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April is Stress Awareness Month, the annual campaign run by the Stress Management Society aiming to raise awareness of the causes and cures for the stress epidemic which has dire effects on our health and well-being.

It is a well-documented fact that the stress hormone, ‘cortisol’ affects our cognitive abilities, so it goes without saying that stress is bad news in learning environments. As an educator, you are probably very aware of the effects of stress. We have put together some top tips to help reduce stress levels within your classroom, making it a much healthier place for both students and educators.

  1. Create learning spaces that encourage creativity

Declutter your classroom and avoid too much visual stimulation. Whilst all classrooms must have some decor and educational displays, too much visual stimulation affects concentration levels and can overwhelm the senses.

Allow space for fidgeting. Some students find it very difficult to sit still and listen, and teachers report good results with fidget toys and short breaks for moving around.

Think about noise in your classroom too. The environment will seldom be silent, and some learners find complete silence oppressive. However, chaotic and disorganised noise can be distressing. Consider playing classical music at a low level and reduce the number of hard surfaces where possible.

  1. Give students work within their scope of ability

The Zone of Proximal Development refers to work that the student can do, but which requires concentration. This makes them feel confident and encourages focus. If work is too easy, this allows for distractions and loss of focus, and if the work is too difficult this causes stress and unhappiness. Treat each student as an individual for the best results.

  1. Make feedback specific, useful, and easy to understand

Giving students prompt and understandable feedback improves learning outcomes and student well-being. Set aside time to deliver personal feedback to each student, and make sure that they feel that they have your full attention. Consider having the conversation in part of the room where they feel they have some privacy, to further reduce stress.

  1. Set clear goals

Make sure that students are aware of what they are expected to achieve with each learning task, and where they are in terms of progress through the course. Clear displays and information in the classroom will further reassure students and give them a sense of clarity and structure.

  1. Schedule sensitively

Teachers are more results-driven than ever before, and even the most patient and experienced educator may find themselves hurrying a class in order to keep on track. However, many children may find it hard to self-regulate between different types of activities. For example, they may find it difficult to transition from an active, physical lesson such as PE to a more academic session such as Maths or English. Build in time for students to settle into a different activity and for you to guide and support them.

  1. Promote a healthy mindset and positive ‘self-talk’

Making sure that all students are aware of their learning goals, given the time and vocabulary to discuss their feelings and modelling positive self-talk within the classroom will have significant effects on outcomes. If students are motivated, if they know they can discuss any issues with you, and are encouraged to speak well of themselves and their efforts, then they will be happier and more confident, and you will have a more productive and less stressful classroom.

As a leading teacher recruitment agency, Three Rs are always on the hunt for more amazing and inspirational teachers. To find out more, contact us on 0345 130 3338.

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