Teaching and Stress
By Alan Haskvitz
http://www.reacheverychild.com
 
Teaching has been rated as one of the five most stressful occupations on numerous research studies. However, knowing it and doing something about it are two vastly different things. 
Across the nation teacher burnout is a serious concern as it is in other countries. Unfortunately, most of the research deals with what has gone wrong to cause the stress. Thus the failure to cope has been placed at the feet of the individual teacher. It has not been looked at as an institutional weakness and the results have been essentially reactive and individual. In other words, short sighted. 

How does teaching compare to other occupations?

It is interesting to note that jobs in which you have to hide your emotions are the most stressful and those that have to do with people frequently. Combining these two yields research that teaching carries with it a high degree of emotional labor and with that stress. Adding to that fact that in some school violence, lack of input, and a feeling that it really doesn’t matter can make the field of education even more stressful. It should be remembered that a teacher in a school with a troubled school population is going to feel much more pressure than one in a more relaxed location.

http://www.bps.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/releases$/division-of-occupational-psychology/occupations.cfm

Signs of stress

Researchers report being tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, irritable, and bring problems home are signs of teacher stress.

Common causes of stress

Research has indicated that lack of resources, excessive meetings, lack of support, hostile parents, inadequate discipline policies, poor teacher evaluation standards, noisy students, the attitude and actions of fellow teachers, and poor career advancement opportunities, and lack of recognition are the most likely sources of stress.

Ideas to reduce stress

Prioritize responsibilities. What are the most important things to get done?

Give yourself a reward for a good day.

Do relaxing exercises. Walk, lay on the floor with your feet on a chair, concentrate on a hobby, and turn off the news. At school, when you have a few minutes, turn off the lights and visualize your plans for the weekend or a vacation. Take deep breathes, walk around the classroom, buy a pedometer and wear it to increase awareness of how much or little you move each day (two to three miles should be a goal.)

Watch your diet. Caffeine, sugar, and unbalanced meals create stress on your body and a dependency that, if left unfilled, results in mental stress.

Laugh

Put things in perspective. The most stressful things are the death of a spouse, moving, divorce and personal illness. Does your list of things that cause stress pale in comparison to this list? Perhaps that parent conference with the unruly child isn’t really that bad. Here are sites filled with educational humor links and teacher appreciation stories.

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/humor.html

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/celebrate_teaching.html#c

Time of the Year

Canadian researchers show that stress increases at the end of the term when grades, pressure from parents and students to improve them without working, and having to start all over again create concerns. The more dedicated teachers who resist grade inflation and have higher standards frequently become the most stressed because they feel isolated from the other teachers who may be considered more popular by lazy students or less of a nuisance by lazy administrators not wanting to handle complaints.

Learn to cope

Stress and burnout don’t just happened once in a lifetime and so it is vital to learn how to cope with problems in an appropriate manner. There is no one best method for everyone, but there must be an effort to find ones that work for you.

Administration Help

The administration is frequently the cause of stress when they do not react to problems in a communicative manner. Districts which recognize the need to listen to teachers, make them part of the decision making team, and even providing coping strategies should experience teachers who take less sick days, are more motivated to teach, and feel they are safe.

Here are the results of an Australian study on what is going right in handling stress.

http://www.aare.edu.au/02pap/how02342.htm

A brief review of what is stress and how to reduce it

http://www.scre.ac.uk/resreport/rr109/summary.html

 

 

ABC’ s of managing stress

http://educating-nm.coe.unm.edu/2003fall/teacher-stress/index.htm

Relieve stress with a lunch break.

Hear the report at

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4636786

Some suggestions include more inclusive school culture, a better policy towards those being challenged. Here is some research about a study that involves unions and districts working together.

http://www.ieu.asn.au/ohs/stressburnout.html

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