MAT Blog

5 Apps to Enhance Students’ Social Learning Skills

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on Apr 30, 2014 9:29:00 AM

Enhance Students’ Social Learning Skills resized 600The ability to successfully monitor and distinguish between emotions—both our own and the emotions of others—is one of the most important aspects of our development. Yet many of our students lack the social, personal, and emotional competencies that allow them to be socially and academically successful.

Although it might seem counter-intuitive for educators to turn to apps and online gaming to enhance students’ social learning skills, we believe that when used in tandem with personalized instruction and an engaging curriculum, social learning games can be incredibly useful.

5 Apps to Enhance Students’ Social Learning Skills

social learning skillsIF... is the brainchild of Trip Hawkins, the video game pioneer who brought us classics like Madden NFL, Medal of Honor, Desert Strike and the list goes on and on.

To create If…, Hawkins paired up with counselors and educators to create a world in which children explore their own emotions by role-playing social situations with their characters.

The game unfolds in Greenberry, a world run by cats and canines who just can’t seem to get along. Part of the gamer’s challenge is to change that. As students play, they’ll take part in a virtual counseling session with a community leader who teaches students deep breathing exercises and has a dialogue about feelings of loss.

social learning skillsThe Social Express features a series of animated episodes that model real-world social situations. If you’re concerned about students passively absorbing scenes, think again. The Social Express asks students to make choices, help characters navigate common social interactions, follow social cues, and make the appropriate decisions so that they can transfer these skills into their daily lives.

social learning skillsWay is definitely one of our favorite social learning games. Students play in pairs and take turns guiding each other through each level using gesture and non-verbal cues. This helps students experience what it is like to trust and be trusted.

social learning skillsSocial Skill Builder focuses on building friendships, problem solving, critical thinking, and perspective taking by asking students to work through video sequences and answer multiple-choice questions.



social learning skillsMisunderstood Minds is an excellent PBS documentary series that tells the stories of five families as, together with experts, they try to solve the mysteries of their children's learning difficulties. We like coupling this series with our lessons on empathy.

Even if you don’t end up screening the documentary, we suggest stopping by the website where you’ll find interactive activities that help students explore what it’s like to struggle with attention, reading, writing, and mathematics.



New Call to action

Tags: classroom management, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Classroom Climate, stress management, social learning skills

10 Ways for Teachers to Keep the Fire Burning

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Feb 7, 2014 11:12:00 AM

teacher burnoutLeaving work at work is truly an art form—especially when you’re a teacher.

It gets easier with time and experience, but I’ll be the first to admit that  I’ve spent restless nights and early mornings replaying the day’s events, recalling the conversations I had, the cringe-worthy lessons I gave, and all the things I didn’t say—but should’ve said— to my students.

If you haven’t experienced these feelings, I’d like to know your secret to success—but my gut tells me that most teachers, particularly those new to the profession, often feel like they’re hanging on by a thread. In times like this, I reach for one of my favorite resources: a book by Neila Connons called If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students. Below you’ll find 10 of her tips to help teachers keep the fire burning.

10 Ways for Teachers to Keep the Fire Burning

Make “me-time” a part of the job
Your students are important, but they cannot—and should not—be your sole priority. Beating yourself up at night and working through the weekend are both counter-productive activities. Your students need you to be at your best…how can you possibly be your best if you are exhausted?

You-time is a part of the job. You owe it to yourself to pursue healthy relationships, hobbies and life outside of work. 

View problems as challenges
You can waste a lot of time and energy talking about what’s wrong, but healthy people spend 5 percent of their time discussing problems and 95 percent looking for solutions. They enforce this philosophy in every aspect of their lives.

Don’t be a finger-pointer
This is an extension of the point we made above: Blame has never accomplished anything. Instead of spending time trying to figure out who is at fault, use the time to make things better.

Analyze your stresses and frustrations
Know what sets you off and avoid it when you can.

Set personal goals that are not associated with vices
Too often we associate resolutions and goal-setting with vices. We know we should stop smoking, start exercising more, eat less red meat, and so on. While the aforementioned goals are certainly worthy of our pursuit, it is important to also set goals that relate to our passions. What have you always wanted to do? Making it happen may not occur overnight; it may take a lot of work, but you owe it to yourself to pursue your passions.  

