De-stress your students

You’ve handed out the mind maps and delivered your best ‘don’t stress’ speech, but still you can feel your pupils’ panic rising. Is there any more you can do to help? We speak to Janey Downshire, expert and author of Teenagers Translated, to see what more teachers can do to help tackle stress in the classroom


“Teachers can have a very profound impact on a pupil,” says Janey Downshire, from Teenagers Translated, which runs courses for teachers and parents. “A teenage brain learns how to react and respond by mirroring the reactions of important adults.” Janey advocates showing youngsters how to manage stress, rather than just telling them. She suggests modelling how to calmly confront a challenging task and showing them how to work collaboratively through failure.


“Being more mentally aware of what causes emotional stress helps people to avoid difficult situations,” says Janey. Try and help your pupils understand the feelings behind their panic. When teenagers understand what it is that causes them to feel anxious they can begin to conquer their fears and prevent them from returning.


When it comes to studying, Janey warns that the teenage brain has limited capacity for focus and attention. She advises that short bursts of academic concentration “with no interruptions like YouTube, music or social networking” work best. Just as important, she says, is the need for breaks: “Moving around, exercising, eating healthily and drinking water will help the area of the brain responsible for motivation, engagement and memory.” Try getting pupils to work solidly for 25 minutes – no phones or talking – then give them a five-minute break to walk around, stretch and  ll up their water bottle.


Janey warns that teenagers are under more pressure than ever before thanks to higher expectations and increased societal demands. “A child will feel under pressure if they feel inadequate,” she says. “This pressure may be self-induced, but is likely to be fuelled by the internet or social media where the successes of others are easily broadcast.” To stop pupils from setting unrealistic and unachievable targets, work with them to create academic goals that are totally independent from outside factors like social media and peer pressure. Then be sure to praise your students when these goals are achieved or exceeded.


When looking a er stressed teens, it’s easy to put your own health and wellbeing on the backburner. But Janey says maintaining self care is essen

tial to boosting your own mental resilience and ability to cope with the pressures of the classroom. Feeling overwhelmed? Janey suggests allowing time for extra planning to reduce last minute stressful scenarios. If you are still struggling, don’t forget to lean on the support offered to you by colleagues or discuss your concerns with the head of department.

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