How To Teach Without Getting Stressed-Out; Arghhh!

How To Teach Without Getting Stressed-OutI have a technique you can start using tomorrow that will eliminate stress from your teaching life.

This no-stress method is so effective, in fact, that many professional athletes use it before a competition.

For them, keeping their composure can mean the difference between winning and losing, success and failure.

For teachers the stakes are equally high.

It’s the difference between having a pleasant day and a miserable one, between loving your job and counting the days to retirement. Plus, teachers who are able to keep their cool have fewer behavior problems.

The technique is easy to use, takes just a couple of minutes, and works surprisingly well.

The Decide-First Method

It’s called the decide-first method of stress relief. I stumbled upon it many years ago while still a wet-behind-the-ears student teacher.

My first student teaching assignment was with an unruly group of fifth graders.

As is often the case, the teacher in charge of the class was looking for a way to take a break from her responsibilities. The students were bouncing off the walls, and she was pulling her hair out. Soon after I arrived she handed the class over to me.

I couldn’t have been happier.

Dirty Little Secret: teachers who frequently volunteer to host student teachers often need mentoring themselves.

When I made the decision to become a teacher, I decided that I was going to love my job no matter the circumstances. I wasn’t going to sit back and see if I was going to be fulfilled, happy, or having fun.

I was going to make it happen for myself.

So when I was thrown to the wolves as a new teacher, this attitude led me to start using the decide-first method.

Every day before walking into the chaos of my first teaching experience, I sat in my car, closed my eyes, and decided that no matter what happened that day, I wasn’t going to let it affect me emotionally.

A herd of elephants could come crashing through the door, but I committed myself to being as calm as a Tibetan monk.

At the time I didn’t have experienced classroom management skills. I knew few of the strategies and techniques that are now second nature to me.

But a funny thing happened.

The students began to feed off of my calm energy. And every day I gained greater control and respect. Within a couple of weeks I was indeed enjoying—loving—what I was doing.

A Lesson From Sports Psychology

I was watching the Tennis Channel recently, and during a segment called Fit To Hit, sports psychologist Dr. Allen Fox was asked how tennis players can best control their emotions on the court.

He said that, before a match, if they will make a conscience decision to keep their composure—despite the adversity they may face—then remarkably, they will.

It’s that simple.

Being stress free in the classroom, as well as on the tennis court, is a decision you make. Stress doesn’t happen to you; you let it happen to you.

But you can’t wait until you’re feeling stressed. By then it’s too late. The key is to decide beforehand.

How To Use The Decide-First Method

The following is a three-step plan for eliminating stress from teaching. Do it every day before your students arrive in the morning, and you will be happy with the results.

Step #1

Close your classroom door, sit down in a comfortable chair, and allow yourself a minute or two of silence.

Step #2

Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and relax your body.

Step #3

Decide that you will stay calm and relaxed no matter what happens that day. Commit yourself to handling every situation, every unforeseen circumstance, and every behavior with poise and confidence.

And you will.

The Benefits

The most obvious benefit of using the decide-first method is that you’re going to like your job a lot better. Here are a few more benefits:

  • Your calm, confident demeanor will sweep the negative and excitable energy out of your classroom.
  • Your students will respond to you differently. You’ll appear more in control, more confident, and more like a leader they’ll want to follow.
  • Your students will become calmer. Your state of mind has more effect on students than you realize. What you’re feeling on the inside reveals itself clearly on the outside.
  • Behavior will improve. You’ll begin relying on your classroom management plan instead of trying to force or convince students to behave—which is ineffective and stressful.

Try the decide-first method tomorrow. It could be the best day of teaching you’ve had in a long time.

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18 Responses to How To Teach Without Getting Stressed-Out; Arghhh!

  1. Sylvia Martin April 14, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    Love this…thank you for sharing
    Blessing & Light

  2. David May 3, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    I used this today and for the first time all year did not get reactively upset at some of my students’ behaviors. I made a decision to not get emotional and just be matter of fact no matter what. It worked.

    • Michael Linsin May 3, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

      Great David! Thanks for sharing.


  3. marymichael June 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

    Loving your job as teacher can make you more relaxed. It is in loving what we do that makes us successful.

