Although the pressures faced by students when exam time comes around are well-documented there is less spotlight given to the stress placed on teachers. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to help manage this added mental strain.
The role of a teacher is one which provides the potential to make a genuine impact on the lives of numerous people. However, the possibility of being able to perform the job to the highest standard can be compromised considerably by the often overwhelming weight of responsibility and scrutiny. This can have a detrimental effect on a teacher’s working life and also on their happiness outside of the profession.
The pressures of the job can quickly leave many questioning whether all that they studied and worked for was worth it, as statistics from the Department for Education indicate. As these latest available figures show, in a 12-month period from November 2012, a reported 49,373 qualified teachers left state schools in the UK.
When it comes to exam time, the focus falls on the students and the pressures they experience, but it is also a notoriously stressful time for teachers. In June 2013, an article in The Guardian referenced a survey carried out by Teachers Assurance in which every single teacher identified that they were feeling stressed, with over 70% rating themselves at five or over on a seven-point scale. Additionally, 51% said they suffer from severe stress as a result of workplace worries, so with exam time in mind, how can you set about easing this?
Engage your body and free your mind
With your mind racing it can be difficult to slow it down enough to fall to sleep, however you can tackle this in more than one way. For example, routinely dedicating time before going to bed to completely emptying your thoughts and focusing on relaxation may take some practice but it can be done and it can help significantly.
The value of exercise cannot be underestimated; it increases the flow of endorphins in your body, makes you feel good, and empowered. Exercise in the evening can leave you feeling reinvigorated and much readier to fall asleep later that night.
Listen to the signs and step away
It is important to recognise when you are starting to feel stressed so you can then intervene. There are a few possible signs: you could have trouble breathing, you might be irritable or angry, or have a faster heartbeat than usual. Ask those around you if they notice your stress signs. Once you identify how you’re feeling, stop what you’re doing and take a break. Keeping a stress diary is also worth considering as this will allow you to refer back to the moments when you felt worked-up and identify why this happened.
Draw the line
Although it tends to differ depending on the profession, some people take a great deal of their work home with them, and teachers are a classic example. As with anything, there is a balance to be struck and even though you might not be able to completely leave it all behind at the end of the school day there is a line to be drawn.
Small changes can make a big difference and something as simple as keeping any work materials to one room in your home will help stop it from spilling over into life outside your job. Textbooks and sheets of paper strewn around can make anyone feel like there is no escape. It can also be helpful to set a cut-off time at which you will stop any work-related projects at home for that day and just focus on recuperation or another interest.
Share how you’re feeling
Although stress can certainly leave you feeling somewhat isolated it is amazing just how much of a difference talking to somebody can make. Whether it’s the release that comes from airing your feelings or the new perspective you can gain from listening to another person’s outlook, it is always worth the effort. Remember to value the company you’re in when you meet up with someone and favour in-person interaction over texts and calls.
Have a little faith
Even though teaching is a profession that comes with heightened accountability, remember that you can only manage what is within your capabilities. Giving out the necessary assessment information to students in good time is important but as you go through preparing them don’t forget about taking care of yourself.
You are a mentor to your students and there is plenty of opportunity to share your knowledge and to guide them. On the day of the exam, the responsibility is in the students’ hands and some circumstances will simply be beyond your control. Once you have taken the time to work with your students as individuals, identifying their strengths and weaknesses and helping them to learn as much as they can, put your belief in them and allow them to shine.