I 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.
Close your classroom door, sit down in a comfortable chair, and allow yourself a minute or two of silence.
Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and relax your body.
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 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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