Do not vegetate, procrastinate or complain
Be active, organized, and positive. Get involved and be a part of the accomplishment. Healthy people are doers.

Have positive role models and mentors
Teachers are surrounded by lots of brilliant and resourceful people. Swallow your pride and learn to depend on them. 

Don’t sweat the small stuff
When challenges occur, ask yourself if this will make any difference tomorrow, next week or next month. Take your job seriously; take yourself lightly.

Be proud and confident
Even on the days you don’t feel your best, fake it ‘till you make it. A walk of confidence and pride definitely adds to the positive climate of a building.

Don’t ever stop playing and laughing
A day without laughter is also a day not fully lived. There is so much to smile about in our business; and we know that we don’t stop playing because we grow old—we grow old because we stop playing.

New Call-to-Action

Tags: classroom management, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Classroom Climate, stress management, teacher burnout

3 Ways to Promote Self-Discipline Rather Than Punishment

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 2, 2014 1:38:00 PM

classroom managementWhether you’re a first-year or veteran teacher, you’ve probably said—or at least thought—“What in the world do I do with this student?” It’s a common rhetorical question, but one worth taking a closer look at.

Traditional approaches of discipline usually place an emphasis on “doing”—that is imposing punishments for undesired behavior and handing out rewards for the kinds of behavior we want. While these approaches may make us feel better and “work” in the short term, Marvin Marshall, author of Discipline Without Stress, argues that they fail to instill self-discipline in the long term. Why? According to Marshall, 

  1. If you focus on obedience (traditional discipline techniques) you may engender resistance and even defiance—whereas focusing on responsibility (teaching youth to do things for themselves) brings obedience as a natural by-product.

  2. Using rules places you in the position of a cop, rather than a coach.

  3. Although you can control a person, you cannot change another person. People change themselves, and coercion is the least effective approach for influencing another person to change.

So how do we promote self-discipline rather than punishment?

Communicate in Positive Terms
Don’t think of the color red.

What happened when you read the sentence above? Most likely, you conjured up a mental picture of the color red. Similarly, when we tell our students what not to do, often the opposite results.

As Marshall suggests, “the brain does not envision ‘don’t’ or similar word choices. The brain envisions pictures, illusions, visions, and images.” We may have good intentions when we say “Don’t look at your neighbor’s test” or “Don’t run in the hallway,” but by saying these things, we’ve in fact created images of our students looking at each other’s tests and running through the hallway!

To avoid this, Marshall suggests that we communicate using positive language: Do keep your eyes on your own paper; do be sure to walk in the hallway.

Rather than aiming at obedience, promote responsibility
Making others obedient usually means that we are using coercion, the least effective approach for changing behavior.

It should not be our goal to change students; instead, we should aim to promote self-responsibility so that students can change themselves.

One way to do this is by asking students reflective questions:

  • "Are you willing to try something different if it would help you?"
  • "What would an extraordinary person do in this situation?"

Rather than impose, elicit

When teachers impose consequences, they also take away the opportunity for students to own the behavior and its consequence.

To promote self-discipline, try eliciting a consequence or a procedure that will help redirect students’ impulses. Use questions such as, “What do you think is a fair consequence for doing X?”  and "What procedure can we develop so that in the future you will not be a victim of your impulses?"

Get Your Free Classroom Management Guide

Tags: classroom management, teaching strategies, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Classroom Climate, stress management

15 More Ways Real Teachers Recover From a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 22, 2013 2:44:00 PM

new teacherWe love our job, but that doesn’t mean that teaching is easy. There will be bad days and classes that don’t go the way we planned them—there may even be days when things go so wrong that we question whether or not we are in the right profession.

We want to remind you that you are not alone.  

To help you put things into perspective, we reached out to fellow teachers and asked them to share words of encouragement and their best pieces of advice for recovering from a disastrous day.

