I spend a lot of time helping caregivers manage stress and burnout so they can be more focused and happy in both their work and home lives. It seems to be a never ending task. Training sessions on the topic are always well attended and the profession’s 30-40% turnover rate speaks to how rampant burnout is.
That said, I know there is a subsection of the early learning workforce that may want to increase their stress levels. With that group in mind, I offer up these four ways preschool teachers can add stress to their days:
Tons Of Transition Times
Transition times are stressful for both adults and children–and rightfully so. They involve stopping what you are doing, re-calibrating, and moving on to something else. The arrival and departure transitions that open and close the preschool day are the biggest of the transitions, but all the little ones in between are also friction points.
Adding more transition times to your day is an effective way to increase your stress. Forget those big blocks of self-directed free time that children need and opt for a daily schedule that requires a transition every 30 or 40 minutes so that it’s time to move on to another activity as soon as everyone starts settling in to what they’re doing. Better yet, break the day down into 20 minute segments so children’s chance of settling into any kind of real play totally evaporates.
Why expect three-year-olds to happily engage in three-year-old activities? If you want more stress in your day, you need to expect more of those little slackers and push them to live up to higher expectations. They’re going to be four-year-olds soon–and kindergarten is looming on the horizon. Forget play, put those kids in an academic pressure-cooker.
Expecting three-year-olds to think and behave like five-year-olds and five-year-olds to think and behave like eight-year olds might feel a touch developmentally inappropriate, unethical, and immoral, but your stress levels are not going to increase on their own.
Homogeneous Hordes Of Halfpints
Another great way to increase you stress is to group preschool children in the most homogeneous groups possible. Research might tout the value of mixed age groups in early learning settings, but that’s the easy way out. Nothing amplifies teacher stress like a room full of kids who are at exactly the same developmental level. For example, one child going through a tattling phase is a challenge, but a room full of kids going through that phase together? It’s stress building bliss.
Abundant Ancillary Activity
Many people work in early learning settings because they enjoy working with children. That’s nice, but it only creates so much stress. To amp it up, you need to stop focusing so much on what those kids need Here and Now and pay attention to ancillary activities. For example, many preschool teachers find that increasing the amount of paperwork they must generate helps boost their stress levels–especially if they’re oblivious to how said paperwork makes anyone’s life any better. This additional activity doesn’t have to be paperwork related–just seek out work-related activities that suck up time and energy in and out of the classroom and add them to your routine. Any additional busy work you can add to your day will suffice. What you do isn’t as important as the fact that you’re taking time away from the kids and your personal life.
If you really want to ramp up the stress levels for everyone in the room, it’s best to create an environment that integrates all of the above tips. A space with lots of transition times, pressure-cooker expectations, kids who are all the same age, and adults who feel pulled in different directions by their job’s expectations will generate stress levels worthy of a Neil Patrick Harris Chef’s Kiss.
Hope this helps those of you who don’t have enough stress in your day. Let me know how it goes in the comments.