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Anxiety in Teaching – Louise Clayton-Phipps The Confident Classroom Coach

It is very evident that Teacher’s anxiety and stress levels have risen exponentially since the arrival of Coronavirus. Educators have not only had to change how they teach and how the children are assessed but also how they live. If someone had told us in the middle of 2019 that within 12 months we would:

  • Not be allowed to hug people who we do not live with

  • Have to be stringent in cleaning – and shops would run out of antibacterial wipes and soap

  • Have to social distance

  • Cope with Lockdown’s

  • And wear masks when out

to name just a few, we would have thought this was a storyline from a Hollywood movie (oh wait a sec – there was that film called Contagion!) This became our new norm.

We then had to deal with the death toll going into millions, we lived in fear of catching it and spreading it to those we loved but teachers like other front line staff had to get on with things!

Teacher training continued (remotely), teaching continued (both remotely and in school) but the focus changed from academics and grades to the health and wellness of the children and helping them to understand and process what was going on around them. Of course this was the right thing to do at the time. (The last time anything like this had happened was World War 2, it’s just this time the attack was an airborne virus and not bullets, grenades and bombs.) Unfortunately this then led to children “falling further behind” and this has meant teachers and educators being under more than the usual pressure for getting them “back on track”.

Anxiety in teaching is a huge issue right now. I see daily how teachers are having to “go on sick leave”, feel like they can not cope anymore, or feel the only way to ‘survive’ is to leave the profession altogether. This saddens me greatly.

Teachers are struggling with:

  • The increased workload

  • The stress of testing and tracing

  • Being distanced from family and friends in order to keep everyone as ‘safe’ as possible.

  • Feelings of guilt for not ‘protecting’ their own immediate family – “Am I going to bring it home?”

  • Learning a whole new way of teaching (remote learning) and in some cases having to do two or three lots of planning for the same lesson (one for in school, one for virtual and one for those without computer at the time).

  • Longer hours

  • Marking and assessing being more difficult

  • Pressure from media to get things back on track

  • Fear of grading something wrong and it having massive repercussions for a student in the future

  • Sleeping less and not looking after themselves

Suffering with anxiety isn’t just about having a few worries. It’s not just worrying about having more work to do, how to get the children back on track, or how to assess them. If you suffer with anxiety you are not able to stop these worries, it’s about these worries building up and up, and effecting how you feel and thinking you can’t cope, it effects every area of your life because you feel like you are a failure, you are not as good a teacher as someone else, you feel panicked about things that others wouldn’t panic about, and you physically feel ill and that in turn makes you feel worse as “I obviously can’t cope, I can’t do this, I can’t teach!”

If this sounds familiar at all please be assured, you are not alone and you can overcome it! You do not have to learn how to cope with it and manage it, you CAN overcome it!

In order to do this you need to understand your thinking (because that’s what it is!) and how your styles of thinking help those thoughts build and grow. Once you understand this it makes it so much easier to change how you think and as a result change how you feel.

How can I say this?

I’m living proof! I used to….

  • Have no confidence

  • Worry about everything, all of the time and not be able to control the worries

  • Have crippling anxiety

  • Also have low self esteem (it’s all connected as you will learn)

  • Imagine the worst case scenario and then would panic in case it came true

  • Feel guilty that I was a failure and a pain and I and let everyone down

  • Think I was rubbish, no good at my job and no one actually liked me

I learnt what I was doing, I came to understand where I was going wrong and now I know what to do about it.

Now I …

  • Have better self esteem

  • No longer suffer with anxiety on a daily basis where it cripples me

  • Feel happy and content and calm

  • Have confidence in my abilities

  • Imagine good things happening

  • No longer feel the need to compare myself to others

  • No longer worry about everything and anything

But how did I do this?

  • I learnt to recognise what was triggering me and why,

  • I learnt what thoughts I was having and how I was allowing these to grow,

  • I learnt that the physical reactions I was experiencing were directly related to what I was thinking – this is the Mind and Body connection!

  • I could then pin point what needed to change and where and this was a massive lightbulb moment!

If you are suffering with anxiety my biggest tips would be these:

  1. Start to recognise what is triggering you.

  2. Look at the thoughts you are having and categorise them – is this a helpful thought or an unhelpful thought? Is it making the worry grow or shrink?

  3. Recognize the physical reactions that you are having and remember these are reactions to your thoughts because your mind is telling your body you are “in danger”.

  4. Take a deep and calm breath – this will probably go against what you are doing at the time (breathing rapidly), this allows more oxygen in and helps you to ‘reset’.

  5. Use affirmations like “I can cope with whatever is thrown my way” and “I am calm and confident”.

  6. Focus on the things that you can control – how you talk to yourself, what thoughts you let ‘stay’, how you react to situations.

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