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Stress Busters:
Keeping Your Cool
Amid Classroom Chaos


Attendance forms. Lunch count. Lesson plans. Transition times. Test preparation. Homework correction. Bus duty. Lunch duty. Recess duty. State standards. National standards. Community standards. Computer crash. Paper shortage. Field trip cancelled. Prowling principal. Peeved parents. Cranky colleagues. Too many specials! Surly kids. Sad kids. Hurt kids. Struggling kids. Can there possibly be a job more stressful than teaching? Can there be a job that requires more patience, more understanding, more calm consideration? Whats a teacher to do?

We asked members of the Education World Tech Team for their suggestions for keeping ones cool amid career challenges and classroom chaos. This is what they said.

Stress Busters? said Mary Kreul. Thats a great topic for teachers at any time, but especially at this busy time of year. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Listen to music I love. My favorites are jazz and Irish music.
  • Read a book that has no connection to teaching -- preferably one with an upbeat theme --and then recommend it to a friend.
  • Catch up on reading all those magazines on my coffee table -- especially travel magazines.
  • Whip up a batch of delicious chocolate chip cookies.
  • Go to the mall and window shop for colorful spring clothes.
  • Leave work on time and take a walk outside on a bright, sunny day.
  • Learn something new just for fun. I'm working on how to create podcasts.
  • Go out for lunch or dinner on the weekend to catch up with family and friends.

I have two favorite ways to beat stress, Vicky Romano told Education World. One is exercise and the other is having a quick bite with colleagues. Walking my very big dog each morning is critical for a good day. We enjoy the fresh air and just getting out and about early when many people are still asleep. I also like to have a quick snack with colleagues to just catch up on work. Sometimes we rely too much on e-mail and I miss the contact with people. We are trying to make an effort to see one another over certain issues and getting out and away from the computer for a break.

Carol Midgett shared these favorite ways to beat stress:

  • Find a reason to laugh.
  • Do some relaxation therapy by thinking of my favorite place to be and envisioning experiences that make me happy when I'm there.
  • Complete several quick, simple tasks and then work on more complex ones.
  • Change my work location.
  • Do something for someone else.
  • Treat myself to a trip to the spa.
  • Read the news to realize how fortunate I am.
  • Make a list of my blessings, personal and professional.

I am sure this one will be unique, Julia Timmons noted. In our school, we have the amazing opportunity of having a 500-gallon touch-tank salt water coral reef aquarium. Ive always loved aquariums and this one is just way too much fun! Ive taken up helping the teacher in charge with the care of the tank, and stop by almost every day just to look in on the creatures. I even come in on weekends and holidays sometimes to share the load. (Its kind of like having dairy cows -- there is daily feeding and maintenance.) It is amazingly and wonderfully relaxing. Sometimes when my work stress gets really bad, I just wander by for a few minutes to chill out. Another thing I love to do is play word games on the computer. My favs are Word Slinger and Hoyle Word games. I compete only against the computer and don't care what my high score is. Somehow, for me, thats very relaxing. Lastly, music is always terrific relaxation.

Cossondra Georges favorite stress busters include

  • outdoor exercise -- especially gardening, hiking, snowshoeing, and walking on the beach; anything that clears the mind and soul with fresh air!
  • time at home with my husband and miniature beagle, Scout.
  • time at school to do something fun with my students when the stress level there is too high for them and me. A game day works wonders for making everyone breathe easier.

We installed a hot tub this past summer, Linda George noted. One effective way for me to beat stress is to come home and sit in the therapy seat and let those jets pummel all the areas that my muscles are begging for!

I read a book with no one around, added Fred Holmes, or play solitaire on the computer -- hoping no one is looking over my shoulder.

My two favorite ways to beat stress, said Midge Liggan, are to

  • attend a weekly dinner outing with three teacher friends. Every Thursday, we meet at a local restaurant and share good and bad from our week. We generate some truly hilarious solutions to problems, and it is always good to get an objective, yet understanding, viewpoint.
  • attend as many local professional ice hockey games as possible. The action is so fast paced that if you want to keep up, you cant be thinking about a lot of other stuff. I find that mind hiatus to be a great stress buster. Of course, the scream therapy during the games helps too!

For the past seventeen years, Wally Fuller told Education World, a special group of male and female friends have been playing Sunday basketball. The games started on the backyard half-court of an attorney. During rainy or winter weather, we manage to move to a local high school court. There, we become the distinguished gentlemens basketball league. From our insurance pool, we donate to the local athletic fund. Most of us are over fifty, and several are in their sixties. Picture anywhere from six (3 on 3) to sixteen (4 on 4 in two half court games when we move indoors) elderly athletes pounding on each other until one team scores 120 points (four 30-point periods with plenty of rest). I can think of no better stress reliever.

Stress is a major problem for most of us, said Katy Wonnacott. I think it can poison the teacher-student relationship if you arent careful to catch it quick. Away from school, I swim, walk, play Dance Dance Revolution on the Xbox360, play other video games on the Wii and, if all else fails, I find a good book and take a bubble bath. Take a bubble bath is fast becoming the way my friends sign off their e-mails. At school, as a class, we do stretching exercises. Depending on what topic were studying, I try to make up a little movement oriented mind map. (For example, we make hula hoop motions and say latitude; make arm circle motions up and down and say longitude, and so on.) If stress is caused by personal friction, I try to do a group activity online at the Smart Board to break the tension.

And finally, that rarity among us -- an unstressed educator! Well, I honestly don't feel I have a lot of stress, said Bernie Poole. Stress is a state of mind mostly, don't you think? I'm pretty laid back, so maybe that's my predominant stress buster. I do have times when I'm under a lot of pressure to get things done and I relieve that stress bydrum rollgetting things done! I procrastinate to whatever degree I can get away with, but I do pride myself on doing what I set out to do. I often set myself arbitrary deadlines so as to pin myself down. So, I guess you could say that deadlines are a stress buster for me.

Who Are They?

The Education World Tech Team includes more than 30 dedicated and knowledgeable educational-technology professionals who have volunteered to contribute to occasional articles that draw on their varied expertise and experience. The following Tech Team members contributed to this article:

* Wally Fuller, technology teacher, Upper Lake Middle School, Upper Lake, California
* Cossondra George, middle-level math and social studies instructor, Newberry Middle School, Newberry, Michigan
* Linda George, technology integration specialist, Dondero School, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
* Patrick J Greene, PhD, Florida Gulf Coast University, Educational Technology Department
* Fred Holmes, high school LanManager/Webmaster, Osceola Public Schools, Osceola, Nebraska
* Mary Kreul, 4th grade teacher, Richards Elementary School, Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin
* Bernard John Poole, Associate Professor of Education and Instructional Technology, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (Pennsylvania)
* Vicky Romano, Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois
* Julia Timmons, instructional technology specialist, Lynchburg City Schools, Lynchburg, Virginia
* Jennifer Wagner, technology educator and integration specialist, Technospud

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