12 Teacher Tips to be Stress Free

12 Teacher Tips to be Stress Free
When I explain to people what my job is like, I tell them it's like working in a FAST FOOD Restaurant. Every 40 minutes, seven to eight times a day, I have a new group of customers come through the door looking to be “fed”. That totals up to over two hundred students a day! Some are very hungry (want to learn), some are kinda hungry (might want to learn) and some aren’t hungry at all (don’t want to learn). Some customers can be very picky and others jump right on in and devour whatever you put on their plate. As the “cook”, it’s tough to come up with a recipe that suits everyone. The goal is to have those customers come into the “dining” room and partake of all the wonderful assortment of delicacies I’ve prepared leaving my classroom satiated (full of musical experiences).   Ha! But what happens when I didn’t get the recipe right? What happens if there’s a fire drill and I don’t have time to “cook” the recipe? What happens when 90% of the students “aren’t hungry”? That’s when the real cookin’ begins- and the stress hormones kick in. It’s as if I’m inside a pressure cooker that’s about to over heat.  When my customers come into the music room, I’m prepared to give them a musical experience, but it doesn’t always work out. Over the years I’ve discovered some key “ingredients” that help me to “cook up” a decent menu no matter what happens. So I thought I’d share my twelve teacher tips to be stress free in the hopes that some of these ideas will help you too.
I want my lessons to be cooked to perfection but real life happens to all teachers. I might have a bad headache, or be out sick for a day, or it’s the week before a break and the kids are “wild”,and like most people, at the end of the work week, I'm tired, have a million errands to run and just want to get to my weekend. but I've learned through the years that if I stick to my recipe each day and on a weekly basis, I am much calmer as a teacher and a person and can greet my customers with a smiling face and deliver that recipe in the best way possible. Everyone has little rituals they perform daily. Do you wake up and go straight to the shower? Do you do meditation, yoga, or some other “centering” activity? Do you go to the kitchen to prepare breakfast? I have my own set of rituals, and they’ve changed significantly over the years depending on who else is part of my routine. I do work hard at maintaining my morning rituals so that the rest of the day runs smoothly. I hope you’ll get some inspiration about yours.
Now twelve tips may seem like a lot of things to do-but this is over the time period of a week. I’m also realistic- yes, I am- of course I have days and weeks, where I can’t keep up with all of these things-but I’ve found that the compound effect of striving towards and doing many of them really makes a difference. So, here are  my twelve (12) Teacher Tips to be Stress Free. I'm hoping you'll let me know what yours are after you're done reading-and, I've got a freebie for you too.

1-Keep Teacher Materials Handy

I like to keep my materials right on top of the piano. It's like having the menu in plain site. I also write a lot on the white board to help me remember things that need to be done for each class. What system do you use?

2-Complete all emails and management items by days end.

Sometimes I don't have time during the week to take care of "teacher" business. Things like professional development forms, health insurance, evaluations, survey's and all of the things that the district will ask us to do. I choose 1 day out of the week that I will stay a bit longer to get these types of things accomplished. I usually stay late one day a week to keep on top of these types of duties. And, it's the day that I won't be cooking that night! It works well for me to have one night a week that I order take out and then I don't feel the pressure of getting home and cooking something.

I've tried a lot of different planners and calendars through the years. I plan my curriculum out on the computer by year, quarter,  and month. I organize lessons by Grade levels and also maintain units of themes "Multicultural Unit". I print my planner and keep it on my piano this is where I will write in the plans for the week and the day. I pencil these in so that I can adjust the plans according to student learning and the schedule. I also use sticky notes. I have tried using "google calendar", but I feel like I need a paper visual to keep track of the weekly lesson plans.


3- Create Something New.

I love to compose songs and I get frustrated when I don’t have the time to just sit down and write. I have found that I have to “make” time for this in my life. I’m not very good at doing it every day, but over a week, I do try to write something new. For me, creating something that comes from the heart renews me in such a different way than just relaxing. Performing used to be my creative outlet, but now I’ve found that just playing the guitar or ukulele or piano and composing a song is enough. What do you like to create?  

