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3 Simple Ways to Manage Teacher Workload Stress

3 Simple Ways to Manage Teacher Workload Stress

By H. E. James

The school year demands much of your time, between lesson planning, grading, and trying to find time to spend with your friends and family. All of this adds up to create an almost unbearable teacher workload, which can lead to stress for both you and your students, whether you’re a first-year educator or a veteran. (This is especially if you’re teaching in Florida!)

Managing these stresses will help in every aspect of your teaching, and there are many tools and resources available to help you do that. Start de-stressing now!

Workload at Any Level of Education

No matter how long you’ve been teaching, whether you’re an aide in a kindergarten class or the tenured professor of Latin at a prestigious university, a teacher workload is stressful.

Educators at Bradley University conducted a research project on their own workload across multiple disciplines. They surveyed their colleagues, collecting data on a variety of aspects of workload, including classroom teaching time, office hours, professional development and community service.

The researchers at Bradley found that the greater the workload, the more adversely the experience of the students was affected: “If faculty are dissatisfied with their workload, feel overwhelmed, and find themselves not achieving good student results, they suffer and consequently, students suffer,” researchers explained.

Unfortunately, much of your workload is likely dictated by factors outside your control. For example, my first year in the classroom, I taught a different class each period. I was “low woman on the totem pole” and got the “leftovers”—which is often (but not always) the case for first-year teachers.

This is especially hard to cope with when you don’t have a lot of support or tools to cope with your workload. For many teachers, it drives them to leave the profession. Here are three simple ways to reduce your workload stress, both in and out of the classroom.

1. Journal and SWOT

An Australian primary school assistant principal, Corinne, offers tips on doing a workload audit in a blog post from 2012. The two-part series started with precise instructions for taking stock of the work you do in the classroom. The first step in keeping stock of your work is to keep a diary of activities. I remember being advised by various administrators and mentors to document everything for classroom management purposes—this could be easily integrated into that process for one or two weeks.

Download a diary app such as Day One ($4.99), Flava (free), or Penzu (free). I’ve used both Flava and Day One, and have found Day One to be the best option. There are also plenty of Android journaling apps to get you started.

After categorizing the activities you do as an educator, Corinne recommends two processes which are echoed by other educators: perform a SWOT analysis of your activities, then identify and reduce those that cause you to waste the most time. Ask yourself: are there activities you can delegate, such as paper grading? If so, there are multiple apps available for collaboration and delegation. Check out some of them here.

More: The Zen of the First Week of School

2. Mindfulness

Along with auditing your workload, you can practice mindfulness in the classroom, a habit that’s valuable for you and your students. Mindfulness involves learning how to recognize your reactions to certain situations and how to direct yourself away from actions that are detrimental to you and those around you. How many teachers, first-year or 20-year, need a moment to reflect, especially in the first months of a new school?

The concept is being practiced in a number of schools in California districts; these schools saw dramatic decreases in suspension rates after implementing mindfulness practices.

If you’re not sure where to start with mindfulness, check out these apps and websites:

3. Hobbies

Once you’ve done all you can to reduce the minutiae of your workload, there are personal things you can do to alleviate the stresses of your workload as well. It’s easy to forget the “simple things,” like going to the gym or taking a yoga class. However, finding hobbies such as those or any other non-education-related activity will be helpful.

I loved teaching when I was doing it, but I needed time away from the 60 to 80 hours I spent in the classroom, grading papers, planning lessons, etc. The gym was my respite.

Happy You = Happy Students

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a workload you can manage. If your workload is unmanageable, and you can do something about it administratively, by all means do so. If you can’t, try a workload audit to identify the activities you can delegate, dismiss, or diminish.

Decreasing an unmanageable workload will decrease your stress levels, thereby decreasing the stress levels of your students and allowing you to be more focused. In the end, you only have control of yourself. Use mindfulness and de-stressing activities to make a better classroom environment for you and educational experience for your students.

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  1. Pingback: 3 Tools and Tips to Become a Reflective Teacher | Educational technology | Learn2Earn

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