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Dealing With Teacher Stress

By Angela Bunyi on January 21, 2011

Have you ever had one of those days? You know what I am talking about. It starts out with an alarm malfunction and lost keys and spirals down from there. Although I don't have much experience outside of the educational realm, I'm confident that all professions have their ups and downs, that at times we all have to reassure ourselves that we ARE in the correct profession. This post is dedicated to keeping on the sunny side. . . .


With a Little Help From My Friends

One thing I find comforting when I am feeling overwhelmed is hearing a teaching partner voice the same feelings. It makes me realize that I am not alone in this profession. All teachers have tough days. If you are feeling as though you have too much on your plate, find another teacher to talk to about it. Your spouse will most likely thank you, too. (I realized this one day when my husband, who never shares work frustrations, decided one day to share them with me at length. It made me think, "This is what he has to endure from me? Poor thing!") Talk to someone who understands. Most likely, that's the teacher in your hallway.


Just Say "No"!

I have written about approval addiction at length before, in what was probably the hardest post I ever wrote. Learn to say "no." Do your best. Forget the rest. Read more in that approval addiction post from last year.


Find a Hobby

I attended a session on working with perfectionist students, who suffer higher rates of depression, and one of the suggestions was to encourage these students to participate in an athletic program outside of school*. Among other benefits, it helps the student split their intense focus on academics. I imagine many teachers deal with this kind of anxiety on some level. Teaching can consume our lives. If we let it. It may sound counterintuitive to deal with this by adding something else to your life, but you have to do it. You have to do it. Let me repeat this again: You have to do it! If I made time to train and run a full marathon last Saturday, anyone can do it. Running requires me to balance out my life and prioritize, and it makes me create a better time line of my day. 

*Note: There are some benefits to having perfectionist students in your classroom. Think Peyton Manning, for example, who excelled both in academics and athletics. I will provide a post on this subject during the month of February. Perfectionist doesn't have to be a negative term.


Will This Matter in Five Years?

I'm sure my husband is relieved that he hasn't uttered these words to me this year; maybe I am finally learning my lesson. When you are feeling as though everything is stacked up against you, ask yourself if it is going to matter in five years. That is how I stop myself from worrying now. Last year, after my computer crashed — taking my grades with them — I thought my students' parents would revolt. I worried myself to the bone before informing my principal and asking for assistance. I had lost three weeks' worth of grades, and she calmly helped me figure out how to write parents about my error. Despite all those worries, I received email after email (after email) making light of the situation, joking about their memory of all As and so on. Not a single parent was upset. Not one. In the big scheme of things, it wasn't that important. (Oddly enough, my district's tech. team mysteriously found my grades on my fried laptop weeks later, and they're still confused about how they managed to do it.)


And Above All . . .

Don't forget why you entered this profession! We all have countless stories that make us laugh until we cry, tug at our heart, and make us feel as though we are doing our little part in this world. 

So, what keeps you going in the classroom? Feel free to share your tips and stories below.





Comments (11)

Hi Angela,

I've been following your posts for a while, and I've always wondered how you teach science in your classroom. What are your beliefs about teaching science? I am struggling a lot with including science in my classroom curriculum because there is such a push for ELA and writing test prep that we've basically been told to fit it in where you can with reading and writing. I personally strongly disagree with this, and I wanted to know how you handle those pressures (if you even have them) and if not do you have any suggestions?

Thanks : )


Ha! I bet you have a good sense of humor. A teacher friend of mine always says, "You only get a little bell," when she thinks I am working too hard. She's referring the gift given out when you retire.


Knowing retirement is coming is the only thing that keeps me going some days!


I don't. This year our schedules were created by Central Office and are to be followed...as in my recess time is from 12:09-12:29 kind of detail. This leaves little room to work the CAFE structure into our schedule.

But to answer your question, last year I had a reading/writing block followed by a thirty minute block to complete spelling work and literacy rotations. That's just not possible this year.

But in the big scheme of things, don't stress about it. The important thing is that you are providing daily time to read and write, combined with time to conference and work together in a meaningful way.

I hope that helps,


I hope that helps!


Speaking of stress.... I've noticed you use the CAFE boards in your classroom. How do you adapt what's in the CAFE book to your fifth grade classroom. I'm currently teaching middle school reading. I started out great following the book in the beginning of the year, but kinda fell off the bandwagon. I want to get it started again, but I'm trying to make sure it's appropriate for my kids, and now I'm stressed! :-) Do you do centers with the CAFE?


That all sounds fantastic. My grade level has actually had a grade level meeting after school at a restaurant. I love the every Friday idea and staff gym class once a month. It sounds like you are working in a good place!



I can identify with this blog. As a new teacher, I often felt stressed about all the new responsibilities I had. As a group of teachers, we went to lunch every Friday. Also, we had a staff gym class once a month. So much fun playing games.

M. Da Silva,

I suspect most teachers can identify. I don't think it means we are struggling in the profession or that we are unhappy...it's just a part of life to deal with high demands and harder days!

Knitting is something I keep telling myself that I want to pick up again. I've had several students in the past that have picked that up as well.




Thanks for the PAEC suggestion. We are out of school today due to heavy ice so I'll check out some of the clips (eg- Taking the dense out of density sounds great).

By the way, you must be one highly dedicated teacher if a school related task helps ease your stress. :)



What an amazing post. I was able to identify with all of what you said. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. As a hobby I learned to knit and I love to bake. One of the things that truly grounds me and makes me feel as though I can handle whatever comes is talking and spending time with my husband. Thank you again for sharing this important information with all of us.

I find that when I get stressed at work that any exercise works. I also like to read or I watch Professional Development shows (PAEC) that help.

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