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News & Press: Leadership & Development

Create A Stress-Free School Year

Tuesday, September 15, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Professional Educators of Tennessee
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Originally published in TREND magazine at 







"Back to School" can be a phrase that brings much joy and excitement for teachers. It can also be a phrase that brings a very daunting feeling that can lead to extreme stress and eventual burnout as time passes by. The keys to avoiding burnout are controlling what you can and letting go of what you cannot, and knowing when it is time to step away to rest. There are certain things that you have more control over, such as your curriculum and the structure and arrangements of your room. However, there are also things that you cannot control, such as what the other faculty and staff will think about you, the type of students that you will get, how they will respond to you, and how they will interact with their other classmates. If you are like most of us, feeling out of control and powerless is overwhelming. However, the one thing that we can control when all else seems to be up in the air or going awry is ourselves. We have more power than we give ourselves credit for over the way we think, feel, and behave. When you begin to feel that things around you are getting unsteady, the best way to find stability is to create it within yourself.

Right before take-off in an airplane, the flight attendant gets on the intercom and provides us with all the instructions we need while on board. One thing that she says is, “We cannot predict rough air so while seated please keep your seatbelts fastened.” Essentially what she is letting us know is that there is a possibility that we will experience rough times without forewarning, but we will all be safe if we stay grounded (stable with our seatbelts on) while in motion. You can take this same idea and apply it to your own personal life and in the classroom. When we teach ourselves to be internally grounded, which is simply being at rest and in peace, we can find comfort in being still while in motion. Kids are up and talking, the bells are ringing, assignments are piling up to be graded and on top of all of that you have a family life, but in the midst of all of the can be still within yourself to create balance. The benefit of this is that when you are at peace and low in anxiety you may find that your students will begin to mirror your internal state as well. Many of them may need this safe, secure, and grounded base, and you can be that for them while in school.

So you may be wondering, “How do I create this peaceful, still, and stress free environment for my students and myself?” You can minimize the stress that being back to school brings by first increasing your self-awareness. You can do this by asking yourself the following questions when you begin to feel overwhelmed or stressed: (1) What just happened? (2) How is it making me feel? (3) Where do I feel that feeling in my body? and (4) What do I need in this very moment? So for example, let’s say that you have a student that doesn’t seem to listen to you very well. What just happened? You told him to sit down for the 10th time but he ignored you and kept talking. How is it making you feel? On the surface you may feel angry 
and irritated, but beneath you may also feel hurt. Where do you feel angry, irritated and hurt in your body? The anger and irritation may be the tension in your shoulders, the knot in your stomach, and your clinched jaw or fists. The hurt may be the lump in your throat. What do you need in this moment? You may need to know that your voice matters and that you are worthy of respect. If you cannot give yourself what you need in that moment by way of self-affirmation and self-talk, then seek out your support system to help meet your needs.

The second thing that you can do to minimize stress is become more compassionate towards yourself. It is difficult to cut yourself some slack if you are perfectionistic or very self-critical, but simply try being kind to yourself by saying nice things even if you feel you could be doing a better job. Know that you are probably not the first teacher to have experienced what you are experiencing, so you are in good company. Remind yourself daily that you are good enough, that you do not have to be perfect, and that you deserve to give yourself grace. Shifting your mindset and being more self-compassionate will help you become freer to be creative, confident, and courageous.

The third thing that you can do to minimize stress is to manage your time wisely. It will be helpful to manage your time so that your time does not manage you. Part of managing your time is knowing when to say yes and when to say no. This is especially difficult when the person you have to say no to is yourself! It is great to be optimistic and a super achiever, and it is also great to know your limits. When scheduling out your weekly plans don’t forget to factor in some time for self-care. You can more effectively care for your students when you properly care for yourself first. Self-care is not selfish, and it helps to prevent burnout.

You create and determine the systemic flow of your classroom, so let the work begin within you. Start each day off with a 1-minute deep breathing exercise. Simply close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths as you notice the rise and fall of your stomach. Let distracting thoughts come and go and return to your breathing. Increase the number of breaths by 10 each week or as time allows you to. This will help you to start your day off in a calm, restful, and grounded state. Allow peace to manage your classroom, not stress.



Trillion Small is the founder of Navigate YOU Counseling & Consulting in Brentwood, TN. In her private practice she specializes in interpersonal trauma. Trillion is a Doctoral Candidate (PhD) in Clinical Counseling at Trevecca Nazarene University. She is a professional speaker, mental health counselor, and author of two books: “Internal Navigator: Basic Steps to Get You from Point A to Point B in Your Life” and “The Caged in Heart: How Your Childhood Wounds are Affecting Your Adult Life” (released August 2015). You can stay in touch with Trillion via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube or her website at


Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores, Director of Communications, at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.

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