by Alan Haskvitz
Teaching has been rated one of the five most stressful occupations on numerous research studies. However, knowing it and doing something about it are two vastly different things.
As it is in other countries, teacher burnout is a serious concern in the U.S. Unfortunately, most research deals with what causes the stress. Thus the failure to cope has been placed at the feet of the individual teacher. Teacher stress has not been regarded as an institutional weakness, and the results have been essentially reactive or, in other words, short sighted.
How does teaching compare to other occupations?
It is interesting to note the most stressful jobs frequently involve work with people or require you to hide your emotions. In combining these two, teaching carries a high degree of emotional labor and with that stress. Additionally in some schools, violence, lack of input and a feeling it really doesn't matter can make the field of education even more stressful. Remember that a teacher in a school with a troubled population will feel more pressure than one in a more relaxed location.
Finding the most stressful occupations
Signs of stress
Researchers report signs of teacher stress include: being tired, frustrated, overwhelmed and irritable and bringing problems home.
Common causes of stress
Research indicates lack of resources and support, excessive meetings, hostile parents, inadequate discipline policies, poor teacher evaluation standards, noisy students, the attitude and actions of fellow teachers, poor career advancement opportunities, and lack of recognition are the most likely sources of teacher 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, lie 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.
Put things in perspective. The most stressful things in life are the death of a spouse, moving, divorce and personal illness. Does your list of stress triggers pale in comparison to this list? Perhaps that parent conference with the unruly child isn't really that bad.
These sites filled with educational humor links and teacher appreciation stories provide an alternative viewpoint.
Send in the Clowns
Teacher Appreciation Resources
Time of the Year
Canadian researchers show stress increases at the end of the term when grades, pressure from parents and students for grade inflation, and having to start all over again create concerns. Teachers who resist grade inflation frequently become the most stressed, feeling isolated from other teachers considered more popular by lazy students or less of a nuisance by administrators unwilling to handle complaints.
Learn to cope
Stress and burnout don't just happen once in a lifetime. So, it is vital to learn how to cope with problems appropriately. There is no one best method for everyone; you must strive to find solutions that work for you.
School administration frequently causes stress when they do not react to problems in a communicative manner. Districts that listen to teachers, make them part of the decision-making team, and even provide coping strategies should experience teachers who take less sick days, are motivated to teach and feel safe.
Resilient Teachers: Resisting Stress and Burnout
See the results of an Australian study on what is going right in handling stress.
Feeling the Strain
A brief review of what stress is and how to reduce it
Forcing Stressed-out Students to Break for Lunch
Hear this NPR report and relieve stress with a lunch break.
Stress! Burnout! Among Teachers
Some suggestions include a more inclusive school culture and a better policy towards those being challenged. Read about a study on unions and districts working together.
Top Ten Stress Management Websites