teacher loses control
Cause and effect of mental stress which a teacher goes through in his career and their remedies
By all definitions the profession of teaching has a very prestigious place in all professions. A teacher is a kingpin in the entire system of education. Almost all cultures of the civilized world have considered their teachers in a very high esteem. They are very often been given names like “Master” “Mentor” and “Guru”. To achieve this status teachers throughout the history of civilization have come up to the expectations of the world around them. Most thinkers and philosophers of the past who are still remembered are because they had their disciples and students.
Times have changed and the societies and cultures have drastically diversified, but the tasks of a teacher are primarily the same, which is the transfer of knowledge to the next generation. With change in cultural norms and traditions in the societies there has been a drastic change in the expectations from a teacher. Some of these changes have limited the measures which a teacher in the past could exercise in disciplining a student and some have put additional burden on teachers in respect their preparation of lessons and adopting and maintaining their teaching styles. This is because most of the school systems prefer to maintain uniformity in all of their branches.
Teaching has now become a very demanding occupation with a lot of stresses for a teacher who has a lot of deadlines to meet and a lot of responsibilities to shoulder besides teaching a child what are in a textbook.
Overview of a Teacher’s Responsibilities
Primarily the role and responsibility of a teacher is multitasked in the present day school system. This was altogether different just a few years ago. With the change in the type of teaching culture and added managerial responsibilities for teachers include planning and executing instructional lessons, assessing students based on specific objectives derived from a set curriculum, and communicating with parents. A teacher has to take on his responsibilities in the following capacities:
ü Lesson planning and teaching.
ü Accountability for student performance.
ü Classroom management and discipline.
ü Supervisory role.
ü Extracurricular activity conducting and monitoring
Teachers and Stress
Teaching has been identified as one of the most stressful professions today. The reasons for that are quite similar to other stressful occupations in the world. 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, published in 2000, found that 41.5% of teachers reported themselves 'highly stressed', while 58.5% came into a 'low stress' category, while 36% of teachers felt the effects of stress all or most of the time [i]. This is indeed an alarming state and visibly also the biggest reason for school teachers quitting at a very high percentage or seeking professional help to fight back stress. The figures from teacher’s support line, USA, show different reasons that cause distress to teachers:[ii]
ü stress, anxiety and depression 27%
ü conflict with managers or colleagues 14%
ü pressure of workload and excessive changes 9%
ü loss of confidence and performance anxiety 9%
ü relationship, marital and family problems 5%
This shows that the highest percentage is job related stress that can wreck a professional teacher personally while discharging his duties.
Effects of Stress
Stress is considered as an involuntary response to a dangerous situation. When we face a situation which our brain is incapable of handling, it puts the body on alert by producing hormones which are required in fight or flight situation, which are:
ü Increased blood pressure.
ü Rapid heartbeat.
ü Reduced blood supply to the skin.
ü Cessation of digestive activities.
ü Increase perspiration.
ü Additional release of sugar and fast into the system to coup up with the additional energy requirement.
ü Decrease in immune system’s functions to preserve it for later action.
All these actions are a perfect requirement if we come across a physically stressful situation, like being attacked by a large predator, but most unbefitting in a classroom scenario.
All these actions which are mentioned above have a very long lasting negative effect if these stressful situations are to become frequently occurring feature. They may lead to the following serious and even fatal conditions:
ü Depression and anxiety.
ü Drug dependency.
ü Congenital heart diseases.
ü Stress related Diabetes.
Teachers and Stress
In relation to the profession of teaching, where a teacher is viewed as dispensers of knowledge; teachers are increasingly perceived as facilitators or managers of knowledge. They work in a constant socially isolated environments surrounded by hostile views and sometimes threat of physical abuse, and at the same time under a constant fear and threat of accountability for each and every action of both own self and that of the pupil. This alone can be a sufficient cause for stress for an individual. But in the case of a teacher it is multiplied by other factors as well.