15 More Ways Real Teachers Recover From a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

  •  “Tomorrow is another day. I remember that even the best rock star teachers have disastrous classes, disastrous days, and even disastrous weeks and semesters! I know that I'll examine the class to figure out what went wrong and take steps to remedy the situation, whatever it was.”
    -Mrs. Heckert
  •  “I remind myself why I'm doing this in the first place and that there are going to be bad days...they are part of life. AND prayer...definitely.”
    -Ms. Penning
  • “Take a deep breath.......realize that those students are gone (and you won't have to deal with them the rest of the day!), that a new set is coming in and they need you to be at your best."
  • “Quickly do a run through in your head and see if you need to make any adjustments to your presentation/teaching so that the next class won't go down the same rotten path. And keep in mind that they are just kids; we don't know what kind of home life they are coming from. We have to be adult and the bigger person.”
    -Mrs. Barnes
  • “I keep letters from former students that were given to me in years past. When I have one of those days, I will read some of the letters and remind myself that what I'm doing does matter and is touching lives.”
    -Ms. Hagaman
  • “You will have good days, great days, and bad days. Remember, you are there for the students, to teach them not only academics, but how to be good people. The students that are the worst need your help, love, and kindness the most. Don't take it personal.”
    -Mr. Spencer
  • “I think back to some of the positive things parents and students have told me that helps reassure me I am doing the right thing. This allows me to refocus, step back up to the line and get ready for the next period.”
    -Mr. Shannon
  •  “A prayer for patience—and remember that tomorrow is a new start for both you and the students.”
    -Mrs. Gonzalez 
  • “I find positive things that happened in the same class period. I call home about these positive tidbits. It goes a long way with the students that actually do what they are supposed to and helps me realize my small victories. I always feel tons better after bragging on students.”
    -Mrs. Leone 
  • “Do your best, put your heart into it, but don't take it personally when the kids let you down. You won't actually reach all of them, but work like you can.
    -Mr. Barrows 
  • “Do not take it personally. Reflect on how you can change the lesson or dynamics so that the students will learn. Remember, it is not about you, it is about the students' learning. Chocolate helps too, though. J”
    -Mr. Prestwood
  • “I try to figure out what went wrong and why, and then take action so the same thing won't go wrong the same way. And in the meantime, a deep breath and laughing with other teachers helps.”
    -Mrs. Korfmann 
  • “It is so easy to focus on the disaster and forget about the good things. Remember that you teach students, not a subject. Don't tear yourself up. We are all human. Laugh it off. Reflect, and move on. Think of it as a memorable experience and embrace the next adventure. It can only get better.”
    -Mrs. Eker
  • “They need you! Just keep plugging!”
    -Mrs. Oliver
  • “I am honest with myself and the students. Today for example, class went horrific. They were talking too much, not grasping the material, and not 100 percent focused (mainly because I have them before and after lunch). So I stopped class and told them to put their notes away. I told them that we will try again tomorrow because the cold weather has frozen our brains. We reviewed another topic and they did another activity.

    I try not to force it when class is going downhill. Chances are I will have to reteach the topic again tomorrow anyway because of how the class went. So instead of everyone being frustrated or me rolling my frustration to the next class, I change up the lesson.”
    -Ms. Emerson


15 Classroom Management Apps for Educators

Tags: classroom management, teaching strategies, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Classroom Climate, stress management

10 Ways Real Teachers Recover From a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 19, 2013 9:08:00 AM

teacherWe don’t have to tell you this, but teachers are not superhuman—at least not all the time. We doubt ourselves. We struggle to reach our students and, despite our exhaustion, we often lie awake at night replaying the day, wondering how in the world things could have possibly gone so wrong.

But there’s good news: You aren’t alone.

To help you put things into perspective and find constructive ways to recover from what one of our favorite authors would call a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” we reached out to fellow teachers and asked them to share their best recovery strategies. The response was overwhelming and for that reason, this blog is going to be divided up into two parts.

Without further ado, here is part one of 10 Ways Real Teachers Recover From a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Class.

  • “Rescue Remedy herbal drops under the tongue. Breathe.”
    -Mrs. Rutledge

  • “Several years ago, I started putting student notes, parent thank yous, administrative accolades and the like in a notebook. On those REALLY bad days, I take it out and remember all of the wonderful students and experiences I have had along the way. It's not a cure-all, but it does help me regain perspective and remember why I do what I do.”
    -Ms. Millinor 

  • “I always try to learn from it. I look at the lesson and the kids. I've had lessons and units that one class might love and the other classes just hate. So I may tweak it a bit or decide the class was just not a good fit with that lesson.”
    -Ms. Harrington 

  • “Remember that everyone has an off day, you are a good teacher and you tried your best. Also, always try something new; it does not always work but at least you tried.”
    -Mrs. Pirc 

  • “I find positive things that happened in the same class period. I call home about these positive tidbits. It goes a long way with the students that actually do what they are supposed to and helps me realize my small victories. I always feel tons better after bragging on students.”
    -Mrs. Leone 

  • “Often, I have to remind my students that I'm a human being and make mistakes. If I've been a disastrous teacher, I find open apology actually earns the teacher some serious cred. If I've bolloxed-up a lesson, I make it right by re-explaining. But it is a reflective process. Look at it as a chance to reflect on your practice.

