It’s Almost Here

holiday list

The countdown is on. How are you doing? Are all the gifts purchased and wrapped?All the baking done? Any parties to plan or attend?

I don’t have to tell you that the litany of holiday activities and “to-do’s” is seemingly endless. And the pressure! Ever arrived for an event and realized you didn’t remember a gift for Uncle Bob or Aunt Sally? Is that the worst feeling, or what?

I watched the show “Black-ish” recently and was struck by the story line regarding the pressure we put upon ourselves–and sometimes the pressure others put on us–to make every holiday better than the year before. It is a tall order for many of us, but we continue to try.

All of this activity can be stressful, needless to say. That is why I am offering a FREE webinar Tuesday, December 15th at 7:00 p.m. EST. Here are the benefits of my program:

  • You will learn what stress is. The fact is that “stress” means different things to different people. What stresses me out might not even register on your radar. What stresses you out might be something I deal with every day. Stress is different for each of us, but…
  • Stress has a definite effect upon each of us physically, mentally, and emotionally. I will help you understand what stress is and how it might be impacting you negatively and you aren’t even aware of it.
  • You will also learn how to recognize the stressors in your life, and
  • You will learn why it is important for you to understand stress to be…and stay…healthy and well.
  • Finally, you will learn 7 specific strategies that won’t cost you anything but might save your life. These 7 strategies are simple (if not always easy) and can impact your general sense of wellness and well-being.

So, what do you think? Is it going to be worth an hour of your time to check it out? If so, I hope you will register here.

I hope to see you there.

Until next time.

How to Manage Your Holiday Stress

Holiday Stress - Photo by Shutterstock

Holiday Stress

Photo by Shutterstock

The holiday season is supposed to be the “happiest time of year.” At least that is the message that we hear in the songs, holiday specials, and all of the other messages–both overt and subliminal–to which we are subjected during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (And let’s face it…the holiday hype now begins long before Thanksgiving.)

The fact is, however, that for many people, this isn’t the happiest time of year. Moreover, it is a time when stress levels just ratchet up and up and up. There are pressures to spend more money…sometimes money we don’t have…so the credit cards get a work out with only passing thought to how they will get paid in the new year.

There are also pressures to eat things that we know aren’t good for us; but they go with the season, right? The standard Christmas gathering isn’t complete without fudge and Christmas cookies of every shape and description. Many of us just resign ourselves to gaining 5 or 10 pounds during this time of year…again, with little thought as to how that will make us feel as we hit the new year.

And then, there are the family get togethers and relationship pressures that we all face. Getting together with certain family members that we would rather not see, but they are, well…family. You have to deal with their intrusive questions that are supposed to show that they care but really make you feel like shouting, “It’s none of your business!”

All of these pressures add up, and instead of feeling happy, many of us just feel isolated, depressed, and dejected. For strategies for managing stress during the holiday season, go here for a “cheat sheet” on how to manage and reduce your stress as well as building natural resilience so that you feel less stress even when you are experiencing stressful situations. Continue reading

A Few Words of Wisdom for My School Administrator Friends

I know my teacher friends are still enjoying their summer vacations (unless they are working summer school or their summer job in order to make ends meet) and thoughts of school are at least temporarily on the back burner. Having said that, I think it is time to write a post that offers some advice for my administrator friends and colleagues who are gearing up getting ready for the return of their teachers in just a few weeks. I hope you will read and know that this advice is offered with good intentions and good will.

I offer a workshop on stress management for teachers, and when I am preparing to go into a specific area to offer this workshop, I do a little homework and contact some of the teachers from the area to see if there are any specific issues of which I need to be aware. While teachers everywhere are subject to high levels of stress these days while also dealing with historically low levels of morale, it is foolish to think that all teachers in all locations are dealing with the same stressors. So, I ask, and I learn. That might be one good piece of advice for administrators. Ask how things are going. You might learn some things that you hadn’t considered.

During my investigation this summer, I have talked to a number of teachers and inquired about what was going on in their school and their district. Three themes have emerged, and I thought it might be helpful to administrators to offer what I have learned in case you haven’t yet taken the time to ask these questions yourself.

