Los Angeles Unified administrators say stress is the number one reason why beginning teachers leave the profession.
So this month, the school district has organized a series of workshops for about 1,800 new teachers to give them tools to help students deal with difficult situations, and, reduce their stress as well.
This is the second year LAUSD has held the New Teacher Summer Institute, five days of workshops and classes open to starting teachers. They'll receive information that covers such topics as employee benefits and classroom management.
It's teacher stress, however, that LAUSD is highlighting, just as a long-anticipated teacher shortage takes hold and retaining instructors challenges many school districts.
Often, teachers say, their stress stems from dealing with students trying to cope with personal problems.
“I did hear about their families having divorces, having to go to different households, having siblings in the hospital,” said kindergarten teacher Julia Rosenmeyer, who has finished her first year teaching and is taking part in the summer institute.
Suzanne Silverstein, founding director of the Cedars-Sinai Psychological Trauma Center, will address the teachers during a Wednesday workshop. (See her list of stress management components below.)
“Some kids, while the teacher is giving some assignment, maybe they can’t concentrate on what the teacher is saying," she said. Students may be thinking about something that has occurred to them, perhaps a traumatic event, or are coping with other anxieties that prevent them learning.
Silverstein teaches instructors about the power of slowing down and focusing the mind using such tools as listening sticks and Tibetan singing bowls.
Students use the sticks that they craft themselves to focus; the student holding the stick is the only person who can speak as others listen. The bowls with their vibrating sounds encourage students to relax.
The techniques are aimed at helping students quiet their minds, reduce anxiety, and concentrate on their school work.
Techniques like these can also help teachers better manage their classrooms as well as their health. Teacher Kathleen Gerds knows from experience the importance of keeping well.
She began a new job teaching special education this year and got sick, she said, in part because of the stress of the job.
“A lot of times, especially first and second-year teachers, tend to get ill because they keep all of the stress in and don’t take care of themselves,” Gerds said.
Components of Successful Stress Management
- Knowledge about Stress
Source: Suzanne Silverstein