You may or may not know this but teaching is considered one of the most stressful professions in the United States. Teachers are expected to do much more than teach state standards in a classroom of 25-36 students. The stress is hurting teachers, students and our future.
The job requires knowledge of what to do during lock-downs and drills, planning engaging
lessons, doing assessments of student levels in order to differentiate lessons and managing
Then there is classroom environment, personal attention to students, personal attention to parents, and collaboration with colleagues. Added to the teacher responsibilities is recess duty, extra duty to support school activities, grading student work, data analysis, and teaching with best practices.
As well as the academics teachers are expected to sooth hurt or sick students, mentor, support families in crisis and meet with upset parents. Also, there is interaction and evaluation by district and administration all the while trying to bring some fun to going to school for children. This is an exhaustive list but not complete.
As one can see, being a teacher is challenging, rigorous and stressful.. However, I don’t think
that others know just how high this level of stress is for teachers, maybe not even teachers.
The experience I have as principal of an elementary site is that teachers are working
beyond capacity while being told by the media to just get to work and stop complaining.
I looked at some research by University of Missouri and found from their research that 93% of elementary school teachers report that they are experiencing high stress. The question was simple, how stressful is your job, and how well are you coping? Sadly, in this
study, educators were found to have extremely high levels of stress, with few tools on how to contend with the pressures coming at them from so many sources.
There is no need to place blame, especially on the teacher or the profession for this sad state of affairs.
When teachers express their concerns such as burn-out, desire to leave the profession, an inability to cope, and stress related illnesses they are verbally attacked as being weak, selfish, self-centered or entitled.
It is a sad affair that the teaching profession has lost respect, support and appreciation in recent years. Teachers are the co-creators of the future generation. It is all of our responsibility to restore and empower our teachers.
Nationally there is a fantastic focus on our children’s social emotional learning. But it’s not just the kids that need help with emotional intelligence. So, do the ones providing the instruction to the students in the area of social emotional learning.
The stress level felt by our teachers is expansive and sweeping.. Teachers need administrative, community and national support, in learning ways to cope with the stresses of the job. We all need to be part of the solution.
During staff meetings strategies for dealing with stress are being presented. Teachers are
hungry to find ways to cope with the difficult job of working at a school, ways to teach with joy, difficult encounters with parents, children in need and the overhanging fear of school safety.
Some are finding success with stress management and this is wonderful, but without a school wide commitment to create an environment that is healthy, it is going to be a slow process for all stakeholders.
Empowering teachers and students raises emotional intelligence, while still raising scores.
Great teachers need a work environment and school climate that is positive, safe, warm. They need the ability to teach with their flavor, to have more autonomy and a voice. They also need a voice in what happens in their school and classroom. They need strategies to deal with tragedies, difficult situations, people and fear.
It is a surprise when talking to friends, parents and reading articles or comments on social media that the focus is often on criticism of the teacher. This seems paradoxical because most parents would not want their child to spend the day with an adult, who is feeling overwhelmed as well as put down, unappreciated disrespected. That’s not good for teachers, and that’s not good for kids.
It is very difficult for a teacher to be effective when they are not connected emotionally and
mentally to their students. Stress makes this connection difficult.
There is no surprise in the research which shows when teachers are emotionally drained the student’s suffer in their grades, state test scores and school contentment..
It makes sense that if a teacher is mentally exhausted then they will also experience physical health problems and psychological problems. Research done by Education Support Partnership shows that at least 75% of teachers have become ill due to job stress. The average population in other professions is not even close to this percentage.
Teachers that miss school due to illness, struggle to find joy in their teaching and think of
leaving the profession will be less likely to mentor and being engaged with their students. This affects students overall success both academically and in life.
Education is in trouble with teachers leaving the profession in large numbers and for those that stay because they want to make a difference. They often suffer physically and mentally with the current environment.
If society continues to criticize, put down, show almost no appreciation either through wages, actions or words to our teachers then the future generations are at risk . Teacher stress will continue to hurt teachers, students and our future.