    Another suggestion: Go for a hike (even if it's a local park) and sit and read some Emerson. Look at the trees and rock formations that have been here so much longer than we have and realize that your problems really aren't problems in the grand scheme of things. Keep your chin up!”
    - Mr. Hamlin 

  • “I am usually willing to admit my mistakes. I have a frank conversation with the class and say, ‘Hey, I messed up!’ It allows the students to see you're human and that we all make mistakes.
  • I also talk to them about their responsibility in the debacle. What did they do to compound the situation? A disastrous class is rarely just one party’s fault. Sometimes a written reflection helps: as the students write theirs, you write one of your own.”
    -Mrs. Carberry  
  • “I straight up, tell my next class(es) that I'm having an ‘off’ day—and I sometimes explain why. If I'm short tempered for any reason, I also tell them that ‘it's not them, it's me.’ I ask them if they can think of anything to make me smile (usually they do), I paste on a smile and move along with the lesson. But then when I get home, I go for a super long run: outside and with music playing loudly. Very loudly.”
    -Mrs. Kane 

  • “I'm pretty frank with my middle school classes. I just let them know that I, too, realize that what we just did didn't work and we will try again tomorrow. They are pretty understanding and appreciate the honesty. We are teachers who work hard to do what's best for our kiddos. We are nowhere near perfect and can't beat ourselves up over a bad lesson. Learn from it and move on.”
    -Mrs. Borth 

  • “Keep a ‘Why I Do This’ folder, virtually and physically. Inside, place any positive and supportive item you’ve ever received from a student, parent, or colleague, and pull it out on days like that.”
    -Mr. Beat 

We’d like to thank all of our friends on Edmodo for their willingness and enthusiasm for sharing their experiences with us. Be sure to check back Thursday week for part two!


Thanksgiving Craft Guide

Tags: classroom management, teaching strategies, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Classroom Climate, stress management

8 Tips for Teachers Who Have a Passion for NOT Cooking

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Oct 24, 2013 10:18:00 AM

cooking tipsNow that the school year is in full swing, many teachers find themselves a lot less interested in spending time in the kitchen. Perhaps it’s the weather, the stacks of papers, or just general exhaustion from spending nine hours in the classroom that makes our dinners increasingly less inspired. If this sounds like your situation, read on. We’ve got a few tips to help you revive your enthusiasm for cooking, even on school nights. 

8 Tips for Teachers Who Have a Passion for NOT Cooking

There’s nothing wrong with leftovers—get over it!
For some reason, many cooks are under the impression that they have to serve fresh-out-of-the-oven meals every night. That’s ridiculous, especially because so many dinners—lasagna, chili, meatloaf, for example—actually taste better the second night. Cut out one night of cooking by doubling a recipe and saving it for another night when you can’t bear to step foot into the kitchen.

Try Sunday afternoon cooking instead
Sunday afternoons are usually lazy days for us since we try to get most of our grading and prep done on Saturday. On a friend’s recommendation, we’ve started a new Sunday afternoon routine: We put on a good record, pour a glass of wine and take to the kitchen. Our recipes vary—most of them are simple—but we cook three main courses (this takes about two hours), place them in Tupperware containers and store them in the fridge. Now all we have to do when we get home from work is reheat them. 

Change the way you serve your dishes
How many bowls do you use to serve your dinner? For example, do you heat vegetables or baked beans on the stove and transfer them to a fresh bowl before serving? If so, you’ve just given yourself another dish to clean. You’re not serving Oprah or Gordon Ramsey, so stop worrying about presentation. Throw a hot pad on the table, serve your food straight from the kettle, the Pyrex, or the skillet, and save yourself a lot of unnecessary cleanup time.

