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Teacher's stress

Updated on July 27, 2010

teacher loses control

Students drive teachers to the edge where they take law in their own hands
Students drive teachers to the edge where they take law in their own hands

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 Alcoholism.

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.

Self Analysis

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.

Mutual Analysis

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.

Organizational Role

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.

Remedial Measures

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.

Individual Measures

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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    • lolaestrella profile image

      Dalila C 5 years ago from Denver, CO

      I've been one and I think I'm done with it. I had worked so much and none has appreciated my work. Being a perfectionist, I worked til late at night at school, neglected myself, skipped meals. Still, what I get was unsatisfactory reply from the principal. I thought that enough is enough. I dedicated my soul to the profession and then, I quit.

      I am a person and I want to live my life. Maybe I'm not as noble as other teachers. But, I want to live and not become a slave.

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 5 years ago

      @Perla please contact me via email and I will provide you the copy of the complete paper.

    • profile image

      perla 5 years ago

      i would like to use your information to back up a point in a cause i am wanting to petition Thank YOu

    • profile image

      martellawintek 5 years ago

      long time no see tomhas if your still in need of them i think this is the web address

      and some info ,check out there great prices,tell them m winteks said you would get him sorted

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 5 years ago

      Thank you. If you need more help please contact me.

    • profile image

      shallimar 5 years ago

      thank you very much for your article here. it help a lot in my research.

    • profile image

      saima 6 years ago

      hi i am saima i like teaching profession. this is very noble profession. teacher should be sincere in his work.

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 6 years ago

      Ever teacher should read your comment

    • profile image

      Gen 6 years ago

      I cannot believe that I don't see at-home paperwork as a huge stress factor. As a high school English teacher, I deal with increased accountability, more meetings, demands for expanded technology skills, and rude bully-like behavior from students. During the teaching time, I move from student to student in attempt to allay anxiety and to provide one-on-one instruction in the spirit of differentiation. My preparation time is absorbed by organizing lessons, running materials, and addressing needs of students who seek help from study hall. This means that all of my grading is completed off hours. When I was younger, I could handle the daytime responsibilities of teaching and the at-home planning and grading. Now, I am emotionally beaten and physically fatigued by the time I reach home at 6:00, and I nearly collapse in despair as I attempt to address grading tests, papers, and daily assignments. My house is a mess, I rarely make a meal at home, I see no friends (Thank God I like my teaching colleagues), and when I do take any time for myself or travel to see my elderly mother, I "pay" for the little bit of freedom by not being prepared enough for the following week. I will laugh in anybody's face who claims that teaching -- at least teaching high school English -- is a nine-month job. A few years ago, I kept track of much of my at-home work, and I determined that I worked the equivalent of six additional weeks. The public has no idea of what being a foxhole teacher is like in 21st Century America.

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 6 years ago

      Thanks Sabitu, will try that soon

    • profile image

      Sabitu 6 years ago

      Well done, pls if possible write on teachers challenge with possible remedies in nigeria. Thanks

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 6 years ago

      Thanks Richard, This is actually an extract from my original article, if you need I can provide you the complete article which is really in great detail.

    • profile image

      richard 6 years ago

      this has been very useful. A good write up. cheers.

    • profile image

      ansar 6 years ago

      thank you friend. its really useful for my project

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 6 years ago

      Thanks @Bushi

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 6 years ago

      Very true! The biggest reward for a teacher is seeing a successful student. The rewards from students continue long after the students graduate. My mom taught for over 40 years. When she died 3 years ago we couldn't believe it that over 2000 people came to attend her funeral and pay her last respects.

    • profile image

      Bushi 6 years ago

      well written

    • TattooKitty profile image

      TattooKitty 6 years ago from Hawaii

      Great hub- very informative! As a teacher, it's nice to be acknowledged for all of the work we actually do. It can be an extremely stressful job, however, the rewards are priceless. I'm not talking about the pay, of course, which is well-below what educators are truly worth (I'm lucky I can even afford to pay everyday bills like rent and car insurance). The true reward comes from my students...when they say "thank you" for everything I do, it makes all the stress worthwhile!!

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 6 years ago

      @anvesha tiwari Thanks I'll do that

    • profile image

      anvesha tiwari 6 years ago

      hello sir o.siddiqui

      i need to tell that i am not a teacher but a student but i liked it v much....actually i was going to conduct an assembly in my school and the topic was stress management so thankyou very much and keep writing...........!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      Huma 7 years ago

      hi owais, this inofrmation is really useful, when was this written?

