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Magazine Issue 33: Stress in the Classroom
March 2013

This month ideas about Stress in the Classroom

Article: Stress
New Resources
Mike's Books
Additional Resources

This Month's Article:


Stress An Article looking at teacher stress: what it is, where it comes from and some ideas about working with it. Useful if you are feeling over-stressed and/or are professionally responsible for those who are.

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.
William James

It's not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.
Hans Selye

This is a Free Sample Resource

Categories: Article, Professional Development, Other Subject, Educators

Tags: Stress Personal Development CPD
State of the Nation 2013
I've been on the road since 2001. In a busy week I'll work all over the country (occasionally others), in 5-6 venues, and gain a snapshot of how the world of learning is feeling about itself. Different times of year have a different spirit. July gigs are weary but upbeat; September is anxious but focussed; December feisty and frantic and January usually calm, solemn and a tiny bit hungover.

But this year I'm noticing something different, something that concerns me, something I've not seen before. Aside from a few notable exceptions, the wonderful folks I work with seem a little more weary than they should; a touch more burdened than I'd expect and a bit more stressed than normal. What's worrying is that a little less energy from each of a whole lot of valuable professionals puts the whole profession at risk. We must address stress now.

Stress is the difference between our expectation and our experience. Thus we reduce stress by altering our expectations and/or our experience. Easy to say. Harder to do because there are three factors at play: our ability to affect a change on our circumstances, our willingness to do so and our belief in ourselves that we can. Sometimes the difference between expectation and experience is so large that we take the very human steps of fright, fight or flight. For example, I expect a class of willing, teachable pupils. I experience a class of disillusioned, disruptive ones. Will I sit fearfully with the difference, force them to change, quit school or will I act in some other way? Stress is probably more about how we respond to the difference between expectation and experience than the difference itself.

Good Stress and Flow
The right amount of stress is desirable. It's our motivation to change to act and to grow. The correct difference between expectation and experience plus the right skills, attitudes and self-belief is actually a recipe for success.

However we also have the concept of 'flow', a state of total and positive absorption in a task. Expectation and experience are perfectly aligned; stress is completely absent. We can all recall moments of acute classroom stress and (hopefully) times of flow. And because of this we can empathise with our pupils in their diverse learning experiences.

Dealing with Stress & Purposeful Moaning
Headteachers have a legal duty of care to safeguard the mental health of their staff. Likewise the same responsibility lies with a headteacher's employer to safeguard hers. But surely it's morally and strategically beneficial to look out for each other regardless of the law? Folks working side by side in a trusting environment, fuelled by the right amount of positive stress can create a vibrant and effective organisation. 

But even in great places, dangerous stress will inevitably arise. It's important to recognise it, accept is as a normal human reaction and then work to reduce it. Stifling stress makes more. Expressing it frees you to work it through. This can happen when the school environment allows purposeful moaning. Moaning is a natural process in which people are working through a problem. Moaning about the same thing over and over means someone is stuck. Although they are expressing a perceived stress, they don't yet have the ability, will or support to move on. Moaning purposefully is different. It means you are exploring your stress honestly, yet with a belief that things will improve, and an expectation that the moaning will lead swiftly to a solution. See last month's issue and Huff Thinking for a process to productively move through the moan stage.

Coaching Through Stress
If you are stressed yourself or working in an official capacity with those who are, maybe in a coaching role, then consider encouraging purposeful moaning that is driven by these prompts and questions (or similar):
  • Tell me more about what's causing you stress...
  • How would you like things to be?
  • Do you want to change things?
  • Do you feel you've got the capacity to change things?
  • Do you believe things can change?
  • When you've chosen how to act what help would you want?

These can be challenging conversations so enact them only in an appropriate context with suitably qualified staff.

Stress is inevitable. But its negative ongoing impact in schools and on valuable professionals is not.

New Resources:

Random Page Thinking

Random Page Thinking A Thinking Skills Tool that links directly to written subject source material AND develops reasoning, deduction and inference.

Categories: Thinking Tool, Analytical Thinking, Thinking Skills, English, Junior, Secondary

Tags: Language Literature Reading
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

PSHE Think Sheet - Stress

PSHE Think Sheet - Stress A Think Sheet aimed at teachers thinking about stress and also for teaching it creatively to pupils.

This is a Free Sample Resource

Find out more or Download now:
Categories: Think Sheet, Skills-Based Learning, PSHE, Educators

Tags: Stress Personal Development CPD

Literacy Think Sheet - Grammar

Literacy Think Sheet - Grammar A Think Sheet offering a more creative twist on KS2 Grammar.

This is a Free Sample Resource

Find out more or Download now:
Categories: Think Sheet, Thinking Skills, English, Junior

Tags: Grammar Assessment

Mike's Books:

Books to help you with leadership and interpersonal skills.

Creating Extra-Ordinary Teachers
by Mike Fleetham & Branton Shearer

Creating Extra-Ordinary Teachers <br> by Mike Fleetham & Branton Shearer A Book, Creating Extra-Ordinary Teachers: Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom and Beyond, that was co-authored by Dr Branton Shearer. It demonstrates how to use MI to enrich teaching and leadership, and how to inspire others to do the same. It'll give you a useful edge in your role as coach or innovative teacher. Includes a free online MI profile and development activities.

Available in our shop

Find out more
Categories: Book & EBook, Leadership, Educators


Additional Resources:

Thinking Classroom Archive:

A Thinking Tool from way back in December 2005

Patchwork Thinking

Patchwork Thinking A very popular Thinking Skills Tool that uses basic subject knowledge to make creative connections. Straightforward to plan and run in class. Makes content memorable and interesting.

This is a Free Sample Resource

Find out more or Download now:
Categories: Thinking Tool, Creative Thinking, Any Subject, Junior, Secondary, Thinking Skills

Tags: Connections


Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work
by Richard Carlson

Dont Sweat the Small Stuff at Work <br>by Richard Carlson Top tips for making work a little less fraught and a little more enjoyable.

Available from Amazon

Opens in a New Window
Categories: Suggested Books, Professional Development

Tags: CPD Relaxation


Alucidnation Music

Alucidnation Music For me, this is some of the most chilled, most relaxing music on the planet. From Chill FM DJ Bruce Bickerton who, for me, is one of the most chilled, relaxing guys on the planet.

Opens in a New Window
Categories: Suggested Products, Professional Development, Music

Tags: Relaxation

Next month we think about... Coaching USA