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Ask Dr. Lynch: Stress Busters for Teachers

EducationWorld Q&A columnist Dr. Matthew Lynch is an associate professor of education at Langston University. Dr. Lynch provides expert advice on everything from classroom management to differentiated instruction. Read all of his columns here, and be sure to submit your own question.

Dr. Matthew Lynch

This week, reader Dorothy T. asks:

I am a veteran teacher with over 20 years of teaching experience, but with every passing year, I am moving closer and closer to burning out. I enjoy what I do, but the day-to-day stress of the profession is beginning to overwhelm me. What can I do to alleviate my stress and avoid burning out?


Thanks for your question and for all that you have done for the education field over the past 20 years. Have you ever thought about the kinds of things that you accomplish before the school bell even rings to signal the end of the day? In all probability, you would already have handled squabbles and power struggles, and shouted louder than any coach on the field. Teaching can be satisfying but also exhausting.

Unfortunately, teachers do not have the luxury of checking into a spa for a few weeks to alleviate the stress that may be causing them to age prematurely. But there are some stress-busting strategies that you can use, such as the following:

  1. Tackle each problem by breaking it down into manageable tasks. If you have to plan a school event, rather than diving into it immediately, start by making a checklist of what needs to be accomplished.
  2. Remind yourself of why you decided to become a teacher, focusing on the aspects that you enjoy the most. Make sure that you do something that you enjoy each day.
  3. Remember that kids can be cruel at times, and that the only way to deal with this challenge is to avoid taking it personally.
  4. If things are becoming too tight, look to Mother Nature for some peace. Take a class on a field trip, or move outdoors for a session.
  5. Do not wait for summer vacation or the Christmas holidays to enjoy a hobby; these can be great stress busters that keep you feeling happy and cheerful.
  6. Don’t get too caught up in a power struggle with a child.  
  7. Get away during the day by eating a quick lunch and taking a walk. Do not think about the next class while doing so. Just take in the sounds and sights around you; do not feel guilty about the 10 minutes that you are putting aside for yourself.
  8. While you may have coffee brewing at all times in the faculty room, avoid too much coffee. Caffeine can make you irritable and twitchy, something that you cannot afford when you are with children.
  9. It is impossible to please everyone at the same time. So, while you should make the effort to keep your colleagues, parents, students, principal and yourself happy, understand that this is not possible all the time.
  10. Ignore the rumors around school completely.
  11. Learn when to say no to additional projects that you may be asked to handle.

I hope that these tips will help ease some of your stress. At the end of the day, take solace in the fact that there are very few people who get paid to do something that they enjoy, and who also have the opportunity to positively impact the lives of young people..


About Dr. Lynch

Dr. Matthew Lynch is a Chair and Associate Professor of Education at Langston University and a blogger for the Huffington Post. Dr. Lynch also is the author of the newly released book It’s Time for a Change: School Reform for the Next Decade and A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories. Please visit his Web site for more information.

If you have a question for “Ask Dr. Lynch,” submit it here. Topics can be anything education-related, from classroom management to differentiated instruction.

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