 4- Plan Lessons and Programs for the Whole Year. 

I am a big believer in blocking out music programs the year before. I like to get with my administrator and block out when I’ll be holding each music concert. It’s a good time to give my “boss” the big picture of the music program and what’s going to be happening during the school year. It also gives everyone plenty of time to work through any calendar conflicts, and to schedule other events and field trips.

I also plan my whole year of lessons out with concepts/standards and lesson plans for each grade level. Sometimes I do change things as I go, but in general, I stick to my plan. There’s a great comfort in having the plan in place. That way on Friday I’m not wondering (freaking out) what I’m going to do or how I’m going to be ready for Monday. I also like to work ahead and have all the manipulatives, power points, videos and printables ready about two to three weeks in advance. I feel like the day to day is crazy and I don’t feel like I can “fix” things in the moment because of number of classes and students I have each day. I find that planning a whole quarter of lessons for each grade by date is very helpful. It gives you the big picture in your teacher life. For me, everything flows from the calendar. I realize not everyone is like that-but I like to leave on Friday and not think about my lessons over the weekend. What things work for you?

5-Keep Snack and Water Supplies Replenished.

I think that this is my least favorite task. I hate lugging stuff in and out of my classroom and back and forth every day. Last year I bought a small rolling suitcase to bring my laptop and "stuff" in because I didn’t want to carry things. The rolling suitcase rocked! It was so easy and took all the pressure off my shoulders. It's been great! I bring my own water to drink and lately I switched to bringing gallon jugs. I just leave a water bottle at work to use there. I found bringing things like this every day can become very tedious. I found it’s easier to just stock up on water once a month or so.  For lunches, I bring all of my own meals. I believe in the “batching” philosophy. That means that I cook most of my food for the week on Sunday. Then I make up my lunches all at one time. For me, that means in the morning it’s just grab and go. What tricks do you use to make the “eating” part of your teacher life easier?

6-Continue to Learn, Grow and Embrace New Methods.

Sometimes I feel like it’s a curse-but I really am a forever learner. I love to learn to play new instruments. I play guitar, piano, ukulele, recorder, and I'm working on the Violin. I hope to learn the harp too. With all the new technology, there’s plenty of things to learn. I’m moving towards a digital classroom and embarking on creating resources that are easy to use in google classrooms. That means I’m learning video, photography, graphics and tech skills. Last year I wanted to star a ukulele program. I didn’t know how to play. But I find that the students enjoy learning along with you. The students love to learn along with your and it is another way to connect with them. We are all learning together. What do you want to learn to do?    

7-Connect with My Peers About Students and Calendar Items.

Being proactive in communicating with classroom teachers, and administrators can cut down on stress because you’ve kept everyone in the loop and given them opportunities to work with you.  I routinely meet up with different grade levels and connect with them about certain students or what's going on in their grade. When I'm preparing for a program, I'll type up all of the information they will need to communicate to parents and we'll sit down and go through the dates, times and general ideas before we put the plan into action. This way, I have their support when I need it!  Fridays are a good day to send out emails for reminders of events for the upcoming week. That way the teachers have the emails first thing Monday morning.

8- Tidy Up!

I must admit, I can be the "crazy creative" person with stacks of files and papers on the piano, desk and file cabinet so one thing I do to help with paper is the take care of it as soon as I can and toss it out.  If I get a memo in my box, I take care of it before I leave for the day. If I need to grade papers-I take care of it that day. I’ve found that if I start to pile papers up around me, I never have time to go back and sort through them. If it’s something that’s going to take a long time and I can’t get to it that day, I put it in my calendar, so that it’s on my “to-do” list. That way it won’t get lost with the sheet music and other papers. I like to walk into a clean room on Monday, and the only way to do that is to leave it clean on Friday. So I'll take an extra few minutes and tidy up the room. I also have a catch phrase that I try to use all the time: "TOUCH IT ONCE". That means that if students are using xylophones, then they put them away. Whatever "props" the kids use during their class, I get them to clean up so that there's no residual messes to clean up at the end of the day. The students love to help and I enlist their help. I also feel like it helps them learn to be responsible. I do give out treats when someone's gone the extra mile. It makes a big difference to tidy up at the end of every week-dusting, wiping boards, putting away miscellaneous loose items.

