Life can sometimes appear very harassed. You can feel frazzled at the intensity of situations; what, with the agendas from other people which impact on your life and work. Teaching is one of those jobs where you can easily get caught up and involved in stressful situations which are difficult to dispense with.
Paul Jun has written about “9 Principles to Help You Keep Calm in Chaos”, which we have adapted for people working in school who feel the stress, offering tips on keeping composed whilst all others are losing their equanimity. The following ideas can also be adapted to your life outside education (if you have one!!!).
1. Acknowledge that all emotions come from within
It is not outside forces that make us feel something; it is what we tell ourselves that create our feelings. A blank document, canvas, or unmarked to-do list is not inherently stressful—it’s your thoughts that are stressing you out.
Many of us want to place blame and responsibility on external objects because it’s easy to do, but the truth remains that all conflicts start internally, in our minds. When we flee from reality—marking, planning, meetings—we are doing nothing but harming ourselves and undermining our self-discipline.
The next time you run into an obstacle and feel resistance, don’t look at what’s around you. Instead, look within. It is not outside forces that make us feel something, it is what we tell ourselves that create our feelings.
2. Find someone you respect and use them to stay honest
As teachers, we come across many inspirational people each day. But, when faced with the 30 faces looking at you expectantly, eager to learn that can muster up a sense of respect for the individuals observing you. If you do not respect your pupils, you cannot expect respect back.
However, you may be inspired by people who are further away from home. Social media now allows access to many inspirational educators, and you can build respect towards these individuals who may inspire you in your life, work or values.
The best teachers are the best learners
Whatever you do there are individuals that you can learn from. The best teachers are the best learners, so study stories, works, techniques, successes and failures. You can listen to interviews or even reach out to them by sending a tweet, email, or Facebook message. Discover patterns of success and apply it to your life.
What’s important to realise is that this isn’t an exercise of comparison. Instead, how can you learn from your heroes? How are their teachings and principles helping you grow, learn, and create? Everyone, no matter how successful they are, has heroes/mentors to look towards. Find yours.
3. Recognise there is life after failure
Teachers are inherently faced with judgements. We have previously written about how to cope with judgements made about you (click here to read), and you can spend months or even years with a class, only to watch your work be criticised, or worse, ignored. The outcome of some projects can be similar to having a baby and all the doctors laughing out loud, saying, “My goodness that is an ugly baby.”
No failure, no growth.That’s what failure feels like when you share a part of you. But recovering from that failure is a practice, a mindset—in fact, the lessons you internalise from experiences should helping you do better work.
That’s what failure feels like when you share a part of you. But recovering from that failure is a practice, a mindset—in fact, the lessons you internalise from experiences should helping you do better work.
The thinking goes – No failure, no growth.
4. Read purposefully, and apply your knowledge
Reading books on pedagogy or school leadership or creativity will supply endless dots that have a potential for connection to develop a more in-depth awareness, but what will ultimately make you effective at that craft is by applying it. Reading prepares your mind, even helps you avoid foolish mistakes, but at the end of it all, there must be the result of some action: a failure, maybe a success, or a lesson.
The purpose of education is to internalise knowledge but ultimately spark action and facilitate wiser decisions. Reading self-help books will, in that moment, make you feel inspired for a change. But are you following your principles when you have a troll, rude student, or angry stranger in your face?
5. Challenge yourself to be brutally honest
It’s hard to change habits if you aren’t aware as to why you didn’t do your work today and chose to watch Netflix instead.
It’s important to be mindful of the urges that obstruct us from showing up, engaging, committing, and being present. “Why, exactly, am I feeling this way?” Get to the bottom of that. Investigate it. Dissect it. When you feel resistance, use that as a cue to go forward. The challenge, of course, is training you to think that way.
This isn’t about talent or some unconscious reflex. The practice of self-awareness—to think about your thinking—in how you think, feel, and behave is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes.
6. Reflect on what you spend the most time on
That troll on your Twitter feed? It’s probably best to not respond. You don’t need to tell them where the ‘unfollow’ button is located; I’m positive they know. That email? I know it is fun connecting, but can it wait?
People who do excellent work, who master their craft, do so because of their ability to prioritise.
They honour every hour of their day. If we put cameras behind our heroes, would our work ethic compare? Our focus? Our determination to get things done? We must be mindful of how we interact with our distractions (or is that addiction?). A lot of spectating and flicking is the time that could be spent creating the stuff that people want to see, or time you could be spending with those who admire you the most…your family.
7. Remind yourself: you weren’t meant to procrastinate
Even though you have that pile of Year 9’s work to mark (argh!), or that medium term plan to construct (argh!) or those pupil reports to write (ARGH!), the appeal of the ironing, gardening or social media will distract you from the task THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE. Ok, and it’s easy to say (as I’ve been putting off this article for a few days now – oh, the irony!), but turn off all distractions (or get the ironing done) and do the job in hand. You will feel so much better for it when it is completed, but this strand of self-discipline allows you confidently strive forward. Try this: Write down your goal and give yourself a deadline. Just don’t make your deadline too close to the deadline!
8. Put the phone away and be present
When you’re working, be ruthlessly present.
It’s not that we live in an age of distractions, but rather an age where we are failing to teach and embrace mindful motives. To be present as well as learning to be alone is a habit. Some people are really good at it because they make time to do it—in fact, they need it or else they would go mad. We talked about being mindful in our ‘Busy Teacher’s Guide to Reduce Stress’ article (click here to read), so throughout your day find a moment, however fleeting, to just sit and be still. It doesn’t matter where you are. Take a few deep breaths, put your phone on vibrate so there’s no chance of interruption, and just reflect on the series of events that took place throughout your day. When you’re working, be ruthlessly present. Let your mind focus on the task at hand, what you’re trying to accomplish, and do it with diligence, patience, attentiveness, and care.
9. Remind yourself that time is our most precious resource
Graveyards are full of indispensable people. Enough said.
Adapted for teaching/education from https://99u.com/articles/24401/a-makers-guidebook-9-stoic-principles-to-nurture-your-life-and-work