March 1, 2020
Stress is a normal part of everyday life. Even positive events generate stress, both physical and mental. However, excessive stress is not normal and, in fact, is unhealthy.
A concerning trend observed over the last few years shows students and faculty both reporting high stress levels.
It is easy to understand why. Pressure comes from all directions—K–12 schools and colleges are increasingly competitive and students feel like they must constantly excel academically and extracurricularly. On top of that, homework brings stress out of the classroom and testing often makes students feel they have “one chance to get it right.”
Steps Leaders Can Take to Reduce Stress
What can school leaders do to help reduce student stress?
Ask and listen
First, it is necessary to assess the stress level students and teachers feel. Start dialogues early—either in one-on-one conversations or small group settings.
Listen to what students and faculty say by asking open-ended questions, allowing them to freely express how they feel. Dig deeper by asking how often they feel stressed throughout the day—and when they feel most stressed. This can give you insight into where to focus your efforts to reduce stress.
Analyze the student experience
Next, you want to take a good hard look at the student experience at your school. Today, students in grades 7–12 have more input when choosing their educational path. This is especially true at the high school level, where students and families often form relationships that exist inside and outside the classroom.
If students aren’t having a positive experience due to stress or other factors, they can decide to leave. To add insult to injury, their friends can follow them.
School should not be a stressful place for your students or your faculty
Your programs and schedule must provide downtime for students and faculty to recharge. These breaks in the day provide time for collaboration and comradery in the school community.
Tune in to live webinars every Wednesday during the school year to get specific, research-backed insight you can immediately apply at your school.
What Effect Does Scheduling Have on Stress?
Designing an optimal schedule is difficult. Changes occur in the school community every year. The number of students increases, making it harder to use space efficiently. As programs grow, schedules often become more about particular subject areas or specific departments than what makes the most sense for students.
Teachers make demands about when and where they prefer to lecture. Parents push for their children to take on more classes. As these demands accumulate, the schedule is strained, and the students are as well.
Building breaks into the day, securing time for clubs and leisure, and using classrooms becomes more difficult as the school day becomes more hectic.
Parents pay for private school so their children can receive the unique experience your program offers.
If students cannot fit desired classes into their schedule, they are not getting what their parents paid for. But without performance opportunities such as athletics, music, and drama, children miss out on an environment in which they can grow into well-rounded adults.
Maximizing the schedule enhances the student experience.
You should analyze your schedule every year and ensure that your scheduler has the power and flexibility to make decisions that put the children first. Teachers may prefer to teach in specific classrooms, but student needs take precedence.
Educate parents about the consequences of building too much into their children’s schedules.
Other Strategies You Can Implement
Recruiting and retaining great teachers
Teachers are becoming harder and harder to find and retain. They are your number one asset. Recruiting and retaining teachers builds a positive school culture and has a powerful impact on your school culture and student stress.
There are many programs that can help schools take charge of stress. Benefits providers often have dollars set aside for mental health and wellness. These programs are effective and can help students better cope with the world around them.
Handling stress in your school requires leadership and action. Know how much stress students are under and how they are coping. Your students’ experience is your top priority; ensure their school day enriches their education. Maximize your schedule to benefit the entire school community. These steps will start you down the path of successfully reducing stress in your students.
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