04 February 2011

Goal 4 - Leave It Behind #30Goals

Short-term Goal -
Option A: Make a list of ways you can leave your stress behind and not carry it with you into the classroom. To take this a step further, try one of these stress relievers today and share the experience with us.
Option B: Take a class period and have your students develop their own stress relief plans. The idea is that when they begin to misbehave in the classroom they are able to have time to implement their plan before they are punished.

Long-term Goal - Develop a stress-relief routine that will ensure that even during the most stressful times of the year (i.e. testing time, grading time) you won’t be in a bad mood in the classroom. How can we begin to show our students how to develop stress routines for themselves? Spend a class having students work in pairs or groups to share their stress-relief plans. To go further, when the students are stressed and act up then remind them of their plans and allow them the time to try this out instead of just punishing the student.

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In this challenge Shelly Terrell talks about not bringing stress to the classroom. One of the reasons is that the students are already fighting hard battles themselves. She gives the quotation "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle," attributed to Plato.

The challenge for the short-term goal is to come up with ways to take away the stress before entering class. Some things that work for Shelly are:
  • Meditating
  • Exercising
  • Listening to music
  • Connecting with her online community

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A couple of things. Firstly, I wish old Plato had stopped after his second word. "Be kind." Fullstop. Secondly, if you need to unload on someone then you musnt't assume you can't unload on anyone - if you can't unload on family or friends then remember there are professionals to help and there is no shame in using them.

I do get a little stressed in class but it's not usually due to external factors - it's more often because of annoyance at my own inadequacies such as lack of patience or lack of pedagogical skills or at my inability to express myself. I hate it because I know I could do better and I feel I am failing my students by not giving them everything they deserve. However, I try to remember to step back and think "Hang on a minute. You're doing the best you can. There's no good getting worked up about it because that's counter-productive. If it's really important to you then research it or get help or advice from a mentor. But remember it takes two to tango. Walk away, breathe deeply, count to ten and try again. Try again next week if necessary. Question if this learning is vital for the student or something to placate your ego." And other similar thoughts. I try to relax and smile, and to think of other approaches. If nothing is working then I move on but revisit it in my own time.

I'm afraid that I don't have a list of techniques for handling stress but I know that, if I did, then "Get lots of sleep" would be up near the top!

Today I thought I'd try my hand at making a podcast - I've never made one before so this is a double challenge. I decided not to be too fussy about it. I am well aware it has plenty of cringeworthy faults but I'm trying to not get too stressed about them! I hope that at least the gist of my message comes across.

This is to do with the long term goals...

Looking back at this video I've decided that it was pretty awful and so, after leaving it up for six months, I've deleted it. Just too cringeworthy! It's all part of the learning process I suppose.


  1. Hi Clive!

    You make a great point about the "root" of the stress. In these goals, unfortunately I won't get everything covered because these videos are brainstorming sessions of each goal. At the same time, I'm completing each goal as well. It's the process of completing goals with a community. That is why I appreciate your thoughts because they expand my mind then I learn something from you and find something I may have missed. Thank you for the deep thoughts... hmmmm... will have to definitely reflect more on this...

  2. Hi Clive,

    Great to see more vodcasts!

    I agree with you about addressing the root cause. It's also important to think about why some things make us stressed in the first place - do we really need to be stressed about these things at all? Working as I do with young kids, I find there are certain things you need to just let go. If you react (or over-react), you will get stressed and make other people stressed. Sometimes I find letting the kids get on with it isd the best thing to do. I'm not saying we should ignore problems or turn a blind eye, just that we shoud consider how we react carefully but more of that on my own response to some later this weekend ;)


  3. Thank you very very much Shelly and Dave. It's great to have you dropping by and leaving comments!

    Shelly - thank you so much for this challenge! I imagine that setting the goals each day, recording and editing and publishing the video, authoring the material and blogging, tweeting and FBing, on-line conferencing and giving feedback are time-consuming and stressful for you, and they come on top of your work schedule and home life. You are quite amazing but don't burn out, please! We need you! Hope you can catch a few minutes of YOU-time this weekend!

    Dave, your vodcasts were my inspiration! Laid back and natural, well produced, presented and explained. Awesome! You are absolutely right about just letting some things go. Look forward to seeing more in your next vodcast on this very subject :)

  4. Here here- totally agree with the idea that the root cases of stress must be tackled in order to move forward. It's a view I've been quite clear about since starting studying psychology at uni- I thought maybe I wanted to do clinical psychologist, but upon hearing that most of the time it's the symptoms being treated with drugs rather than tackling the causes, I've become a lot more of a fan of talking therapies that deal with the cause of a problem. After all, hopefully then it can do no more damage!
    That being said, I know there are times when you simply can't deal with the cause just that minute. Perhaps the stressor is too big, is reoccurring, or has only just come up, but there are definitely times in our lives when we need to be able to put something aside to be able to function properly with something else. I imagine this is what Shelly means when she's talking about not letting her own stress affect the kids there. In this case, I do agree that it's important to be able to deal with the symptoms. For example, I had a meeting with a lecturer today and had been feeling down about some other things, and had to give myself a good talking to in order to deal with the task at hand more effectively and come back to my own problems later! Personally I find that if I've got something big to tackle or something bothering me then I try to write things down- that way I've got it out of my system- it's not going anywhere but it means I can be free to deal with it when I have the time and head space. I also find walking to lectures rather than catching the bus can often be helpful- the extra time, along with the therapeutic action of walking I think is helpful to clear one's head a little and allow you to think about the next task.
    I know everyone has their own methods of dealing with stress, and I'm really not a fine one to talk as I get very anxious about things, but when I am dealing with it well that's what seems to work, and I think it's helpful to know what does and doesn't work so that if we can't sort out the root cause there and then, there are things we can do in the mean time to stop us from taking it out on other things or people! :)

  5. Hi Clive,
    I really enjoyed your video. I wish I were only a few feet from the sea... the ocean always reduces my stress. :)

    I agree that dealing with the root of the stress is important. I appreciate Joy and Shelly's points as well. They are related, but not identical points.

    My only difficult year in the classroom was the one year that I didn't take care of my personal needs, passions and relationships. I was all work and no play and ironically it led to classroom full of all play and no work. The harder I tried, the worse it got. The worse it got, the more stressed I got, and the more stressed I got, the more the kids acted out.

    I took a three-year break from the classroom after that year. I had never been a stressed out teacher before that year and I didn't want to be one. I liked having energy and modeling a fun adult life for kids. I didn't want to be another model of a crazed, cranky adult that seemed disappointed all the time. Besides, why would a kid want to listen to or take advice from someone who seemed to have a miserable adult life? In this case, I really needed to deal with the root of the stress.

    I'm back in the classroom again and having a blast. I stay active, I visit with friends and family, and I make time for myself. I can see my self-care reflected in my teaching, in the energy I bring to teaching, and in the students' responses to what and how we work on lessons in class together. It makes all the difference. In this case, even though I do my best to take care of the root of my personal stress, our school is in transition and at times the adult community is dense with frustration and anxiety. On these days, to Shelly's point, I have to just put aside what is frustrating me and simply "leave it outside the classroom" until I can talk to my principal, or fiance, or get some exercise, or walk my dog.

    Thanks for the post Clive. I really enjoyed hearing your views and reading the follow-up comments.