Classroom Pressures Wearing You Down? Try These Tips to Improve Your Outlook
Teaching, when done well and with full intention, is a demanding way to earn a living. It’ll inevitably leave you feeling drained or even depressed from time to time. Remember that this isn’t specific to you. Everyone feels the effects of our work from time to time — especially during the long, cold winters of our northern latitudes.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to offset these feelings without eating a box of Oreos and hiding under the covers all weekend. Give these ideas a try if you’re feeling down:
Call families’ homes for a good reason
Take a look at your grade book and pull out the names and phone numbers of some of your top students. Don’t just go with those with the highest grades; consider those with the best personalities, who work hardest, who are most compassionate and who make the most positive contributions to the class.
Call their homes and thank their parents for the great job their child is doing. Let them know how their child is contributing to the class, and how you would love to have more students just like theirs.
In the a minute or two it takes to make the call you’ll fill the family with pride, build goodwill with the student and give yourself an instant lift. You’ll get double the benefit if you call the home of a child who has struggled in the past.
Keep problems in perspective
When somebody’s going through a hard time, I don’t remind them how good they really have it (that’s a great way to alienate your friends). When I’m feeling down about the little hindrances sprinkled throughout my life, I work hard to remind myself that my problems are at best petty annoyances that for the most part work themselves out.
I also remind myself that bothersome situations aren’t for me alone. When I remember that other people are having a hard time, I find it easier to be accepting of them, and also feel better about what is bothering me.
Work hard to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in your daily life. As an added bonus, you’ll find that when you’re positive and happy, you’ll tend to attract other positive and happy people. And all of you, in turn, will feel better about your challenges.
Work on your sleep/eat/life balance
Don’t underestimate the ability of daily movement, good food and quality sleep to improve your attitude. I’m fond of passing along the observation that the worst day for behavior in any organization is Thursday. By the fourth morning of the work week, you’ve woken up for work four days in a row and still have one more day to go. That’s tiring for everybody.
Along with that, what you eat during the day helps to fuel you and adds to your body’s internal chemistry. Shy away from too much sugar, processed foods or just plain, old-fashioned junk. Try to keep fresh fruit handy when the mid-afternoon cravings hit.
At bedtime, leave your smartphone in another room. More and more studies are showing that using smartphones in darkened bedrooms is throwing off our morning/night sleeping cycles. Being overly tired, hungry and annoyed with life is a great recipe for a terrible day.
Think about your friends
I say this to the point of cliché because it’s so true to my experience: You’re going to represent the average of your five closest friends. If your friends are negative, gloomy and unhappy, they’ll make you the same way.
Be aware of who your friends are, because you will become more like them over time. For the most part, positive colleagues are those who host students for extra help during lunch, volunteer for school activities, and rarely complain about the school. They refuse to see challenging students as burdens but rather as those who need more time to grow, and should be treated with compassion and patience. You’ll find it nearly impossible to stay down around their infectious personalities.