In answer to what are the top two or three things that create the most stress for you, here are the things that emerged, and in this order:

1. Lack of time.

2. Too much paperwork.

3. Inconsistent administration of district policies from school to school.

I know that time is a problem for everyone. We never seem to have enough to do all of the things that need to be done. As a result, too many of us are depriving ourselves of sleep in an effort to get everything done, and in the end, we wind up exhausted and unable to do our best work because we are, well…seriously sleep deprived. This is truly a problem, and it is a growing problem that people need to stop and consider. I just wrote another article entitled, “Are You Sleep Deprived?” in which I point out that sleep is as essential to our health and wellness as food and water. Yet too many of us think that sleep can be delayed, put off, and minimized in our effort to accomplish all of the things on our to-do lists.

For teachers, time becomes an issue because, in addition to face-to-face time with their students, they need planning time. They need time to collaborate with their colleagues. They need time to sort through the mounds of data with which they are presented, and they need time to sort out how they are going to differentiate their instruction to meet the needs of the children who are coming to them every year with more needs and fewer resources with which to meet those needs.

As a Superintendent, you should consider how you can provide your teachers throughout the district with the time that they need in order to do the job they have been hired to do. This does not mean cramming in extra professional development programs that may or may not meet the needs of the teachers in your district. It also does not mean sending the message to your principals that they can impose meetings on their individual faculties that may wind up being a waste of the teachers’ time. Forget the idea that a cookie cutter approach to staff development works. It works no better for teachers than a cookie cutter approach to teaching students works for the students.

As a principal, you will be forever loved and appreciated if you can figure out a way to respect your teachers’ time and give them as much as you can for planning, for collaborating, and for keeping up with their mounds of paperwork. Indeed, the paperwork seems to increase exponentially every year because the people in charge “at the top” of the education pyramid have no idea what teaching in the classroom looks like anymore.

As for the complaint about too much paperwork, an effort to control that would be greatly appreciated, and it would help with the complaint about time. Teachers are feeling more and more overwhelmed with paperwork that feels like “busy work” rather than work that is truly helpful or meaningful either to them or to their students. Cut out some of the reports that no one ever checks. In fact, I heard from more than one teacher this summer while I was doing my background research that many teachers feel that they are being asked to keep up with reports that no one ever checks and the only rationale for the reports is that it helps justify a job of someone in the central office. If that is the case, it is time to take a serious look at the work that is being required by the central office administrators. Busy work isn’t recommended for students…it should not be required of teachers.

Finally, with regard to inconsistent administration of district policies from school to school, it is up to the Superintendent to provide training for school administrators so that this is minimized. It is not okay for some school principals to be sticklers for every letter of a policy while others let some policies slide. And when it comes to disciplinary policies for students, it is critically important that principals strive to be on the same page with other principals about how they handle certain incidents just as it is important for administrators within the same building to be consistent. Teachers, like students, are hyper-sensitive to anything that smacks of unfair, inconsistent, or arbitrary treatment. Be aware. Be consistent. Communicate with each other, so you know what you are all doing and be consistent.

In my general research about teacher burnout, I have read numerous articles that point to the fact that teachers who feel truly appreciated and who are recognized for their contributions are much happier in their jobs. Job satisfaction is key to those who want to avoid feeling the burnout that comes with feeling that no one cares about how hard they are working or the efforts that they are making. The current craze around testing and accountability has put the focus on arbitrary test scores instead of the authentic teaching and learning that is taking place in every classroom every day. Paying lip service to how much you appreciate everyone’s efforts to get the school’s test scores up is not what I mean when I talk about teacher appreciation. Giving awards is not what I am talking about either. A teacher knows when his/her administrator truly knows what they are doing and cares enough to check in to see how they are doing and what the administrator can do to help and support their efforts. A genuine “thank you” for everything you are doing and a “What can I do to help?” goes a long way toward ensuring the loyalty and appreciation that you as an administrator yearn to have.

These are definitely difficult times for educators everywhere regardless of whether they wear the hat of teacher or administrator. At the end of the day, however, regardless of which hat you wear, you are–or at least you should be–about making sure that children learn in a nurturing and safe environment. Period. That is what we are about. That is why we do this job.

Happy New School Year.