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20 Teacher-Tested Tips
For a Stress-Free Year

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Do you greet the start of a new school year with anticipation liberally laced with anxiety? Does the pressure of dealing with student lethargy, parental demands, and administrative imperatives cause you to wear a path in your hardwood floors? Is ulcer medication the first item on your weekly grocery list? Have you tried all the traditional tips for lowering job-related stress and found them ineffective? Have we got a tip (or 20) for you!



A great deal has been written about what teachers can do to ensure a successful school year. The typical tips range from "plan, plan, and over-plan" to "establish a cooperative relationship with parents, colleagues, and administrators." Most of those tips are sensible and well intentioned, but few make a significant difference in the average teacher's stress level. Teachers today need more powerful and useful strategies for dealing with difficult students, parents, and job-related responsibilities.

As you start this school year, therefore, throw out the traditional wisdom of ivory-tower experts and try instead some of my



20 Teacher-Tested Tips for a Stress-Free Year
  1. Start the year off right. Encourage your most difficult students to sign up for your new "distance-learning" program. Distribute postage stamps to students without a home computer.
  2. Contact parents and inform them that, in order to eliminate instructional differences due to teacher quality, their children will be following a curriculum in which success will be determined strictly by the effectiveness of their parenting.
  3. Adjust your locks so classroom doors can only be opened from the outside with a key. Be generous with restroom passes.
  4. Inform students that extra credit will be given for silence during class discussions.
  5. As part of a native studies unit, teach your students how to perform a rain dance. (This works best in cold climates.)
  6. Tell students you have a weak immune system and that they will be excused immediately if they come to school complaining of a sore throat or stomachache.
  7. Enroll in a wine-of-the-week club.
  8. Hold a daily lottery in which the winner gets to take the next day off. Fix the results so your most difficult students win often.
  9. Inform your principal that you have developed a rare allergy to extra-curricular activities.
  10. Obtain a just-in-case prescription for a mood enhancer. Fill it.
  11. Establish a year-long careers unit. Each week, trade places with one of your students and allow that student to explore a teaching career while you lounge in the back of the room. Practice heckling and snoring to give students a realistic view of the profession.
  12. Inform your principal that you have developed a gender-related condition that requires a 15-minute restroom break every hour.
  13. Keep your desk drawer well stocked with chocolate and Tums.
  14. Grade on a two-point curve -- A and B.
  15. Casually mention that your significant other is a juvenile court judge and your brother is a mob enforcer. Joke about how effective that combination can be in dealing with troublesome students.
  16. Start a petition for a Starbucks kiosk in the teachers' lounge.
  17. Administer a quiz every Friday afternoon. Announce that incorrect answers will affect students' grades, but that absent students will not be penalized or required to make up the quiz.
  18. Inform your principal that you have developed situational agoraphobia and can no longer assume recess or cafeteria duties.
  19. Encourage parents to visit your classroom often. Casually mention the piles of papers that need correcting -- and your hope that they also will be willing to help out with cafeteria and recess duty.
  20. Take early retirement.

Linda Starr, a former teacher and the mother of four grown children, has been an education writer for nearly two decades.


Updated: 04/18/2015