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 8 years ago

      Brenda, I totally agree with you. This is the most difficult job in the present. Governments and parents do not understand this. Every now and then someone had to bring this issue in to the lime light so that things can be resolved

    • profile image

      Brenda 8 years ago

      Wow, interesting. I am a High School teacher and you got much of it right. My class is set up for 36, I almost always have standing room only at the back counter, 40+ kids. My roof leaks in 8 places. The A|C runs in the winter,t he heater in summer. (Controls are not in the room) there are 2600 kids in the school. I teach 7 periods a day, with combined classes I have 9 preps.Sound inpossible? 2 periods of Art 1 and 2 are in the same room at the same time, with grades 9-12 in the same room at the same time. 1 period of Art 3, Sr. studio and then AP Art in the same room at the same time. I go to another room and teach 3 periods of ceramics 1, 2 and advanced ceramics. Last class is meeting with Home school and independent study students. I work staurdays making clay and fireing, loading and unloading kilns. Ive done this every year and been given only 42 cents per student FOR THE YEAR for supplies. They expect me to make up the difference with the 2 clubs they think I have time to run (I don't). Ive spent on average $500 per year of my own money to even get by. Ive gained 80 lbs in 5 years and been put on anti anxiety meds as a result and have considered sucide. I am leaving this job this June. Who ever thought teaching would be easy just does not know what they are talking about.

    • profile image

      Ajit  8 years ago

      Very informative article...written very well too.. especially liked the part on adopting healthy habits...we used to hate it when our lecturers would smoke and come into class...

    • profile image

      odutola olabode 8 years ago

      ite me again pls send it 2 my mail a bunch and GOD bless

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 8 years ago

      Thanks Olabode, I ll try to find something for you specifically

    • profile image

      olabode odutola 8 years ago

      this is a lovely one very useful 4 me thanks a lot.

      but still need more on causes and effect of stress on economics teachers in senior secondary school.wuld be glad.

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 9 years ago

      Thanks Huma,

      I will definitely attempt that.

    • profile image

      Huma Mirza 9 years ago

      Your article was very useful. Most of the remedies proposed would actually relieve stress in other situations as well. I wish one could commission a write up to investigate the stress levels of teachers in dveloping countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh- with solutions!

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 9 years ago

      Thanks Sadia you are very kind :)

    • profile image

      Sadia Khalili 9 years ago

      A very well versed written material....hah! im telling to whom...ur a perfectionist!...that is wth one can xpect from u...keeep doing gooood work!...cheerZz!

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 9 years ago

      Hi Alamgir, thanks for your comments. Remenber every coin has two sides keep flipping and you get to see both frequently don't just stick to the negative.

    • profile image

      Alamgir 9 years ago

      very usefull. Ill advise my wife do go through this as she is tryin to adopt teachin as her profession.

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 9 years ago

      Thanks Hasha, that is exactly the point which I wanted you kids to understand and appreciate your teacher more. They deserve it.

      Leah, I am flattered by your comment. Thanks and one day you will write better than this.

    • profile image

      leah 9 years ago

      this is really good i wish that i could write like this

    • profile image

      hasha 9 years ago

      extremly well written, makes me appreciate my teachers more too

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 9 years ago

      Thanks Sonia for your support this is the biggest motivational force for me to keep going on

    • profile image

      sonia  9 years ago

      Hmmm Owais well done I found it v informative n usefull plz keep writing more of gud stuff

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 9 years ago

      Thanks Shruthi

    • profile image

      Shruthi 9 years ago

      Well said chacha ji... :) Very informative...

    • profile image

      Soji Oyenuga 9 years ago

      This is a great resources for teachers and parents as well.

      Soji Oyenuga

      Click here now for Free Report On How To Rescue Their English Speaking Immigrant Children From Being Culturally Lost

      Co-Author of "101 Tips To Have Your English Speaking Child Understanding and Speaking Your Heritage Language In Only a Few Short Days" and Originator of Innovative and Interactive Language Software For Immigrant Children

      Click here now for Free Report On How To Rescue Their English Speaking Immigrant Children From Being Culturally Lost

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 9 years ago

      Thank you sir, there will be more :)

    • profile image

      Soji 9 years ago

      This is quite educative write up. More please

    • Owais Siddiqui profile image

      Owais Siddiqui 9 years ago

      I am happy that I have been able to be of some help, Thanks

    • profile image

      Salma 9 years ago

      Very useful, Thanks


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