Being a special education teacher is an extremely rewarding job especially when you see students making connections with content, topics, friends and passions of their own. Each student comes to school in the morning having had experiences that we cannot see. Sometimes, unforeseen issues rise to the surface and plans change, and you have to pivot to bring out the strengths and meet the needs of your students. An environment of constant change can be stressful for the teacher and for the students. Understanding how to handle stressful situations can set you up for long-term success. A few minor adjustments to your daily routine is all it takes to make a difference for you and your students. With these eight tips, you’ll feel more rewarded and your love for teaching will be that much deeper.

1. Leave it for tomorrow

Sometimes at the end of a long day, it’s okay to leave planning and problem-solving for a new day. Consider tidying up for a few minutes so that the environment welcomes you back in the morning. Having a fresh start can be invigorating for everyone.

2. Talk to colleagues

Guard against personal and professional isolation by connecting with peers. Use the natural breaks in the schedule to relate to colleagues during the day. Opportunities to talk with colleagues differ between schools, but some could include: before school, lunch duty, after school, bus duty and playground monitoring.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Ask for resources, information and assistance as soon as you identify the need. Peers, colleagues, supervisors, custodians and administrators want to be helpful. You may be surprised at the amount of help you receive and the level of interest in student and teacher success. Education is a wonderful team effort!

4. Get some sleep

Understand that it’s in your favor to rest your mind. A sufficient amount of sleep is necessary for performing to the best of your abilities. Without it, you may suffer the consequences the next day.

5. Have some YOU time

The best preparation for inside the classroom, starts outside of the classroom. Be sure to take time for yourself. Investing in your personal life, hobbies, interests, family and friends can create a beautiful balance and prepare you for daily classroom work.

6. Walk it off

Everyone has days that are a little more stressful than others. Find time to walk around, get fresh air, take deep breaths and return again to the work you enjoy with a new perspective.

7. Be flexible

As each week passes, you may find that plans you have made or initiatives you have begun require longer timelines than you had originally expected. Simply adjust and use the situation as a learning experience to set expectations or make quick shifts in the future.

8. Have a backup plan

Sometimes, the school day does not exactly match lesson plans for many reasons. If a lesson does not go as expected, focus on what you can change about it and how you will approach the topic next time. Have a back up plan in case the lesson needs to be shelved for another day. Concentrate on the time spent learning, teaching, laughing and connecting with your students.

Finally, infusing small strategies and habits to relieve stress will help you remain resilient and professional at work each day.

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About the Author
Jack Hans has ten years of experience working with students of all ages and abilities as an ABA therapist, teacher and supervisor. He currently works as an intervention specialist at Brooklyn School in Brooklyn, Ohio. He specializes in working with students with intellectual and developmental disabilities with an emphasis on including students with disabilities throughout the school environment. He earned a Master of Education degree from Cleveland State University.