Who said teaching wasn’t an extreme sport? You may not be leaping buses on a motorbike or stepping into a boxing ring (though sometimes it can feel that way), but a full day in front of your students can still take its toll on your wellbeing. Take charge of your health with these tips for avoiding afflictions, injuries and illnesses commonly reported by teachers.
Vocal strain and fatigue
The voice is one of the educator’s most utilised tools, so it’s not surprising that one-fifth of all teachers report suffering from teacher vocal fatigue at some point in their career. If your voice becomes hoarse or strained, alters in pitch or your throat feels tight or scratchy, you might be overdoing it. Neuter the risks by using effective voice techniques such as proper breathing and posture, and by minimising harmful vocal habits.
Tips for preventing vocal strain:
- Avoid shouting or addressing students over long distances – use an amplifier if necessary.
- Sip water frequently to moisten the larynx and vocal tract.
- If possible, try to find at least 30 minutes in the middle of the day where you don’t speak at all.
Teachers also appear to have a higher than average chance of experiencing musculoskeletal disorders, especially in the back, neck and upper limbs – with nursery school teachers more likely to suffer from lower back pain. It’s not surprising, given how much time teachers are required to spend on their feet, hunched over students’ desks or sitting to grade assignments. The good news? Back pain is easily avoidable with the proper office equipment, clothing, exercise and stretching.
Tips for preventing back pain:
- Ensure you have the proper office equipment, such as ergonomic workstations for desk work or high stools for sitting at the front of the class.
- Stretch every 20 to 30 minutes. Get your students involved – stretching and physical movement can break monotony and aid the learning process!
- Wear comfortable, supportive shoes.
Diseases and viruses
With hundreds of children in close proximity, schools are epicentres for the spread of infectious illnesses. Short of barricading yourself in the staff lounge, it’s nearly impossible to dodge all the germs being sneezed, spat and smeared around the halls. But there are ways to minimise the risk of being laid low by a nasty bout of chickenpox or measles. As every teacher knows, it all begins with education.
Tips for preventing the spread of diseases:
- Educate your students about cleanliness, including maintaining proper hygiene and covering their mouths when sneezing or coughing.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap.
- As much as possible, keep your distance from anyone displaying symptoms of infectious illness.
Teachers, like many other professions, are facing increasing pressure to work longer hours. Added to the strenuous time constraints teachers already face – with devising lessons, marking, supervising students, meeting parents and extra-curricular activities – and the daily demands of a busy (and often reluctant) classroom, this can lead to feelings of stress in even the most experienced educators.
Tips for dealing with stress:
- Seek the support of peers, family and friends. Don’t be ashamed in asking for help wherever you can.
- Say no. If you don’t have the time or the ability to take on extra work, then don’t. Stand your ground and offer assistance at another time, when your schedule has cleared up.
- Find time for a relaxing and enjoyable hobby. Even if it’s taking ten minutes to read a book over breakfast, setting time apart for yourself is an excellent way to unwind and recharge.
Nick Nedeljkovic is a freelance writer and blogger from Sydney. With a love of learning and more degrees than he can afford, he’s a passionate advocate for education in all its forms.