  4. Annie May 23, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

    I am having trouble with remaining calm while at the same time enforcing classroom rules 100% of the time. I have a hard time catching everything and know I am not consistent, so I try to be on hyperalert to tell myself to catch everything and respond to everyone equally, and as a result I am on edge and very serious. Any advice?

    • Michael Linsin May 24, 2012 at 6:57 am #

      Hi Annie,

      Being on edge is not a requirement of enforcing rules 100% of the time. Remind yourself that they have nothing to do with each other. In fact, you are far better served and far more effective when you keep your composure. Breathe, shake your arms out, decide you’re not going to tense up no matter what happens in your classroom, and you’ll do well.


  5. Paulina November 4, 2012 at 6:15 am #

    At this point.. the students are running me out of my classroom. Tomorrow is a new start. I see 150 students daily so I know staying consistent is tough and I have not been doing it. They walk all over me. But this week I’m going to try this method. I can’t quit.. there’s no way because my husband isn’t working a conventional salary job. And I don’t want to give in on what I’ve wanted for so long. Any suggestions on staying consistent with so many students?

    • Michael Linsin November 4, 2012 at 9:34 am #

      Hi Paulina,

      You said it all yourself. Indeed you must make a new start. As far as becoming more consistent, this article should help: How To Be Consistent . . .


  6. Katrina Louise December 23, 2012 at 2:08 am #

    Dear Michael,

    It’s my first time to visit your sites and I’m extremely surprise to see what I am experiencing with students are being written here. I am student teacher which was just been trained for two weeks, and I’m starting my own class now. I have a very difficult problem with classroom management.

    Every time I enter the classroom, I want it to feel alive, but I couldn’t. I have trouble with giving instruction because students couldn’t do the task properly, they always tell me that they don’t understand what to do. I want to speak less, but I don’t know how. The more I speak, I see that the more students yawn. They are not active, and also bored. It’s a problem for me because I know my lesson wouldn’t be cleared if I see the students behave like this.

    I’ve been trying to make them laugh, to have them interact with me, but it didn’t work. My trainer said that my personality doesn’t fit with teaching, what is your opinion on it? I’m asking for your help and I hope my class would be better.

    • Michael Linsin December 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

      Hi Katrina,

      I think you’ll find what you’re looking for on this website. I’m confident it can help you first gain control of your class, and thrive thereafter. Start in the Classroom management Plan category of the archive and then go from there. Having a laugh with your students can be a wonderful thing, but it must come after establishing your rules and consequences. I’m surprised your trainer would tell you that you don’t have the right personality. My gosh, you’ve only been teaching for two weeks. Give it some time, apply the strategies, and you’ll do fine.


  7. Syed Irfan Ahmed March 4, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    According to psychological researches, teaching is one of the most stressful job of the world. I am really excited to know how easily we can control our stress in classroom. I am working on teaching stress in Karachi, Pakistan, and I would like to use this exercise with my participants. Thanks Michael.

    • Michael Linsin March 5, 2013 at 7:52 am #

      You’re welcome, Syed!


  8. Melissa November 1, 2013 at 6:12 am #

    Thank you for making “best practices” easier to apply. I have been struggling with discipline for 20 years. Now I see how powerful it is to set intention before beginnng to teach. I also see that, so often, when I have lost it inthe past, it’s because I knew I had fallen short. My planning or pacing.
    Had not worked. I was reacting more out of fear of failure.. But once I got a handle on that aspect of teaching, I could let go of the students’ acting out. Thanks for your sage advice.

    • Michael Linsin November 1, 2013 at 6:23 am #

      Hi Melissa,

      Know where you’ve gone wrong is half the battle. Way to go!


  9. June March 5, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this stress-management strategy, Michael!

    I am going to expand it to my life in general so that I can become a more calm, less-stressed person overall. I can wake up every morning and decide to be thankful for my life, no matter what the circumstances. (It should be very hard to be truly thankful and very stressed at the same time.) Then, I can decide not to wait, but create a LIFE in which I am more fulfilled and happy. In his timeless book “The Power of Positive Thinking” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale wrote “Attitudes are more important than facts.” Your classroom-tested strategies are proving that attitudes can change facts.

    So, thanks, again!
    🙂 June

    • Michael Linsin March 5, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

      Thanks so much for your kind words, June! So glad you found our website.


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