The management concept known as the Peter Principle, in which people become ineffective when promoted to a level where they no longer have the skills to be successful, is also applicable to teachers.
Whether highly-successful teachers choose a career path that takes them out of the classroom or whether they choose to stay in the classroom, job-related burnout issues are a high possibility, according to Ginger Welch, Ph.D., associate professor of professional practice at Oklahoma State University, in a recent edWebinar.
It is essential to reduce these issues by keeping the passion for teaching alive and manage careers by addressing the stress and anxiety associated with burnout and learn how to control our cognitive thinking.
Our thinking connects to our behavior, and Welch said our thoughts could be the most effective weapon to combat stress. However, our cognitive errors or distortions can manifest as truths that can be disruptive, negative, and destructive. We need to be aware of “shoulds”: filtering, mind reading, overgeneralization, and all-or-nothing thinking patterns.
“Shoulds” are irrational thoughts that say we should be doing something, and these thoughts of failure can lead to anxiety issues. Filtering is when we zoom in on the negative, and we minimize or ignore anything that went well. Mind reading is one that can keep us from taking action because we assume that we know what’s going to happen. When overgeneralization occurs, we take one situation and turn it into a pattern for future encounters. All-or-nothing thinking can unconsciously bubble up, and we tend to be very black and white about our thinking, which results in missing out on the gray areas of life.
Barriers to effective communication
What’s happening inside you directly impacts what happens between you and other people. Most people experience anxiety that can be a real, significant barrier to overcome in interpersonal communication.
Stress makes us feel like we’re the only ones who could feel this way, which leads to the feeling of insecurity, lack of confidence, and the inability to relate to others.
According to Welch, it takes real work to become self-aware of anxiety and fears to reduce the impression of being angry, stuck up, or shy.
Managing the stress
Your ability to be the teaching superhero depends on three things: formal teaching education, personal background, and ability to tolerate stress and care for yourself. So, we need to purposefully be mindful of our thought patterns, unconscious behaviors, and expectations of others.
To change our cognitive thinking, we have to replace the errors or disruptions with positive thinking. Tolerating stress and caring for yourself is a learned skill, something you have to build into your life. Set healthy boundaries by paying attention to our own needs and being careful with our information, our time, our bodies, and our money.
These boundaries will ensure that we are making sound judgments about what hurts us and what helps other people. Take care of yourself by cognitively assessing your values, your relationships with other people, and your expectations for yourself and other people. What are your messages about others and yourself?
Accepting failure as usual and not a sign of imperfection and doing your best even when others do not are meaningful ways to care for yourself and reduce stress in both your personal and professional life.
About the presenter
Dr. Ginger Welch is a licensed psychologist, infant mental health specialist, and full-time faculty member at Oklahoma State University. Her expertise is in early childhood mental health, and she frequently conducts trainings on child maltreatment and health psychology at state and national conferences. She co-edited the 2017 volume, Family Resilience and Chronic Illness, and is the author of The Neglected Child and How Can I Help? A Teacher’s Guide to Early Childhood Behavioral Health, scheduled for release in August 2019.
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