Fresh vs. frozen vegetables
Buy frozen vegetables. They are already cleaned and ready for use; they’ll also save you money since they won’t wilt or go bad in the fridge if you don’t eat them right away. If you’re concerned about losing nutrients with frozen vegetables, keep in mind that frozen produce—if frozen and stored properly—offers a similar nutritional profile to fresh since it is usually picked at peak ripeness and frozen immediately after harvesting.

We don’t claim to be food connoisseurs, but we do know what we like and we can’t taste the difference between most frozen and fresh vegetables. There are two exceptions: stick with fresh asparagus and broccoli.

Stop doing everything yourself
Our cooking exhaustion has more to do with doing everything than it does with cooking. If you’re cooking dinner, there’s no reason you should be setting and clearing the table and doing the dishes. Trade off with your kids or your partner/spouse. Whoever cooks gets to walk away scot-free after dinner. Whoever doesn’t cook has to clear the table and do the dishes. While you’re at it, put those kids to work. Have them make the salad, heat the side dish, clean up, prep and, if they’re old enough, cook entire meals.

Make smarter choices at the store
Fresh garlic and herbs are tasty, but they have a limited shelf life; furthermore, they tack on more prep time. Instead, buy fresh crushed garlic and ginger in jars. Herbs are also available in tubes that you can keep in the freezer. Fresh lemon and lime juice can also be bought in bottles and stored in the fridge. Are you still grating cheese? Skip it. Buy pre-grated cheese and store it in the freezer to increase the shelf life.

Cook with a friend
If you are a bachelor or bachelorette—heck, even if you aren’t!— make a cooking date with a friend. As we suggested above, put on a good record, pour some wine, talk and take your time preparing the meal. Not only will you get a fresh cooked meal, you’ll get to catch up.

Eat out once a week and split something
We like to reward ourselves at least once a week by going out to dinner. To save money, though, we stick to Thai and Indian restaurants. The portions are usually enough for two or three people, so we always split an entrée with someone. Like we said, this saves us money, but it also keeps us from overeating.

We’re always looking for new ways to maintain (and reclaim) our enthusiasm for cooking, so please feel free to share your ideas with us!



Principal Appreciation


Tags: stress management, Marygrove College Master in the Art of Teaching, cooking tips for teachers

Five of the Biggest Mistakes I Made as a New Teacher

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Oct 10, 2013 9:35:00 AM

new teacherWe’ve been following Dr. Robyn Jackson for a couple years now. For those of you who are not familiar with Jackson, she is a former master teacher and principal who has published several books including Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Never Underestimate Your Teachers. We recently read one of Jackson’s blog entries, “Five of the Biggest Mistakes I Made as a New Teacher,” and liked it so much that we wanted to share it with our own readers.

Five of the Biggest Mistakes I Made as a New Teacher

Mistake #1: I took everything personally
If the students disobeyed me, I got angry at them. If they didn’t do their work, I took it as a personal affront.  Every time they put their heads down or didn’t turn in their homework, I was personally offended.  The problem with taking things personally is that it usually leads to blaming the students. The moment I realized that it wasn’t about me, I was able to shift my focus from how offended I was to what I needed to do to help my students make better decisions the next time. When I stopped taking personal offense at everything my students did (or didn’t do) I was able to focus on how I could best respect, honor, appreciate, and capitalize on the currencies they brought to the classroom.

Mistake #2: I avoided dealing with parents
When parents contacted me, I used to cringe.  Usually, they were not calling with good news.  I did everything I could to avoid dealing with them.  By seeing them as an adversary, or at least a nuisance I wanted to avoid, I created more problems with parents than I solved.  Once I learned to see parents as my partners, to keep them informed about what was going on in my class, and to bring them into the loop early in the process, I found that parents were my best allies.  As a result, even when we disagreed on a course of action for their child, we were more likely to work out a plan that we could both support.

Mistake #3: I waited until students were failing to intervene
I was always surprised at interim time that certain students were failing.  What made it even worse was that by the time I sent out interims, there was really little students could do to redeem their grades before the end of the marking period.  It wasn’t until I created a proactive intervention plan that forced me to systematically look at student performance that I started to notice the moment students began to fail and plan in advance what I would do to get them back on track.  Then, I could intervene before they got so far in the hole that they could not possibly ever get out.

