Teachers: 6 ways to cope with the stress of your job

My kid sister teaches at a British Secondary School here in Nigeria. She has been doing this for about 7months now. Prior to this, she taught in a primary school – infact she was an assistant class teacher so had next to no responsibilities. She loved that job – she used to come home singing all kinds of children songs sounding so happy. She would tell anyone who cared to listen about drama rehearsals, which kid fancies which and all the posh things they do.

Fast forward 7months to her present role. Hmmmm. She comes home really tired and speaks in a perpetually cracked and irritating voice. What happened to your voice? “I have been teaching all day. I taught 5 classes today and have 160 scripts to mark. I’m tired”, she replies.

We live together and I am like the maid as I do most of the cleaning while she sleeps or takes care of the dog. Between she is 7 years younger than me and in Africa possibly only in Nigeria, the younger sibling does all the chores and the older one relaxs. The reverse is the case here. When I complain about her not doing anything, she says “honestly when I get back from work I can’t see all the mess you say you see”. She then goes on to lament that she is overloaded with work, she does too much, she has too many added responsibilities at work, etc. Recently, she mentioned most of the teachers break down and constantly go to the hospital.

Despite all this, guess what! She loves her job. She loves the kids. She loves to talk about them and the crazy things they do and say. She is always on her laptop planning her next lesson. Her PowerPoint slides are to die for – she loads them with educative videos and does all manner of things I never imagined one could achieve with PowerPoint. She is a doer. She loves her job to the point that she focuses all her energy on work and doing more than her best, a little energy on our little dog and no energy on house chores. Still she is a wreck. Sometimes I wish the teachers at my mum’s school will just be a little like her and go the extra mile. They do just enough and that’s fine but I really need them to shock me – in a good way.

So recently the media has gone on and on about teachers workload, how they are underpaid and undervalued – see here and here. I have however written this article to support and encourage teachers. For one to be a teacher I believe that they must have love for it if not they wouldn’t be doing it. Teaching is no easy job especially when teaching little kids. It requires loads of patience and a kind heart. So I would like to share these 6 ways to cope with the stress of your job and how to stay healthy doing what you love.

  1. Don’t be like my sister who brings scripts home to mark. Time with friends and family should not be traded for anything in the world. There is something called overtime. Spend more time at work and get as much done as you can. If possible go into school at weekends to get some work done. My sister does this sometimes after church on Sundays for a couple of hours and it really helps ease the load on a Monday morning.

  2. Get family and friends to help mark scripts. If it is impossible to keep scripts at school while you dine and wine with family and friends, then turn your time with them into a script marking tea party. Let them help mark the scripts especially the objective questions while you deal with the theory part. I did this with my sister last term and a couple of days ago, she invited my cousin over to help mark this term’s exam papers. They were done within 3 hours. The next day she felt relaxed and even spent time chatting away with us and took the dog for a walk!

  3. Exercise. You might not have time to perform a routine, but you can stop at at least 2 bus stops before your final destination and walk the rest of the distance. You will feel energised and ready for the day. Repeat this after work if you still have any energy left 😉 Here is a nice and helpful post on keeping fit while working.

  4. Attend seminars and retreats organised by the school. People tend to frown at this. I wonder why! This is the time to break away from your usual tasks, bond with your colleagues and get paid for it so why not? You will also be learning new skills and acquiring new knowledge. It’s a win-win situation.

  5. Let it be about the kids. Teaching used to be about the teachers talking, talking, and talking while the kids listen and write. With advancement in technology, this should no longer be the case. Kids these days can work a computer better than adults. You can make use of interactive learning softwares and DVDs. Also, don’t be afraid to get them to research a topic and bring their findings to class. This helps them learn faster, in their own way and reduces the burden on you. All you have to do is correct them when wrong and add relevant bits if necessary. This is not ammunition for you to slack on your duties and leave it all to the kids.

  6. Complain if you have to. If you feel overburdened by your tasks, feel free to talk to your line manager, supervisor, head of department – whoever it is you report to. If this person is human, they will be bothered by it and look for ways to ease your pain. This happened recently where one of the teachers at my mum’s school complained about not being compensated enough for extra responsibilities. At first I wasn’t happy about her complaint, but after giving it some thought, I said to myself – she is right. She has been doing this for years and although we’ve acknowlegded her and given what we thought was fair but now is the time for a raise. Yes she did get the raise. So don’t stay silent. Ask and it shall be given unto you 😉

I hope you find these tips helpful. My sister does. Is there anything outside this list you do to stay sane and still teach? Then please share it by leaving a comment.