Stress & Motivation

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 | 5 comments »

In school, your standardized tests are probably looming and you're struggling to keep your students motivated. Outside of school, you're probably planning for next year--whether you're sticking around or moving on to life after TFA. You might have to move or transition to new roommates even if you're staying at the same school. This is of course on top of all of the unique challenges we all face each day.

Where do we find the strength to keep going? One source, not surprisingly, should be your students. I'm a big proponent of asking them for frequent, honest feedback about the job you're doing. If you're down on yourself, you'll likely feel reassured by the positive comments you get, especially if you've never given your students the opportunity to tell you what they really think. Even if you find out there's some things that are really not working for your students, it's your opportunity to fix them and make the rest of the year work better. Ask simple questions, along the lines of:

1. What do you think of how class is going this year?
2. What should [teacher's name] change to make class better?

This is also a good time to start asking yourself the same questions. In other words, take stock of the good, the bad and everything in between while there's still time to make things better. I recently carried this out myself, making a detailed list of my five greatest failures and five greatest successes this year. I had to be brutally honest with myself, because that's the only way you'll ever make any professional growth. You don't have to do this in a public forum, but you should write it down. It's a cathartic process, even if you don't can't or don't act on what you learn.

Next, take steps to reduce your stress at school by working more efficiently. Two years ago I outlined a three-part plan based on ideas from the book The 4-Hour Workweek to make my life much easier. I wasn't a rookie when I took that advice, either--it was actually my fourth year in the classroom when I realized what had to be done.

Finally, look for (or create) a light at the end of the tunnel. What are you doing this summer? Have you planned an escape, even if for a short time? Are you moving on to some exciting new adventure next year? Either way, getting excited about what's just around the corner is easy:

* Create a countdown
* Make a summer fun "to do" list
* Think about and plan out your already-booked adventures
* Call friends and family and share exciting plans
* Focus your energy on what have to do before summer comes to make all your great plans come to fruition

Have an idea of your own? Leave a comment!


  1. Amanda // April 4, 2009 at 11:46 AM  

    As a college student I am wondering that once I become a teacher if I will ever get burnt out. I think your blogging has some very great points to it. Looking for motiviation towards our students should be key. They are the reason we are here! I also think about ways that I can make each year a little different from the last. Some ideas that I have come up with is having a different theme to my classroom. So whenever I do become a teacher I might explore my options and yours!

  2. charlesdowney // August 27, 2009 at 5:20 AM  

    With all the negative connotations attached to the word “stress”, it is certainly hard to see it in a positive light. However, not all stress is bad. Some amount of stress is necessary to lead a normal life and for some people, it is a reminder that makes them do their best.
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  4. Anonymous // October 30, 2009 at 8:33 AM  

    Set a major goal, but follow a path. The path has mini goals that go in many directions. When you learn to succeed at mini goals, you will be motivated to challenge grand goals.

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