Mistake #4: I was afraid to make mistakes
I thought that as the teacher, I always had to be right.  I worked really hard at being the smartest person in the room.  When my students asked me a question for which I had no answer, I’d make one up.  If I made a mistake, I would cover it up.  Only when I gave myself permission to be, well, human, did my teaching get really good.  When I let my students see me make mistakes, admit them, and then take steps to correct them, it made it okay for them to make mistakes too.  The more I took risks in the classroom, the more I made it safe for them to take risks.  As a result, my classroom became a place where real learning could happen.

Mistake #5: I tried to cover everything
I thought that if it was in the curriculum, it had to be taught.  The problem is that most curriculum documents are so bloated that it is difficult to cover everything or allot the same amount of time to every assignment.  What’s more, covering the curriculum does not guarantee that the students will meet all of the standards.  Once I realized that, I began to focus on the standards and on helping my students reach the standards rather than just cover the curriculum.  Doing so gave me more time to teach what really mattered and more flexibility to adjust my teaching based on my students’ needs.

Dr. Jackson is a regular blogger over at ASCD Edge. To read more of her work, click here.


15 Classroom Management Apps for Educators

Tags: new teacher, classroom management, classroom procedures, stress management, motivation

“And doggone it, people like me”: 10 Affirmations for teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 27, 2013 12:05:00 PM

affirmations for teachersRemember the old Saturday Night Live skit, “Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smally?” In it Smalley plays a new-agey, self-help guru who faces an oval mirror and recites positive affirmations like, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” It’s true: affirmations, new age mysticism, and self-help culture are easy to lampoon—and although we’ll be the first to laugh at a Stuart Smally sketch, we do happen to believe in the power of affirmations, both positive and negative.

“And Doggone it, people like me”: 10 Affirmations for teachers

Imagine a teacher who wakes up in the morning and says, “There’s never enough time in the day. I work more hours than I have to really make a difference. I cannot possibly be expected to meet all of the curriculum goals without team planning time. I’m so tired of the technology not working when I need it!”

Now imagine a teacher who wakes and says, “I will strive to reduce my students’ anxiety before their test today. I will speak positively with others and listen with compassion.”

Who has a better chance of connecting with students? Who has a better chance of inspiring other teachers? We think it’s the latter.

Our observations and internal mutterings often give shape to our experiences. When we are told something about ourselves—whether by someone else or by that critical voice inside our heads—it is an affirmation that can easily become the lens through which we see our lives.

Below you will find 10 affirmations for teachers that we borrowed from Rob D’Alessio’s book, Bringing Our Souls to the Classroom. If you’re feeling burned out, overwhelmed, exhausted, try giving some of these a try. What’s the worst that could happen?

  • I support “readiness to learn”
  • I promote academic performance
  • I promote strengthening of attention and concentration in my classroom
  • I reduce anxiety before testing and culminating tasks in my classroom
  • My students are calm
  • I find ways to improve classroom participation
  • When I wake up, I wake up mindfully so my day is sure to meet or exceed expectations
  • I aspire to express more patience today
  • If I am calm, my students will instinctively move toward their own sense of calm
  • If I treat my students with respect and integrity, they are likely to return the courtesy

Teaching is a rewarding profession, but let’s face it, it’s also a huge responsibility. In addition to sharing these 10 affirmations for teachers, we’d also like to share our recent guide on becoming a more mindful teacher: Zen Teaching and Teaching Zen: Mindfulness in the Classroom.

New Call to action

Tags: stress management, mindfulness exercises, affirmations for teachers

Avoiding Teacher Burnout: 5 More Stress Management Tips

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Feb 2, 2013 6:00:00 AM

Stress ManagementYou spend a great deal of your life thinking about your students, don’t you? You tinker with your lesson plans; you scrap them; you reinvent them again and again, trying to find the best way to engage every student because you know that “teach to the top” is not a viable option. Then the weekend comes around and you spend much of your time “off,” well, on—because you’re responding to student papers and preparing for the next week. And this doesn’t even take into account all the other life duties you’ve signed on to.

If this doesn’t fit your profile, we’d like to know your secret to success. But our instinct tells us that many teachers, particularly those who are new to the profession, often feel that they’re hanging on by a thread. We don’t want you to become a statistic*, so we’re offering 5 more tips to help you avoid teacher burnout.

