Dealing with End of Year Stress
“Hi, Dee, Hi Dee Ho, 6 more to Go.” Maybe you have already heard these words as you near the end of the school year. The question to ask is, "How will you feel when another academic year ends? Can you say what Jesus said as He was nearing the end of his ministry? “. . . I have finished the work which you gave me to do.” (John 17:4)
To reach the big payoff - summer vacation - we have to deal with the increased demands of the last couple of weeks. These include end-of-the-year exams, final projects, summer school lists, parents who do not understand why their children are failing, rooms to be cleaned and stored, accounts to be reconciled, and many more items that I’m sure I missed. And, of course, your personal life continues to move forward through all of this. So how can educators handle all of this end-of-year demands? Unfortunately, there is not one answer. However, we can find a lot of relief by practicing a positive attitude towards all of the problems facing us. This makes all the difference. Causes of Stress Today, teachers are expected to fulfill so many roles, not the least of which is teaching. In many places throughout the country, they are to perform their ‘duties’ with very little pay. In what other jobs with a master’s degree are you earning barely $6,000 more after ten years of experience than when you first started? As the school year nears its end, many teachers find other roles thrust upon them. Their duties increase while they still must deal with grading assignments, writing tests, planning summer reading assignments, and teaching a class. Let’s look at a few of the reasons why the end of the year might cause stress: Increased Work Load. Teachers are figuring out final grades, but they are also cleaning their rooms, gathering lesson plans, and performing numerous other required tasks. A principal asked a teacher, “how can you make so many mistakes.” The teacher replied, “Because I start work early.” Time pressures and deadlines. Just remembering the deadlines for everything from failure notices to final grades can be a real chore. Think of these things, and you will begin to worry. Too much worry might lead to sickness, the last thing you want to happen during this year. Apparent lack of support. Sometimes the administrative staff is less than supportive of the myriad problems faced by the classroom teacher at the end of the year. They, too, have items they have to complete before the year ends, and teachers’ concerns sometimes take a back seat. Unclear expectations. This can occur with new teachers or teachers at a new school who are unsure what the requirements, procedures, and tasks are for ending the school year. There is nothing more discouraging than to find out on the last day on the job that you are responsible for conducting a complete inventory of furniture and equipment and instructional resources. Don’t forget the textbooks and electronic equipment.
Dealing with Critical Task of Grading. Even though you know that students “earn” their grades, it often feels like parents and students place failing grades on the shoulders of the teachers. No one wants their child not to “pass” to the next grade. This is specially compounded for Seniors where the grades they earn may mean a difference in the type of diploma they will receive and the kinds of opportunities for college scholarships.
Schedule Changes. You may have developed a day-by-day and even an hour-by-hour schedule, and wouldn’t you know it, someone has called for a last-minute meeting or meetings that were scheduled have no apparent importance or run over the scheduled time. Those who plan the meeting forget about the many responsibilities outside the classroom once the school day ends.
Spiritual Forces. We must also be aware of the behind-the-scenes work of the devil. He is out to bring stress and to rob teachers of the joys of teaching. His goal is to cause Christian educators to question their calling. In fact, studies show that as many as 50 percent of teachers leave the profession by the 5th year of teaching. Indeed job stress and discouragement play a part in this. Consider the Following Actions One must deal with the natural forces causing stress as well as the spiritual forces. Here are some actions we can take to make your end-of-the-year life a little easier. Be optimistic. Have a positive can-do attitude. How do you deal with the many items you are facing? Take each item, one at a time, just like you would climb a ladder – a rung at a time or chop down a tree – one chop at a time. Remember that “even though you might be dealing with an unmovable bureaucracy, an unsupportive parent, or a rebellious or belligerent student, these cannot affect your feelings or make you angry or discouraged unless you allow them to. You are in control of your own emotions.” Whether or not you have a great end-of-the-year depends on how you respond to adverse and stressful situations. It is like viewing half of a glass of water – either half empty or half full. Your choice is how you look at all the “got to do items.” Plan ahead. Don’t wait until the last minute. Do something every day; stay up with your grading; begin your inventory early. Apply the strategy, “inch by inch is a cinch.” The more you can accomplish during the last three months of school, the less stress you will have in the previous three weeks, three days, or three hours. Doing everything decently and in order throughout the school year is the best strategy for dealing with end-of-the-year stress. Look to the Word of God. Base your optimism not on feelings but on the revelation of God’s Word. You are “more than a conqueror over all these things.” For you, right now, “things” are all your end-of-year tasks (Rom. 8:37), and you can get strength from Christ to do all the required things (Phil. 4:12). When the US troops in WWI were in the trenches and getting pounded by the enemy day after day, with no relief in sight, they not only felt they were losing the battle but also losing the war. You may feel like you have been in the trenches all year long and nothing is going your way, and now the “to-do” lists make your job t even more miserable. Remember, the devil tries many tactics to get a person off their purpose and calling. Don’t allow this to happen to you! Several years ago, one of my veteran teachers came to me towards the end of school, sharing, “In my 25 years of teaching, this has been the worst year ever; student issues, unhappy parents, lack of appreciation by the principal, and all of his demands. This is going to be my last year at Victory.” However, she didn’t throw in the towel; she forced herself to “rejoice in the Lord” for all the good things in her life. She was determined to finish the year strong, and she did. She returned the following year, and in the middle of the year, she came to my office and stated, “This is the best year that I have ever had in teaching.” Consider His Calling and Provision. When God calls you, you cannot be moved by the voices of others, things you see or your feelings, adverse reports and lack of support, or the length of your “to-do” list. Don’t give up. You may not understand why you must do all the “required things” in a certain way, but do not unplug from his calling, provision, comfort, and success. It will come if you do not faint or give up. Paul gives some advice on finishing the year “How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” (Gal. 3:3) Paul was reminding the Galatians of their Christian life. They began that life with faith in Christ and dependence upon the Holy Spirit, and they are foolish to abandon this and try to reach perfection by their own efforts. You began the school year with prayer and faith. Don’t abandon this now and start to depend on your own ability, mind, reasoning, and strength to complete the year. Relying solely on your own efforts to achieve will end up causing more work. The same Holy Spirit that helped you get the year started is here to help you finish strong.