How to be a Happier Teacher

How do you maintain happiness, control stress, and be strong? Here are three keys to help.

Teacher happiness can be difficult to find sometimes…teaching is among the most pressured and stressful professions.

Look, what other profession provides almost no restroom breaks, works exclusively with developing humans, has a 20-minute lunch, and requires you to spend your own money for your professional tools? (Just take a look at Burned Out, Beaten Up, and Fighting Back).

Let’s face it. Teaching is tough!

But we knew that after our college internship. And we jumped in any way – because teaching’s a passion!

How do we maintain our happiness…even as we try to improve student learning…and even as we press to higher levels of excellence…even when decisions around us don’t make sense?

Teacher Happiness Key #1: Slow Down

Students do not learn more by doing more in a single lesson.

Sometimes we feel like we can squeeze every minute out of the lesson by doing another activity. This doesn’t produce more learning. In reality, it causes cognitive chaos where students are unable to process and organize information in their minds.

Too fast is a blur for students. Too fast is stressful for the teacher. It’s okay to slow down.

Focus on one or two goals in a learning block and then plan only the most important learning activities.

Take your time, model, and practice the activity well. Give students time to be successful. They’ll learn more, and you’ll be a happier teacher.

Too fast is a blur for students. Too fast is stressful for the teacher. #teachingClick To Tweet

Teacher Happiness Key #2: Exercise in Class

Relieve the stress and tension during class time. Students need breaks to increase blood flow to the brain – exercise is the perfect remedy. (Read more on How to Increase Engagement with Physical Movement)

You can join in too!

  • A few slow stretches with deep breathing can calm.
  • A few jumping jacks can excite and wake up a class of lethargy.
  • A few calm push-ups or plank poses can increase the blood flow just enough for focus.
  • A two-minute silent walk down the hall and back can refresh minds, reduce stress, and recharge attention.

Different exercises can have different results, but ultimately they do relieve stress and increase happiness. And this is great for you, the learning environment, and the students!

It doesn’t take much. You’re not leading a Yoga class, but 60 seconds can do wonders.

Brief exercises in class can increase your happiness & enhance learning! #teachingClick To Tweet

Teacher Happiness Key #3: Stop Teaching

When students aren’t seeming to get it. They just aren’t grasping what you’re teaching, just stop teaching.

No, don’t quit the profession! 🙂 But do stop teaching. Sometimes overexplaining creates less learning. Stop teaching and give students time to process. Use these steps:Three keys to help teacher happiness.

  1. Have students write the first 7 words that come to mind with the topic that you’re teaching (i.e. “gravity”, “ordered pairs”, “plot”).
  2. Walk around and observe what students write. This will help make their learning visible to you and them. (Read more on visible learning)
  3. Ask students to explain which word on their list is most important in this topic. Call on a few volunteers.
  4. Ask students to explain which word on their list is causing the most confusion.

This activity will help students to process the information. When they write the words, they are solidifying connections in their brain. When they talk, they are probably explaining the topic in ways that you didn’t.

You’ll be happier, and they’ll learn more.

How do you stay happy in the classroom? What techniques help you to maintain your peace and strength?

[Updated Dec. 2017]

4. Put You First

I’m not saying read your emails before teaching. It’s not to say, drink your coffee and check Instagram prior to meeting with your small group. 😉

It’s about making sure that your health, your relationships, your own state of well-being are at the optimum level.

Only then can you be all that your students need in that classroom! Take care of you, so you can be happy with being the servant leader for your students.

Don’t buy into the false narrative that you are less of a teacher if you don’t:

  • take home hours of work
  • grade papers all night
  • work through the weekend
  • and other laborious mindsets that sacrifice you and the longevity of your career.

If you don’t put you first, it’s only a matter of time before you burn out.

Take care of you, so you can be happy with being the servant leader for your students.Click To Tweet

5. Build a Network Near & Abroad

You work in an isolated environment with minimal adult interaction. Very few professions have as little adult interactions as teaching. You deserve to know, respect, and interact with other professional educators.

Read more on ideas for Being a Connected Educator.

Make it an intentional aim to build your network among like-minded teachers in your local area and also among others online through positive Facebook groups and Twitter chats.

It’s refreshing to find others who think like you and who hold a deep passion for making education work for all.

You deserve to know, respect, and interact with other professional educators.Click To Tweet

6. Connect, Connect, and Critique

There’s often a polar extreme among educators. Some simply connect. Some simply critique.

It’s like there are two types of teachers: those who just like to get along with others and those who can’t get along with others.

Make an effort to find that healthy balance by making two positive connections for every one divergent thought you propose.

If it’s your tendency to never offer opposing viewpoints…challenge yourself to do so. Positive connections combine with innovative thinking create a healthy work environment that leads to teacher happiness and improved learning for all. 

Thanks again for reading How to be a Happier Teacher. Please share the happiness using the buttons below and check out this read on making the most of summer break.

Published/Updated on February 11, 2017  

Related Reading in the Topic: Strategies, Teaching

About the author 


Matt is learner, creator, and educator with k-12 teaching, administrative, and research experience. He tracks trends in education, authors often, and fails at fishing.

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