Avoiding Teacher Burnout: 5 More Stress Management Tips

Make the 15-minute habit a habit
Like most, we had a penchant for the snooze button—until it dawned on us that those 15 minutes of “rest” were always squandered once we got out of bed anyway. Think about the last time you slept in. Were you more rested when you got up? Probably not. More than likely you were more stressed out because you had to make up for those 15 minutes by cutting corners.

Stop hitting snooze and always give yourself 15 extra minutes on top of what it takes you to get ready. Try it. Once you get to class, you’ll find that your mind isn’t racing and your thoughts aren’t being crowded out with the noise of the morning.

Set your goals and reevaluate your commitments in relation to them
Many of us have a hard time saying no because, let’s face it, more responsibilities often lead to more opportunities. But are those opportunities high impact? Are they the opportunities we really want? Or are they the opportunities we’ve aimlessly pursued or felt guilty saying no to?

Before you say yes to the next offer, put down your goals in writing. What’s important to you? What do you truly want to achieve? Do you want your weekends free? Do you want to spend more time with your family? Do you want to go to Europe? Now consider whether or not this new opportunity will help you realize these goals.

Take 10-15 minutes a day to deal with the dreaded deeds
We’ve all got a list of dreaded deeds that hang off in the periphery of our day. Failing to deal with them simply imbues them with more power than they’d have if we simply chipped away at them for a measly 10 or 15 minutes a day.

Come on now, it's only 20-25% of an entire hour. You can handle that. Set a timer if that helps. You may surprise yourself by becoming so absorbed you end up completing the task sooner than you anticipated. If you don't finish, you'll be making good headway. Your mind can rest easy knowing you'll continue taking care of the DD for 10-15 more manageable minutes tomorrow, which further reduces your stress. It isn’t particularly profound, but it’s true.

Can't find a mentor? Hit the Internet
Platforms like Edmodo, Schoology, ASCD Edge and Classroom 2.0 can connect you with hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of educators in a few short clicks. Maybe you’re looking for a safe environment where you can garner advice, curriculum ideas or lesson plans…these are the places to go if you can’t find someone in your school or district as a mentor.

Your school may have limited funding. Your colleagues and your principal may seem more like nebulous objects than mentors, but the fact of matter is that there’s a boundless, borderless global community of educators at your fingertips. You may not have met them yet, but they’re there for you.

Go Home

We stole this one from Andrew Miller. There’s always more to do, right? There are meetings, tutoring sessions, grading…but it can wait—all of it. Set boundaries; set aside a specific time every day to do something that nurtures you physically, mentally, socially, spiritually, etc. Go home! Revere this time like you would any after-school tutoring session or faculty meeting. The world and all its ungraded papers can wait—at least for one hour. 

 *15 percent of teachers leave the profession and another 14 percent change schools after their first year, often as the result of feeling overwhelmed, ineffective, and unsupported.

Ingersoll, R. M., & Smith, T. M. (2003). The wrong solution to the teacher shortage. Educational Leadership, 60(8), 30–33.

* Case studies have observed novice teachers struggling "just trying to come up with enough curriculum" and often spending 10 to 12 hours a day juggling lesson planning, grading, and the myriad demands of paperwork, committees, and extracurricular assignments.

Fry, S. W. (2007). First-year teachers and induction support: Ups, downs, and in-betweens. The Qualitative Report, 12(2), 216–237.

If you're looking for more career and curriculum-enhancing ideas, check out some of our most resources by downloading our Best of 2012 guide!


Download our new guide,  10 Hearty Valentine's Day Projects

Tags: classroom management, stress management, teacher burnout

Avoiding Teacher Burnout: 5 Stress Management Tips

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 19, 2013 6:00:00 AM

Stress ManagementWe spend a good amount of time perusing and interacting with educators on communities like Edmodo, Schoology and Classroom 2.0. Since class started up again after the New Year, we’ve been seeing a lot of posts about lack of student engagement and more than a few pleas for new classroom management tips. Something tells us that teachers, just like students, may be experiencing the mid-year blues. But don’t allow this stress to turn into teacher burnout.

