How to Not Quit Teaching: 4 Tips to Help Teachers Reduce Stress & Enjoy Their Jobs More by Michael Linsin
Four of every 10 new teachers leave the profession within five years. That is a staggering number. It’s made all the more alarming given that teacher shortages in the U.S. are expected to exceed 300,000 by 2020. Although low starting pay, large class sizes and lack of autonomy are certainly factors, most of the reasons for dissatisfaction are within the teacher’s control.
That isn’t to say that it’s their fault. Teacher education programs do a terrible job preparing teachers for the realities of the classroom, and individual schools and districts aren’t much better. But with the right knowledge and commitment, anyone can have a long and happy career. Here’s are some ways to achieve that:
1. Be an expert in classroom management.
This is by far the most important thing you can do to begin enjoying your job. When students are well-behaved and attentive, everything is easier. Your confidence soars, your stress plummets and the work becomes deeply satisfying – despite the craziness and politics outside your classroom walls. Student time on task increases dramatically and even test scores are positively affected. When you get a chance, check out my books (see links below) and guides as well as over 500 articles that explain the strategies you need to thrive in even the toughest schools.
2. Say no.
It can be hard to say no, especially if you’re a new teacher eager to please. But politely declining committees or after-school programs you’re not required to join can save mountains of time and actually garner you more respect. Saying no to gossiping colleagues, students who want to hang out during recess and parents who want to discuss their child’s progress every other day can be especially liberating. It can afford you the time you need to think, take breaks or just sit and breathe.
You can also say no to doing for students what they can do for themselves – which is far more than most teachers realize – and to kneeling down to reteach what you taught just minutes before. By focusing on your core responsibilities, which mainly consist of presenting excellent lessons and setting students up for success, you become much more efficient and effective. You’re also able to leave work at a decent hour, which is key to No. 3.
3. Take care of yourself.
According to the American Federation of Teachers, 61 percent of teachers say their work is always or often stressful. Other studies indicate even higher numbers, as many as 93 percent. This underscores the importance of not only becoming an expert in classroom management and learning to say no, but taking care of yourself and seeing to your personal life. You must get away from even thinking about teaching for several hours each day and limit, if not downright eliminate, any weekend catch-up work.
- Eat a whole-foods diet and exercise at least three days a week to improve energy and relieve residual stress.
- Adequate sleep, of course, does wonders.
- Spend quality time with friends and family or on hobbies and interests outside of education.
- Laugh and enjoy your life. Make this your focus. Teachers who view their profession as just one part of their life are happier and more effective than those who get sucked into a culture of obsession.
4. Fight back.
You don’t have to be a martyr who sacrifices health and happiness for your students, parents, principal, school, society or anyone else. You don’t have to work your fingers to the bone, stay late after school or be frustrated with every new change in policy and curriculum or yet another responsibility thrown onto your plate. You don’t have to endure daily misbehavior and disrespect.
It’s a myth that has become an institutional habit that you have to concern yourself with things out of your control, perpetuated by miserable teachers and controlling administrators who want to keep everyone else down in the muck or under their thumb. But you do have to fight back. You do have to be determined. You do have to shrewdly and unapologetically do what is best for your students, your career, and your long-term health and family.
It’s doable for anyone.
For more on how to eliminate stress and become more efficient so you can spend fewer hours at work, check out The Happy Teacher Habits.
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