Teacher Stress Relief

This year as I settle into my new role as school counselor, memories of teaching and the stress associated with it still linger.  I don't think anyone could have ever prepared me for the amount of responsibility and worry that goes along with being a teacher.  Balancing the needs of the students, with the demands of the state, the expectations from admin, evaluations, the requests from parents, and the paperwork was overwhelming.  I admire anyone who can teach and keep it together.  There were times when I felt my sanity slipping.

As a counselor, I want to keep teacher needs on my priority list.  I think it is important to keep our teachers healthy and mentally balanced.  They are so busy that they sometimes forget about self-care. 

Exercise is one of the easiest ways to reduce stress, yet it can also be one of the hardest things for teachers to fit into their schedules.  This year, I kept thinking how nice it would be if we just had an exercise machine or two at the school for those days when getting to the gym was not within reach.  So, I decided just to "ask" for donations on a facebook group in our community.  Boy was I surprised.  We had four machines donated within a few hours.  BAM!  The new teacher fitness center was born.  Ask and you shall receive?!!!

Teacher "work room" becomes "work OUT" room. 

Made this calendar to sign up for the machines.

This make-over was the first step.  In honor of Stress Awareness Month in April, I plan to create a "Fitness Challenge" binder for teachers to compete for weekly prizes. 

Purchase the Stress Busters for Teachers Pack
For Teachers trying to keep track of weight loss, I found these cute weight loss trackers all over etsy.  Just put stickers in the left side representing the number of pounds you need to lose.  Move the stickers to the right as you lose!  I clipped mine into my Teacher Planner.

Homemade Gifts

My favorite gifts from students have always been the homemade kind.  I have never been one to purchase Chex Mix.  I mean, I would eat it if it was the only food around, but it was never my favorite type of food.  So when this sweetie pie brought me a baggie of her family recipe during the holidays,  I didn't think much about it.  But she insisted that it was like no other. So I opened it up to taste it before sharing the rest with my family.  Let's just say, after the first bite, I was hooked.  (My family never had a chance.)  Ever since, I've been throwing hints at her to get the recipe.  Then today..... she brought me these little tubs of crack as I will now lovingly refer to them.  She even wrote the recipe in her own "best" handwriting.  Don't you love the name?  "Wham Bam Thank ya Ma'am!"  It does have a kick to it which is probably why I love it so much. 

This can was my breakfast and lunch today.  Maybe a can will make it home to my family!

Positive Minds Think Alike

In the mid 90's, during my undergrad days of studying Psychology at "Memphis State," I became hooked on the idea of positive reinforcement.  This is the idea that rewarding positive behaviors will shape behavior.  Wait, we can shape another person's behavior?  Isn't that like hypnotism?  How cool is that?!  I want some of that.  So I took notes,  I observed interactions between students and teachers, kids and parents, and I became addicted to how to get others to behave a certain way.  Words have power.  Words communicate expectations.  How exciting that idea was to me. 

So, positive reinforcement is a powerful tool that can shape behavior in children, other adults, and in ourselves.  It's a little more complicated than merely using positive words, but thinking positively, praising others often, and going out of your way to be nice can drastically change your life for the better. For one thing, you'll have more friends because nobody wants to hang around a Negative Nelly or Debbie Downer.

The key to effectively shaping the behavior of others is to accept the idea that all humans are innately good or that they at least want to be.  It means conveying the idea that your expectations of them are to be a rock star and that you truly believe in them.

 Wow, talk about seeing the glass half full, Anne.  You are amazing.

Now consider this, when a child is misbehaving, the natural instinct would be to get upset with the child and want to punish them.  But perhaps a more effective method of shaping the child's behavior would be to look for the root of the problem and find ways to help that child.  There's a reason why he/she acts this way.  Find that reason and take it away.  Maybe they get attention by acting up.  Take that away.  Ignore fits and tantrums.  But you have to replace it with something.  So look for that one second when they do something right, and give them an enormous amount of attention for that.  "Look at you putting away your toy!  You are so kind for picking up after yourself."  Positive reinforcement is a SLOOOOOW process sometimes and it's tempting to use negative reinforcement because of it's immediate results, but if you want to shape behavior for the long term, it's worth the extra time and effort. 

What it looks like for you as an individual:
Catching negative thoughts in their tracks and making an effort to change them.  I'm not a morning person, so I have to do this EVERY morning when I wake up.  A mental pep talk if you will... "You got this, it's going to be a great day.. go get'em."
Give yourself compliments.  (Think Stuart Smalley SNL circa 1980's)
Fake it til you make it.  Pretend to be happy even when you're not. 
Look for the positive in any situation no matter how dire.  If it's not there, create it.

Side note:  I admire morning people! I'm trying really hard to become one... currently I'm somewhere in between these two people:
Ok, back to what I was saying...


What this looks like for parents:
Reward good behavior with compliments.
Let your kids catch you talking great about them. (even when they don't deserve it)
Occasionally give a prize for good behavior.  (Be careful with giving children too many "prizes" because you don't  it to turn into bribery..)
Ignore bad behavior whenever possible.  Distract the child by pointing out something positive going on nearby or simply changing the subject.  You might have to hone in on your acting skills.

What it looks like for teachers in the classroom:
Point out students who are acting appropriately and praise their efforts.
Don't bring attention to negative behavior.  Address those children privately or discreetly.
Leave positive notes on their papers about their personal strengths.
Call home to brag on the student.
Brag about your class to other teachers.

I think it all just boils down to giving unconditional love to others even when they don't deserve it.  Expect them to be great and give them time to live up to that expectation.  We are all a work in progress.

Go forth and spread the love!

My new office door signs!
click to see more

Click picture to see more

Click picture to see more!
This bundle includes one of my favorites.. The Shout-Out binder.  Faculty passes it around to spread cheer through the building.  Last time I read the one at our school, I cried.

Click to see products!

The Teacher's Lounge

The teacher's lounge can be a place of inspiration or bellyaching.  Typically, the climate of the school can be found in the lounge.  It's the heart of the school.

When I was a substitute teacher in the late 90's, I had the privilege of visiting many lounges.  One thing that I learned quickly was that you better ask before sitting just anywhere.  Some teachers have their own "spots" that they have been sitting in for years, maybe decades.  You don't want to end up in THAT spot.

The lounge has a different meaning to me now that I'm a counselor.  As a teacher, it was a place to vent, to exchange ideas, and hang out with my colleagues.  It was a sanctuary of respite even for a brief moment as we inhaled our lunches.  I was always appreciative of the little things brought in by the administrators to make it feel more like home, from the Principals old lounge chair in the corner, to the secretary's picture frames from her last home remodel on the walls.  But now that I'm a counselor, I spend very little time in there. However, I realize the potential of the lounge to remind teachers that they are appreciated. 

Earlier this year, we posted positive thought bubbles on the mirrors in the bathrooms.  As silly as it sounds, it's always nice to be reminded of our self worth.


Lunch with the Counselor

Click picture to see more.
Having lunch with a student is a small investment that has a lasting impact.  Whether it's a lunch bunch, small group, or an individual lunch with a student, it is well worth the time.

I love getting to know my students individually.  Building relationships is essential in the counseling relationship as well as in the teacher-student relationship.  If students know that we authentically care for their well-being, they are going to perform better academically.  It's a win-win situation.

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." - Leo Buscaglia