We regularly blog about classroom management and student engagement, but something just occurred to us: We’ve never offered any stress management tips for teachers. So without further ado, here are 5 tips that work for us:

Avoiding Teacher Burnout: 5 Stress Management Tips

Clear to Neutral
We’re very good at scolding our students about waiting until the last minute to find their research or write their essays, but let’s be honest, teachers are (covertly, of course) some of the best procrastinators out there. But why do we procrastinate? One of the biggest reasons is because we have to jump through a number of unpleasant hoops to get to the main task. Let’s illustrate:

You have to cook dinner, which means that you need the cutting board, clean knives, dishes and pots to get the job done. Unfortunately, all of the tools you need to make dinner are still filthy and sitting in the sink. So before you can get to what you set out to do (cook), you’ve got 20 other things to do (clean and scrape pans) before you can actually start on the main task (cooking). What happens? You’re frustrated. Now apply this to responding to student work, prepping or grading papers.

Here’s where Clearing to Neutral (CTN) comes in. CTN simply means that every time you finish an activity, you engage in a routine, a setup, so that the next time you start the activity, your environment is ready to go—no cleaning 20 pots and pans, no sorting through your file folder, no sifting through your email box to find document attachments so you can print the papers your students emailed to you…

Do something that intimidates you—every day
What are you afraid of? What is causing you anxiety or hanging over your head? Think about this for a second. There’s something you’ve been afraid of or dreading for a long time and it’s causing you anxiety. Mark Twain once said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.” But how do we master fear? The answer is simple: by building up a tolerance to the things that make us uncomfortable.

Don’t beat yourself up over being anxious; embrace that anxiety by meeting it head on. Start with the small stuff: Call that colleague who you had a falling out with; speak to a stranger in an elevator; stop saying that you’re going to completely change the way you eat, just dust off your juicer and substitute one meal a week with fresh vegetable juice. Gradually these acts will become perfunctory, not fear-laden.  

Go somewhere you’ve never been before—every weekend
Most stress management “experts” will tell you to stick with routines, but we’ve found that it’s often the grind of a routine that burns us out the most. If you’re looking to break out of the mundane, try alternating weekends with your spouse or significant other: one weekend, s/he chooses an activity that neither of you have ever done before; the next weekend it’s your turn.

A colleague of ours has been doing this for years and she and her spouse continue their pursuit of new and bizarre adventures to this day. One Saturday, her husband surprised her (and probably himself) with tickets to the Detroit Kennel Club Dog Show. Seats were usually $15 a person, but he found free tickets on Craigslist.  Another time they drove two hours north just to eat dinner at a five-table Italian Café she read about on Yelp; after that, they went to a local stock-car race. Why? Because…why not?

Sure, you may have to grade papers in the morning, but section off a block of time and dedicate yourself to breaking out of your routine every week.

Place the onus on your students
You feel like your pulling teeth sometimes, don’t you? Of course you do, you’re a teacher. Never work harder than your students. Are group discussions floundering? Is your own voice ringing in your ear? Maybe it’s time that you try something else.

Instead of elucidating a chapter, digesting it for your students, put them into groups and have them explain, in writing, the significance of specific passages in the text. Then come back together as a class and discuss. Or type up a series of questions—and make sure that they inspire rather than quiet discussion and disagreement. Dissention and openness to debate is what will make your classroom discussions exciting. Stop worrying about things going off the rails and just see what happens.

Don’t buy into the work-life balance malarkey
Stress management experts are always talking about work-life balance, but the whole concept of it is about as antiquated as that cell phone Zach Morris used in Saved By the Bell.

“Work” and “life” are inextricable from one another.

Albert Camus once said, “Without work, all life goes rotten…” And he makes a good point.

Work is life. Life is work.

But Camus also said, “When work is soulless, life stifles and dies.” That’s why we need to ensure that our work lives are aligned with our passions.

We can’t tell you how to make this happen. What we can tell you is that if we are not living while we are at work, there’s a good chance that life will stifle and die. So we better learn to enjoy ourselves—I mean really, truly enjoy ourselves when we are in the classroom.

If you're looking for more career and curriculum-enhancing ideas, check out some of our most resources by downloading our Best of 2012 guide!


New Call to action

Tags: classroom management, stress management, teacher burnout

Our Most Popular Blog Posts

Subscribe to the Marygrove MAT Blog!

Comments on this Blog Post