Being a teacher has rewards that no other job can boast. Teachers have the pleasure of helping a child discover his underlying writing ability, for example, or inspiring a teen to study physics so that he can create a more fuel-efficient car. The joys of teaching, however, come with a few professional hazards. Enter the field with your eyes wide open, so that you can take the steps to take good care of yourself, your students and your career.
After a while, even the most enthusiastic teacher can begin to feel worn down by her dealings with unhelpful parents, belligerent students and lackluster school administrators -- who are often themselves burnt out. Add pressure to increase standardized test scores, poor school resources and an increasing number of non-teaching-related tasks and you have a recipe for burnout. While there's no sure way to prevent burnout, good self-care plays a role. A teacher should never feel guilty about springing for a pedicure at the end of a long teaching day.
There's no doubt that when you're in a classroom all day with 30 or more students -- any number of whom might have an illness -- you stand a chance of catching the latest virus as well. There's simply no amount of hand sanitizer that can obliterate the risk of catching a bug after you've been sneezed on, cleaned up vomit and picked up used tissues from the classroom floor. Germs aren't the only culprit. It turns out that students' bad behavior is linked to increased illness in teachers, according to a 2012 study published in the "Journal of School Psychology." Maintain a healthy lifestyle to lower your risk of succumbing to every bacteria that enters your classroom.
Violence against students gets considerable press, but what often goes unreported is the everyday violence that teachers face. During the 2007-08 school year, 127,120 American public school teachers were physically assaulted at school, according to the National Education Association. An additional 222,460 teachers were threatened with acts of violence. Verbal abuse, while not life-threatening, is also widespread and contributes to teacher stress, the NEA says. Decrease your chances of becoming a victim of school violence by learning -- and putting into practice -- de-escalation techniques. It's also a good idea to document any threats a student makes, no matter how subtle.
False accusations of wrongdoing have been nightmares for some unfortunate teachers. It's probably the last thing you'd ever imagine would happen to you, but even innocent teachers have ended up on the evening news because of a child's accusation. While there is never a guarantee that you won't be a victim of a false accusation, be savvy and document problematic interactions with students -- and avoid being alone in a room or vehicle with a student.
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.