Causes of Stress for Teachers
From the outside teaching seems all together a different job with summer vacations, winter vacations and spring breaks. But considering everything that a teacher has to go through everyday all these days off do not do much to get a teacher back in the right frame of mind. According to a research the major causes of teacher stress are:[i]
ü Excessive working hours
ü Excessive workload
ü Rising class sizes
ü Pressures due to OFSTED inspection
ü Changes in curriculum & courses
ü Changes to assessment & testing requirements
ü Poor management
ü Workplace bullying
ü Crumbling schools
ü Pupil misbehavior
ü Risk of violence from pupils, parents and intruders
ü Lack of support with bureaucracy, form filling and routine tasks
ü Lack of job security due to redundancy and fixed term contracts
ü Lack of control over the job
ü Burden of providing cover
ü Threat to early retirement arrangements
ü Denigration of profession by politicians & media
ü Lack of public esteem
Methods of Identifying Stress
Identification is the first step towards correction; with this belief in mind it is strongly advised that a teacher should understand the implications of stress on his personal health and social life. The best ways to have stress identified easily is to remain active in his social circle and readily accept any recent psychological or behavioral change observed by the others.
It is also possible to keep a track of own changes by maintaining a self checklist[i] (Appendix 1) this will help in establishing changes in ideas and opinions over a period of time. This will show a clear picture of how the work place environment have affected your thinking gradually and with the help of your friends, collogues and relatives, you can change the effects of stress on your life.
The best way is to keep a check on your own health, attitude and behavior. Any change in these should be noted and necessary remedial measures be taken immediately to overcome this situation. The self stress checklist given at appendix 1 can be a helpful aid in determining the change in attitude which can be useful for determining the own state.
Another way is to maintain close liaison with other members of the faculty and discuss the irritants that are creating problems or are likely to create stress for the teachers. This is one way to identify and eradicate the issues which are likely to become the cause of stress beforehand. The faculty members or an organization of teachers can benefit the affected teacher with each other’s experience.
The organization can also play a positive role in helping their teachers in identifying the causes of stress within their schools. Problems such as isolation and disruptive behavior on the part of students and their parents can very conveniently be handled at the top level by the management amicably without putting the teacher in a stressful situation.
Some elements of stress are intrinsic while others are situational in the profession of teaching. The teacher has to understand how to cope with those which are intrinsic, while the situational ones can be managed with experience and common sense.
When a person decides to adopt the teaching profession, he or she during the training phase must realize the demands of this profession in terms of effort involved and in terms of time investment. The workload on a teacher will always be great and everything will always be bracketed by a very tight time schedule. A teacher has to be punctual and able to meet the deadline without fail. A teacher will have to always face the criticism of parents of the weak students and face the school board with a different set of problems.
A sensible teacher must know where to draw a line to prevent his social and personal life from being absorbed by his professional life. Though it is very difficult to leave the stresses of the school in the office and not let it affect their personal life, but there are methods which can help a teacher to reduce these effects.
Adopt a Hobby
It is very important for a teacher to have a hobby which is totally different from he teaches at school. Music, gardening, hiking and painting are a few examples of hobbies which a teacher may adopt. These can give them an outlet and take their minds off from the problems that they face at school. This is one way of getting the day’s stress off from their minds.
Adopting Healthy Habits
It is very important for a teacher to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Cutting back on bad habits like drinking and smoking will not just make you a healthy person, but will also make you a role model for your students and other faculty members as well. For a healthy living follow the following:
ü Stop smoking as it will help you stay healthy.
ü Reduce caffeine intake will help you stay focused and reduce stress
ü Eat breakfast as it is the most important meal of the day as it will help you stay healthy
ü Avoid junk snacks and eat right
ü Don’t let your life just roll by itself. Set realistic goals in life and then pursue them.
ü Make it a point to visit the guidance counselor, as it can help you identify any underlying psychological or behavior problem related to workplace stress.
ü Worrying unnecessarily can be a big source of stress. So cut back on worrying as that will reduce your stress.
ü Learn and practice anger management as it will help in managing stress.
[i] NUT Health & Safety Briefing: Tackling Stress (published 1999)
[i] Guglielmi, R. S., & Tatrow, K. (1998). Occupational stress, burnout, and health in
teachers: A methodological and theoretical analysis. Review of Educational
Research, 68(1), 61‐99.
[i] National Union of Teachers (NUT) survey, 1999
[ii] Teacher Support Line: First report, Managing Stress in Schools, 2000
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