by Brenda Maurao, Assistant Principal at Miller Elementary School in Holliston, Massachusetts
“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”
Think about your favorite teacher growing up. What made that teacher so special? Maybe he or she made learning fun and made you feel loved and capable. The new demands placed on teachers recently, including educator evaluation and high-stakes testing, have changed the climate in many of our schools. In my current role as assistant principal in an elementary school, I make an active effort to remind teachers why they chose our field and to promote a positive culture despite these increased demands.
Below are a five strategies that have helped teachers in my building combat stress in the classroom:
- Celebrate Successes: It is essential to foster a positive climate in the school that allows staff to celebrate personal and group successes. As I walk around the building each day, I observe so many wonderful interactions with students and staff. It is important to acknowledge and showcase these moments, both publically at staff meetings and privately with individuals.
- Share Some Inspiration: I share inspirational quotes, videos and stories through email or at meetings. I look for inspiration from a variety of online sources, including Kid President http://kidpresident.com/. I also encourage teachers to create an inspiration board on Pinterest or follow an inspiring leader on Twitter.
- Support a Collaborative Culture: Structures need to be created that encourage and cultivate a collaborative culture where teachers reach out to one another for support. One way to do that is to establish weekly routines with your colleagues to plan together, discuss student work and concerns and share best practices. Teachers do not need to be experts at everything, but they need to know there are people to turn to to get the answers they need.
- Take a Break: Encourage teachers to find time in their day to take a break. Students can sense when a teacher is stressed and overwhelmed and this has a direct impact on their behavior. Many teachers integrate whole class sensory breaks in their classrooms, utilizing strategies from yoga, Brain Gym or GoNoodle.
- Manage Time Wisely: Teachers can reflect on their most efficient time of day, and maximize work production during this time. They can come into school a little early and stay a little late, but then shut work off once they get home from school. It is also important to eat lunch every day. If teachers are struggling with time management, seek out a colleague or administrator who can help prioritize and problem-solve.