How to survive minor classroom irritations

It’s something that is common in all professions, in all people from all walks of life. It strikes randomly and often takes us unawares, but with the right attitude it can seem like a walk in the park.  Frustrating days happen, and how we deal with it is what really counts. You could be sitting in a staff meeting when another member of staff offers up your superb idea as her own, or a parent enters your classroom and says ‘I don’t know what is the matter with Jamie, he was so happy last year’, both are scenarios which could send confidence level plummeting.  Yet, by regaining your perspective this can feel like water off a duck’s back. 

Focus on the present
You’ll need to make sure it is a very quiet room, and you may want to hold a cup of tea, be aware of the warmth of the drink, sip it slowly, and as it travels down and warms your stomach feel the pleasure and enjoy the ‘golden moment’, she adds.  To make it even more special, try listening to some beautiful music at the same tiJenny Mosley, educational consultant suggests that the best thing we can do is to take time out to focus on the present moment. This means not thinking about the past, nor on things that you will need to deal with in a month, week, and day or even in the next hour, but to channel our energy and learn to be in the present moment.  “We all need to sit still for one minute, breathe calmly from our stomach and say quietly to ourselves “at this moment I am lucky”.me, suggest Mosley.  This helps to regain your energy.  “Only if you regain your energy, can you regain your perspective,” she adds.

Have a ‘plan B’
Sue Cowley, educational psychologist, says that having a practical alternative to reach for when things don’t go according to plan is essential.  “If a planned lesson goes badly wrong, I’d always recommend that teachers have a kind of mental ‘kitbag’ of alternative activities, quick games or exercises that they can use to fill in while they think of something else to do.  Don’t be afraid to chuck away a planned activity if it’s not working, maybe even ask the students what they think would work instead,” she says. 

Admit to mistakes
Don’t be afraid to admit to the students if what you’ve planned isn’t working; it’s so much better than struggling on when something patently doesn’t suit them, she adds. This attitude also nurtures a culture that allows mistakes.  “Making mistakes is not a disaster.  You can learn from these and it allows others to so as well,” says Mosley. 

Learn to laugh
The ability to laugh can help to diffuse situations and to keep a sense of perspective.  “I worked in one school where my classroom was a space between two areas and ended up being used inappropriately as a kind of thoroughfare between two areas.  I was forever going on at the kids about how they shouldn’t use it as such, “she says.  “One day, the head teacher arrived at the door; he came in, smiled sweetly and then proceeded to use my room as a thoroughfare to go from one area to the next. “I waited until he had left, then gave the kids a ‘look’ that said ‘see what I mean?’ and we all collapsed into fits of laughter.  In fact, being able to laugh at yourself and at situations when things go wrong is probably the best advice of all - it helps you to relax and retain a sense of perspective,” says Cowley.    

Visit the wells
Mosley says teachers can learn to deal with bad days more effectively if they make sure that their needs are being met in five key areas.  She refers to each area as a ‘well’ which teachers should visit regularly:

Emotional well
Make time for fun and enjoy unconditional time with friends and family.  Enjoy friendships, stable loving relationships with a partner/family, and express your feelings.  Use supportive partnerships to talk through any dilemmas. 
Creative well
Enjoy your senses and imagination by appreciating all the arts.  Take time to write, draw, sing or dance.  Experiment with colour,texture, ound, scent and movement.
Physical well
It is very difficult to enjoy good emotional health if you are physically unfit, tense and heavy with lethargy.  To dissolve knots of tension, exercise weekly, learn relaxation techniques, go for massage, eat and sleep well.
Spiritual well
This is about renewing your sense of wonder and awe.  You may reach this level through your religious beliefs, from meditation or by taking time to be by nature.  Or you can achieve this by just sufficiently stilling the mind so you can experience energy, beauty and/or grace.
Cognitive well
Try reading books, watching plays/films.  Get involved in debates; submit your ideas to others to keep your mind stimulated.    

Jenny Mosley is an educational consultant and author:
Sue Cowley is an educational consultant.  Her latest book , ‘Teaching skills for dummies’ is out in early 2009.  It is published by Wiley, ISBN No 978-0470740842


Need more advice? Visit the Teachers’ survival guide