Reduce Teaching Anxiety

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

If this school year is your first as a new educator, and you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. The first month or so of school may have seemed like a sprint, but getting through the first year successfully is really a marathon. Keeping a frenetic pace is not uncommon for new teachers, but it is probably not sustainable. October and November are difficult months to get through without making some type of adjustment to how you’re using your time. Make no mistake: there are many factors that contribute to this stress and anxiety. You can’t necessarily solve this issue by yourself. Still, there are steps you can take. Here are some basics on acting more and reacting less as a first-year teacher:

Step 1: Prioritize Your Responsibilities Outside the Classroom

  • Rest: Set a bedtime and stick to it.
  • Food: Define what healthy eating means to you, and spend time each week stocking up on what you need. You will save time and money by being proactive about food.
  • Body: Make time to exercise. Start an exercise club at your school where you go on walks at lunch. Find groupons for cheap yoga studios. Make it a priority to do at least one activity a week.
  • Mind: Figure out how to deal with stress. Take up a gratitude practice, or try mindfulness or meditation.
  • Family and community: Teaching can be oddly isolating, so make time to hang out with other adults. Have lunch with other teachers, connect with people you care about, and be involved in a community outside of school.

Step 2: Prioritize Your Responsibilities Inside the Classroom

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

Besides the obvious lesson planning and grading, there’s a lot that can eat up your time during the day: meetings, communicating with parents, responding to emails, student interactions, and so forth.

  • Focus your time and attention on the most important responsibilities and then find shortcuts to help you deal with the rest. Next year, you can spend more time on these things, but it’s okay to set limits and not do everything perfectly this year. For example, if classroom management is wearing you down, spend your time planning engaging and structured lessons, and find a way to cut down on grading time.

Step 3: Practice Predicting the Challenges of Each Day

  • Spend a quick 30 minutes each Sunday to look at your week. Try to anticipate what’s coming. Do you have meetings? Forms due? Deadlines? Where are there potential pitfalls?
  • Anticipate challenging days for your students, and don’t take it personally when lessons don’t go well.
  • Evaluate your actions, especially when you’re tired. Make sure you’re not reacting to a problem but you’re intentionally acting in an effective way.

A work-life balance is already hard to obtain, and in the throes of your first year of teaching it might seem altogether out of reach. However, by moving more intentionally through your days and weeks, you can shape your experience in a more positive and satisfying way.

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