Stress Less! {Tips for Teachers}

It's spring! If you're a teacher you know what that means...the end is in sight and the stress levels are through the roof!  With end of the year testing, spring fever, the mad rush to cover all the standards, and in my case, putting on a school play, stress is almost unavoidable. 

And, chances are if you're reading this post and it is the fall, or even the winter, you might still be feeling stressed.  So, I thought I would share a few of my favorite ways of handling stress.

Stress is normal.  It ebbs and flows.  When we ignore stress, there can be consequences like difficulty sleeping, anxiety, lack of focus, and so on.  As teachers, we need our sleep and we need to be able to focus.  So, it's important that we learn to diffuse our stress levels as needed.  And, since we are all different, the ways in which we do this are likely to differ too.

Now, I'm no psychologist, but I know what works for me when it comes to stress.  My hope in sharing these ideas with you is to remind you that you are not alone in your feelings of being overwhelmed and overworked.  Such is the nature of our job (or any job, probably). 

So, how do I cope with/stress less?  In several different ways.  

Tip #1: Indulge in Something that Brings You Comfort
Comfort can mean lots of different things to lots of different people. I drink.  Coffee, that is. Out of a mug with a unicorn on it (because it makes me laugh).

Oddly, the coffee does not hype me up (sure, it perks me up), nor does it leave me feeling wired or more stressed.  Nope, it calms me down and makes me feel relaxed.  A fresh cup of coffee in my hands as I roam the classroom, or sit down to tackle my weekly mountain of grading, soothes me.  I know it sounds so strange, but it works for me.  It's also something I can do while I'm working to feel calm and relaxed.

Tip #2: Exercise
I know you've heard this next one before.  Work out!

I know it sounds so cliche, but it does help!  I always feel better physically and mentally whenever I work out.  When I am focused on gettin' my sweat on, I don't have time to dwell on the things that bothered me on a bad day.  Instead, I'm focused on toning my triceps (still a work in progress) or strengthening my core (again, still a work on progress). 

Best of all, you don't need a fancy gym to work out!  Simply find a workout DVD or go for a walk. I've even found some great workouts on Pinterest!

Tip #3: Talk it Out
Or, in my case, vent.  Yep, I like to blah, blah, blah my worries and frustrations away.

I feel like venting sometimes gets a bad rap and sometimes it's interpreted as complaining, but  sometimes it's just the release I need.

In some camps, venting is a valid coping mechanism. Sometimes, there are just some things that are so irritating/wrong/frustrating/insert your own adjective here, that I just need to spit it out and move on.  It's much healthier than pretending that issues don't exist, or keeping them bottled up inside. 

When I vent, I'm simply looking to say what's bugging me so that I can move on with my life. I guess, in a sense, I just need to be heard. I have an awesome group of friends that I can count on who let me vent, without judgement.  And, of course, I'm always there to hear their vents too!

Tip #4: Find Some Me Time
I know this one can be hard. The struggle is real for all of us.  But, for the love of your health, find a way to squeeze in some "ME" time.  Even if it's only 10 minutes.  The purpose of this time is so you can decompress and refocus, and there is no right or wrong way to spend this time.

Sometimes my "ME" time involves getting my nails done (or, doing them myself).  Other times, it involves a soak in the tub.  It might also mean that I close my bedroom door and watch an episode of my favorite show on Netflix, or scroll through Instagram without being interrupted. I might even sit on my exercise bike and read a book.  Look at that, killing two birds with one stone there.

This time doesn't have to be elaborate or even planned out ahead of time.  Just do something that makes you happy and will allow you to focus on something other than what is stressing you out.

Tip #5: Chill Out with Friends or Family
Spending quality time with loved ones is a great way to shift your focus. I can have a super stressful day, or have dealt with a super stressful situation, but spending time with my family helps me push all that aside and refocus on what matters.  Sometimes we head to the movies or go out to eat, sometimes we play board games, and sometimes, we just veg out in front of the television.  Just being around people who love me no matter what makes me relax and helps me recharge.

While stress isn't always avoidable, dealing with stress is possible.  These are my favorite ways of feeling a bit less stressed.  When I am able to relax and refocus, it is easier for me to prioritize and tackle my tasks with a fresh perspective.  I hope you're able to use a tip or two!


