As a counsellor by profession, I have worked with different clients – corporates, hospitals, non-governmental organisations, and schools. Through my interactions with individuals, I have learnt that the work environment and challenges of working in these organisational setups are diverse.
During my tenure in schools, many teachers I worked with shared that interactions with young students were their main source of motivation at work. While some had always dreamt of being a teacher, others entered the profession because of personal reasons.
The common misconception is that teaching is an easy job. But, if we examine the life of a teacher a little more closely, the list of possible responsibilities is overwhelming and exhaustive. Classroom management, assessments, teaching, and student wellbeing are only a few of these areas.
A teacher interacts with hundreds of students daily. It is truly inspiring to see them smile brightly and tackle issues of students belonging to different age groups and from diverse backgrounds. Each child has her own ongoing personal battle. They often depend on teachers to resolve their problems or simply listen to them patiently. That one smile and a welcoming hug are all a student might need. On the contrary, one cold vibe from a teacher could damage their relationship with students.
Developing social-emotional skills
But what about the days when you are not at your best? There are days when you are low, do not have the right headspace, and drag yourself to school. I am referring to those mornings when you wish to stay back at home and skip work. The days when you are emotionally and mentally not available to others.
Imagine a student comes running to you and greets you with excitement. What if you feel that you are unable to reciprocate with the same enthusiasm? Most often we end up ruining our relations with others when we are stuck in a constant whirlpool of disturbing thoughts. It could be mere exertion or something that demands our attention and quick resolution. However, the good news is that you can definitely ensure that your thoughts do not interfere with student interactions and you can manage your emotions.
I have tried to construct a few real-life situations that might take place in a teacher’s daily life and the possible ways of communicating positively.
Resolving students’ problems
The day you are not mentally prepared to listen to your students’ problems and help them find a solution, simply communicate it to them. Your students understand you by now. They can read your body language. It is better to let them know that you would need some time. This helps them learn the skill of handling their own emotions as well as respecting yours. They can always come back to you. You might believe that it is your duty to sit and solve a matter then and there, but you can queue it for a time when you are in a better position to handle the problem. Nothing is going to fall apart if you take a break and get back as soon as you can.
There are moments in the day when you are lost in your own thoughts. You are walking the school corridor, holding a pack of notebooks, making way through the children running around and trying to reach the staff room for a sigh of relief. Colleagues and students greet you and you do not notice it when you walk past them. Your colleague or student might be left with a feeling of being ignored. It is disturbing for them; one may wonder what could possibly have gone wrong. When you realise it later, you can always go back and connect with that person. You can always share that you were lost or preoccupied with some other thought. That helps the person to remain calm andunderstand you better. Mostly, they will appreciate you for getting back.
A few of the days at work can be demanding. You are expected to attend several meetings apart from fulfilling your regular responsibilities. You might be planning the curriculum or some extra-curricular activity with your colleagues. If you are having a bad day, you might be sitting in the meetings with suppressed and unresolved matters in the back of your mind and might react negatively to comments. You might not be able to control your anger and end up arguing with someone who is not responsible for your stress. One rude comment from your end can change the environment of the room and the tone of the meeting. It is always sensible to make peace with your feelings and keep them aside for a while. Recording your thoughts in a note book can help you manage your emotions better.
Imagine yourself rushing to the staff room for a break after back-to-back classes. The moment you sit down to grab a glass of water, someone comes and starts talking about their day at work or wants to discuss a serious project with you. Ask yourself, are you really interested in the talk at that moment? Well, if the answer is no, you must excuse yourself politely and schedule it for another time. You owe yourself a genuine break. A break is sometimes essential to recharge yourself and get back to work with much more energy and fresh ideas. You need not invest you energy in another tedious task or discussion that may drain your stamina to teach in the class. Being overworked usually damages the quality of tasks in queue and leads to a feeling of exhaustion. There is no harm in recharging yourself again with a small cup of coffee or just anything else that de-stresses you.
It is always good to seek help when needed. You can manage your emotions and stress by reaching out to your colleagues for help and communicating your situation with them. In particular, work overload if shared with colleagues will help you reduce exhaustion.
It is imperative for you to be aware of your own emotions and thoughts. A selfcheck every morning can help you plan out the day at ease. Accept the days which are not in your control and enjoy the days which are in your favour. Do not be disheartened if things don’t go as planned; simply live it and love it – everything else will fall in place on its own.
Mitashi Pawar works as a school counsellor with The Shri Ram School, Gurgaon.