Wednesday, December 3, 2014

10 Tips for Staying Sane When It Seems Like Everything is Changing

Cha, Cha, Cha, Cha, Changes... I think I like David Bowie's song better than I actually like change. Most of us aren't big fans of change. In education, things are certainly changing.

It's easy to get overwhelmed as a teacher. Kids change. Standards change. Administration can change. We can be moved to a new subject or grade level. We are being asked to do more and more. High-stakes testing is raising the stakes for us by involving scores in our evaluations. There's a lot going on.

My district has had an override fail, so we know more changes are coming. We are implementing relatively new College and Career Readiness Standards and we've implemented Beyond Textbooks this year. I'm seeing my colleagues (myself included) feeling more and more overwhelmed about work, so how can we chill out especially during this busy holiday season?

  1. Remember, there's a change curve. Give yourself a little break. Things aren't going to be perfect. It takes hard work and time for changes to take effect. Try to be patient and go easy on yourself, your colleagues, and your students.
  2. Set realistic goals and refer to them frequently. My principal had me write down three simple goals for the year. I refer to them daily and prioritize my to-do list according to those goals. Having realistic goals is important (see #1).
  3. Stay Organized. This is the toughest one for me. I'm not naturally organized and I really have to work at it. But I know that if I let grading and clutter pile up, I'm going to be more stressed.
  4. Collaborate. It's hard coming up with new ideas for new standards and new expectations. Bounce ideas around with a colleague and see if you can divide up some of the work load if possible. 
  5. Have fun! Teaching is about kids. Lighten up and smile and laugh. It's good for the kids and good for you. If you "waste" 5 minutes of class joking around and laughing, you've probably saved 5 minutes of redirecting grumpy kids. Build relationships with your students and enjoy your time with them.
  6. Be positive. Complaining about change won't stop it. Putting off complying with new expectations can only hurt you and your students. I'm being a little tough and frank here, but I am speaking about our own personal happiness about work. If you want to be less stressed, try to avoid complaining and procrastinating
  7. When possible (and I know it isn't always), leave work at work or at least designate time at home for work and time at home for family, friends, hobbies, and leisure. You need to still have a life outside of work or work will consume you.
  8. Relax. Drink some tea or coffee. Listen to music. Take a few breaths of fresh air on your prep hour. Try to stop and smell the roses even while you're at work. 
  9. Be humble. I don't know what it is about us teachers but we are fiercely independent and often hate to ask for help. If you are struggling with something, ask a colleague for help. 
  10. Last but definitely not least... Go with the flow. The world of education has become a world of constant change. Gone are the days when we could use the same lesson plans year after year. We need to accept that this is the way it is and just go with it. 

What would you add? What helps you stay calm when you're feeling overwhelmed? Please comment below. 

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