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Ten ways to avoid stress

Anne Cockburn suggests some tried and tested survival strategies. The final weeks of training are crunch time for many student teachers - will they pass? Will they get a job? Will they survive till the end of the day, let alone the end of teaching practice? Stressful times, but some ways of coping with the situation are better than others.

It is really too late to be reading books on stress reduction and, to be honest, while they may be full of sensible suggestions are they really geared to you, in your situation and, more importantly, do they work?

At the beginning of this term I gave 37 of my early years PGCE students a short questionnaire listing some of the many recommended ways of reducing the negative effects of stress during the working day.

Of the 52 suggestions the 10 most effective tried and tested strategies in their opinion were: 1st Thorough lesson preparation. It may be part of the job but it actually seems to markedly reduce anxiety, according to 95 per cent of my respondents.

2nd Ensuring that you understand the work you are about to teach. Ditto in the view of 89 per cent of students.

3rd Keeping the paperwork up to date. The bane of the profession but worth keeping under control.

4th Making an effort to get to know your pupils as individuals. Although it is tremendously important, I was surprised that 86 per cent people found this helped reduce their stress.

5th Asking teachers for advice. Many (84 per cent) found this had a calming effect but it can be hard if you do not get along with your teacher.

6th Asking friends for advice, but choose your friends carefully!

7th Making lists. This can be very helpful in taking the strain from your overloaded brain.

8th Encouraging your pupils to be more independent. It is probably too late for you to do much about this now but it could be helpful in the future.

9th Chatting about recreational interests to colleagues. There are other things to talk about than school!

10th Learning from your mistakes and forgiving yourself. This may not be easy but 73 per cent said it was worth the effort.

It may also be reassuring that 46 per cent did not find working harder reduced their stress while only 24 per cent claimed it was an effective means of decreasing their anxiety.

Obviously what works for PGCE students at University of East Anglia might not work for you for reasons of personality, gender (3437 of my respondents were females), age, situation and so on but they may be worth a try in these difficult days . . . Good luck!

Anne Cockburn lectures in the School of Education and Professional Development at the University of East Anglia, Norwich.

She has written a book on stress which is published this autumn by Falmer Press

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