Stress In And Out Of The TEFL Classroom

stressed1.jpgMy latest EFL read is the July 2006 issue of Modern English Teacher where I found an article on reducing teacher stress. Paul Bress points out that nowadays people expect more from their jobs – so not only do employees, including EFL teachers, put more pressure on employers, but also, I think, on themselves.

Paul actually carried out research into the lives of 27 teachers; the main problems he found were:

  • Feeling they didn’t have enough time
  • Irrelevant and slow staff meetings
  • Observations conducted in the “wrong spirit”
  • Lack of a culture of praise

Some solutions he proposed for reducing stress:

  • Check classroom equipment before using it (I wouldn’t put it first as, while broken equipment can certainly lead to problems during the class, I don’t personally find it to be as much of a stress as some of the others.)
  • Try to be “good enough” rather than perfect (I think this is extremely important and in different aspects of your life as well; it can be especially challenging for teacher sometimes as they so often work in “isolation” from colleagues, which could help them realize they are doing everything alright.)
  • Tune in to each student’s linguistic ability and personality (This is perhaps hard given the last point, but certainly something to strive for.)
  • Keep fillers up your sleeve (Exactly! For when the tape recorder isn’t working.)
  • Have a plan but be prepared to modify it (Yes. See the TEFL Logue’s lengthy thoughts on this topic here.)

I’d add a couple more:

  • Try to find friends outside your work environment – surprisingly difficult when you are abroad, especially if you’re only there for a year, but it is very easy to end up talking shop with colleagues.
  • Compliment your students, and even others around you: it doesn’t have to be about their English language performance. Be genuine, but make an effort to do it. It may sound like a stretch, but people like being told when they’re doing something well and can tell if you mean it. This can do wonders for the atmosphere.
  • Finally, take a nap from time to time! The TEFL Logue is not a big napper, but had an especially refreshing nap today. It works!