For more ideas, check out how these lovely ladies keep stress at bay!

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Be Kind!

This week, my school hosted an Anti-Bullying/Kindness week.  I'll tell you what, the timing could not have been more perfect.  My second graders were in need of some reminders about kindness (it's that time of year). Today's post is a quick peek at some of the activities we did this week.

I read aloud several books. Here's a look at some of the titles we read.  Each one is perfect for addressing kindness, friendship, and/or bullying.

After reading The Recess Queen earlier in the week, we brainstormed words to describe Mean Jean and made this poster, based on a similar one I found on Pinterest.  We talked about how these words described a bully, not a kind person.  Then, the students wrote in their journals about ways in which they are not bullies. Their writing focused on how they show kindness.  A few students ended up calling themselves the "Kindness King" or "Kindness Queen."  Hehe.

I always read Chrysanthemum at the beginning of the year, but I read it again this week.  The kids love it, and it's a great book to use when when talking about the impact of our words.  Second graders know that words can hurt, so after discussing this concept, we explored how easy it is to say unkind words.  I gave each table group a tube of toothpaste and a paper plate.  Their job?  Squirt all the toothpaste out.

Then, I gave them a plastic toothpick and asked them to put the toothpaste back into their tube.  Immediately, they realized how difficult this was.  They complained that it was too hard, and declared that it was downright impossible.  Then, we discussed how our words are like the toothpaste that was easily squeezed out of the tube.  That is, it's easy to say mean things to others.  Then, we talked about how those words can't be taken back, just like the toothpaste couldn't be put back into the tube.  It was a great illustration!  I found this idea on Pinterest.

One of my goals this week was to also remind the students that our differences are what make us unique and that if we were all the same, we'd live in a pretty boring world.  Our differences should be celebrated, not ridiculed.  I read Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun and we discussed the story (being comfortable with being different, standing up for oneself, treating others with kindness). 

Then, we thought about how we are all different/special and made these fun word frames.  The students thought it was hilarious to stick their heads through the opening in each of their frames. Truth be told, it was pretty funny. I originally saw this idea on Pinterest.

My favorite read alouds of the week were tied to some great discussions (The Yellow Tutu, Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean, and Bullies Never Win).  Originally, I planned to task the students with writing a poem after reading one of the books, and to make a class anchor chart after reading the others, but sometimes your plans go out the window.  After each reading, I engaged the students in conversation about the content/message in the book and found that they were so receptive to our discussions that we ran out of time for the other stuff!  It soon became obvious to me that the students felt like they had a voice and  could relate to the topic. They simply wanted to be heard.  And, sometimes, you just have to do what's best for the kids at a given point in time.

Don't forget to encourage your students to be kind today!  Toodles!

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Brag About It!

This week, I had my final observation of the year.  You know, the "formal" one.  Although it went well, I'm not here to brag about that. ;)  Instead, I'm here to brag about a fun project that my students did today! 

We spent this week reviewing two-digit addition and subtraction. Since my kiddos have gotten pretty good at this skill, I thought they might have fun bragging about their "mad skills" by creating their very own set of two-digit addition and subtraction brag tags!

As you know, I use brag tags in my classroom as part of my classroom management system.  These special necklaces are a huge hit with the students, so I knew they would love to make their own necklaces that show off their two-digit addition and subtraction skills.  And, they did!  They were so excited about this project!

Interested in using the idea? It's easy!  Here's what you'll need:
  • yarn (I cut it ahead of time)
  • brag tag template (download HERE for free) copied onto construction paper or card stock
  • pencils and/or markers
  • hole punch
The download includes student directions, but I added a few things.  For example, I told the kids that they had to: 
  • have an equal number of addition and subtraction problems
  • create problems that included regrouping (I didn't tell them how many problems needed to include regrouping, I jut wanted to make sure they had a mixture of problems with and without regrouping)
  • decorate each tag with marker and/or colored pencil
Before they decorated their tags with marker or colored pencil, I checked their math.  Once they were given the "OK," they were allowed to decorate.

Here is look at a few more of their completed brag tags.

    Once I checked their work and gave them the go ahead to trace their problems, they decorated each tag, cut them all out, and then assembled them into necklaces.  I helped them tie the yarn, and yes they all seemed to finish at the same exact moment, but that's life in the classroom, right?  Hehe.


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