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Teachers under stress

April 24, 2007

Hello again,

I have touched on stress related to culture shock in earlier posts and newsletters. But stress can affect teachers for other reasons. Stress is what we feel when the demands on us become too heavy. In the UK, ...

...in a survey assessing the stress levels of various jobs by the Health and Safety Executive, teaching came out top. The report, The Scale of Occupational Stress: further analysis of the impact of demographic factors and type of job, found that 41.5% of teachers reported themselves 'highly stressed', while 58.5% came into a 'low stress' category.

When stress is related to work it is often a symptom of poor work relationships, especially a sense of alienation from employers and managers. In other words, in organisations where open discussions are encouraged and people are free to discuss the pressures of work, teachers are less likely to feel stress.

So why might teachers suffer stress? Firstly, there is the high level of exposure: teachers are on view all the time. They may feel that they need to deliver a top performance at all times and have no opportunity to withdraw and recharge their batteries. Some careful classroom management can help here. If you pace lessons so that there are quiet times, when students are working alone or in groups on tasks, you can snatch ten minutes or so to recover. Try to set up classroom routines that students understand and expect. For example, once a task is set, make it your practice to wait for ten minutes before circulating among the students to check their progress. Actually, that might also take the pressure off them! Try also to plan lessons that you can recycle so that you lessen the planning burden and can have confidence that you have delivered the lesson before.

Teachers also feel stress if they meet frequent, suddent change: unexpected timetable changes, new students, missing resources, boken equipment. Relations with other teachers can also be stressful. Clearly, school management should play a part. It helps if teachers are involved in planning decisions and it is a function of academic management to ensure that resources are properly looked after. Colleagues need to be helped to form cooperative and supportive teams. (I have written about team-building activities before.)

Employers should also be active in trying to recognise signs of stress: frequent absence and lateness can be signs of stress and it is important to have regular meetings with staff to air any problems and find solutions. Management also needs to have proper teacher support systems: in-service training and advice, with special attention to new teachers; fair systems for dealing with any disputes. Whie a certain amount of pressure is a normal part of working life, stress is insidious and can undermine a teacher's health. It is also likely to be reflected in poor classroom performance so it is very important for schools to create a general atmosphere of calmness and supportiveness in the interests of all.

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  1. Dr. Vic Santiago Says:

    Hi there! Your topic regarding stress management for teacher is excellent. Can i request dor an effective program to avoid more stress and become more effecient in our teaching job management. Well, i may sound so demanding but anyway, thank you very much!


  1. Nina Says:

    Thanks again, Brenda, for your ever-nurturing articles. This one has been especially meaningful to me. I have always wondered how the teaching profession ranked in terms of stress levels and my suspicion has been confirmed, that it is top of the list.

    All you say here is so true of this profession. Indeed a teacher is always 'on stage,' always under pressure to outdo themselves, and all too often, with little or no resources-!

    The suggestions as to minimising of stress levels are comforting too, and I shall often make reference to them.

    Thanks again!

  1. lisa gorringe Says:

    Great advice there Brenda!

    I always put my agenda on the board for all to see and refer to it as we progress. Keeps everyone organised.

    Recycling ideas and material also helps lessen the stress load.

    And having some 'quiet space" in the lesson helps both parties!

    Cheers Lisa

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