9- Post New Things for the Next Week Before the Weekend.

I like to give the white board a good scrub, dust, reorganize and tidy up my desk before I leave on Fridays. It doesn’t take long, and I LOVE coming in to a clean and tidy classroom on Mondays. I found that wiping everything down and then leaving the room for the weekend feels really good to me. I also set out the instruments, worksheets and manipulatives I might need for the next week and have everything ready. If I walk in a bit late or something, then I’m all set for Monday lessons. Usually my I CAN statements are good for a whole unit and I'm not changing them every week. I've also updated my posters from this picture-but I used to just write them on the board. That way my administrator can immediately see what the goals are for each grade.  

 10- Thank the Custodians, Aides and Co-Workers for Their Help.

I try to leave a little treat out on Fridays for my custodians. I used to bake a lot-now I'll just grab something from the store and leave it for them in their work room with a "Thank You". I feel like it's important to validate their hard work and they sure appreciate the treats!  I also leave a bowl of treats for them during the summer. This has turned into a tradition.  

11- Laugh!

Do you know that having a healthy sense of humor is one of the top ways to beat stress? I’ve never been ashamed of being a bit goofy with the kids. I feel like many “stressful” situations have been busted up because I crack a joke or just smile big and laugh. Humor can diffuse many stressful situations. I find that making a joke is so much easier than being offended or, stressing out about stuff. When’s the last time you laughed until you cried?  I’ve infused humor into my music class by using jokes as speaking parts in programs. I love watching old comedy movies. Danny Kaye, Dean Martin, Cary Grant, Catherine Hepburn, James Stewart, Gene Wilder, Lucille Ball, Donald O’Connor, and that’s just some of the old classics. What are your favorite comedies?

12- Take Time to Re-Center.

I’ve been spending more time doing Yoga and meditation every day. I get up early and do it first thing in the morning. It’s a daily ritual that for me keeps me centered during the day. I’ve found that the longer I teach, the more important it is to “re-fill” my cup every day. I used to listen to music or read, but yoga for me is Physical and Mental together and I really connect to that kind of activity. I’ve been able to bring some of my learning into my classroom. (Why Not Teach Students to be Calm?”)  I also love to be outdoors and couldn’t resist the opportunity to do some Yoga moves at the top of this mountain in Colorado. I feel so free when I’m in nature-do you? Here’s the Short List: 1-Keep Teacher Materials Handy. 2-Complete all emails and management items by days end. 3- Create Something New. 4- Plan Lessons and Programs for the Whole Year. 5-Keep Snack and Water Supplies Replenished. 5-Continue to Learn, Grow and Embrace New Methods. 7-Connect with My Peers About Students and Calendar Items. 8- Tidy Up! 9- Post New Things for the Next Week Before the Weekend. 10- Thank the Custodians, Aides and Co-Workers for Their Help. 11- Be Grateful. 12- Take Time to Re-Center. I sincerely hope you’ve got some ideas on how you’re going to beat teacher stress this year. And, I hope you’ll share them. We’re all in this together- 12 TIPS TO BE STRESS FREE FREEBIE  
I hope you'll Share these ideas with your teacher friends on PINTEREST
Need some more Teacher Stress Ideas? Check out these posts: My Three Favorite Yoga Poses for Teacher Stress Or, How to Keep Up to Speed in Your Teacher Life Why Not Teach Students to Be Calm?  
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