feel high status. Make them feel important. Nod and smile at the appropriate moments and make them feel good about themselves and their stupid whole school literacy policies. Then they will see you as an ally, give you a far easier time and go and persecute your colleagues. It’s a tough world. Live in it.
7. Grow A Pair
Of my ten tips for stress management, this is possibly the most important. Draw a line in the sand that no-one crosses and refuse to be anyone’s victim, in class, in school and in life. The first time I ‘lost it’ with a kid, my colleagues could apparently hear me two corridors away. Needless to say, the kid in question who had been a complete nightmare in my lessons never troubled me again. More importantly however, I gained a level of self -respect that has never left me. Do not under any circumstances be anyone’s victim. Generally speaking, tip number 6 of these ten tips for stress management, will get you out of most trouble but if anyone tries to bully you then tell them that this is what they are doing and they will back off. All bullies really are both idiots and cowards. They’ll move on to the next victim. If the bully is your pupil, then try the other advice in this site. If that fails, isolate them and properly loose it with them. As long as they don’t laugh, any immediate outcome is fine. It’s the long-term effect you are after.
8. Don't Get Promoted
Remember that schools are machines and that you are a cog. The larger the cog the more pressure is placed on it. Be absolutely sure before you accept the job of dealing with the aftermath of other (less proficient) teacher’s problems and become a pastoral manager. I know that someone has got to do it, but honestly, before you get seduced, flattered or guilted into applying, actually look closely and those more senior to you and notice who smiles more, you or them. Then think laterally and understand that you can move sideways and out as well as up. In my career, I have worked in three schools, taught four subjects and still earn quite nicely, thank you very much. I have also seen many people promoted, who, having realized the error of their decision, become stuck doing a job they loathe.
9. Remember That You Are Not A Teacher
You simply do a job. An important, socially useful and ultimately rewarding job, but a job nonetheless. Granted you need to ‘put on a costume’ and ‘do a performance’ whenever you walk into a classroom. Just remember to take the costume off at the end of the day (in fact at the end of each lesson). There is nothing sadder than going on holiday and being able to tell who the teachers are, just by the way they speak to their children.
10. Start Digging
The last of my ten tips for stress management encourages you to look to the future. Take a good look around the staff room at the teachers who have been there 25 years and more and decide if you want to look and sound like them at their age. Then start digging. Teaching is a young person’s game, particularly these days and thankfully plenty of young people still want to do it. But in my view, it’s no longer a job for life. Too many colleagues retire without telling anyone and suffer their last years at work, waiting for their pension, when with a little ingenuity and foresight they could have fashioned an alternative career for themselves that would be pleasant enough to occupy them well beyond their retirement years. For more on this see the sections:
Having read over these ten tips for stress management, I realize that very few of the above pieces of advice applies to children. This is for two reasons. Firstly I like to think that I have dealt with managing children in the course of writing my site. Secondly, I have always found pupils simple to manage compared to other adults and worst of all: myself.
Of course if stress really is getting you down, then I invite you to visit the next page, which deals with
depression self help.