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Get a life before you get in a rut

TEACHERS who want to reduce classroom stress should learn to show a human face. If they carry negative thoughts into a lesson they are immediately sussed by pupils, a Headteachers' Association of Scotland conference for deputes and assistants was told.

"When pupils get a bit of the human you, they warm to you much more. Giving a bit more of you will help them learn," Angela Maguire, a former teacher and now a Glasgow-based consultant in stress management, said.

Up to a quarter of teachers suffer from high levels of anxiety, depression and psychosomatic symptoms and almost 60 per cent of teacher absences may be stress related. Teaching is seen as an occupation with low levels of job satisfaction.

Mrs Maguire said: "You cannot change a whole lot of things in schools but we can sure change attitudes towards children. If you do not have a belief in yourself, you won't inspire your pupils. They sense that inspired self in you."

She added: "Negative thoughts are like a tap dripping, constantly eroding your own self-esteem."

Mrs Maguire encourages teachers to examine the emotional baggage they bring into the classroom and to carry out an evaluation of themselves, using various analytical tests. She starts with the spiritual side before looking at the emotional, mental and physical aspects.

"It's the oomph people have to get out of bed and the meaning of their own lives. Sometimes people are out of touch completely with the focus of their lives," she said.

Mrs Maguire believes teachers stifled at school or on the promotional ladder should "ventilate their gifts" in other ways. Personal development was important, as was helping people to help themselves. "The most important relationship you have is with yourself," she stated.

Angela Maguire can be contacted at Stress Sense, 74 Newlands Road, Glasgow G43 (0141 636 1110).

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