Yikes. Just typing those words stresses me out! So, I asked some of my teacher friends in the Teacher Learning Community what stresses them out most in the classroom and school. Then, I went on to ask them how they combat that stress.
Teacher Stress. Lots of causes, any real solutions?
The teacher stress inducer most commented on includes all of the activities not associated with actual teaching — testing, data collection, reporting, administrative reports and duties, and the other non-teaching communication that goes on with school administration or parents. If you’re a teacher, likely no surprise there.
So, let’s get to it: Teacher Stress… We’re coming after you!
Data Collection. Kathleen B said she wants time to teach, not to administer assessments or collect and interpret data. She says: “I hate that I have to have data to “prove” a student has a need for help or accommodations. Teaching my 40th year in elementary, I know who needs help, (remedial or enrichment), and what to do to provide it. The time I’m wasting on testing and working with data stresses me out because it takes away from my time to plan and the students’ time to learn.”
Julie S goes on to say: “Being asked to test and collect data far more often than is necessary for effective teaching. Also spending so much time testing that we don’t have time to instruct, yet we are being evaluated on the test performance.”
Barbara Y adds: “What causes me stress is the fact that people keep giving us more paperwork to do because they think we don’t do much. They think our job is from 9am-3pm. They think we get the summer off. The truth is I go in at 7:40 and get out at 3:07. I spend most of my nights grading and getting ready for tomorrow’s class. I also make it a point to take part in my community and watch all my students in sports. I am more than just a “teacher.” I am a guidance counselor, mom (to some of my students), mediator, a shoulder to cry on when they’re stressed out, and so much more. I may get the summers off, but I don’t get paid for it. I have a summer job just to make ends meet. In the end, teachers are more than what people think we are.”
Other Teachers. Sheila H feels that “there are many “aspiring admins” walking among us that are either trying to impress real admin or trying to exert power over others for some reason. These “teacher leaders” waste way more of my time than any other group.”
Parents. Meddling or uncaring parents was a common topic theme that came up as I was talking
with others about teacher stress. Ann H said her teacher stress comes when parents tell her how to teach or what to teach.
Julie W said: “Parents want everything to go smoothly with no stress always. Their babies must be happy and never need consequences (said sarcastically). I have had students roll eyes, tell me their parents will talk to me, show passive aggressiveness, and parents want me to fix it all. Parents please “parent,” meaning you need to make tough decisions.”
Sheila H adds: “Parents are a whole other issue. They want teachers to “fix” everything about their child. I have been told by parents that if the kid is at school, they are my problem and to stop calling them. I have also had crying parents that actually want me to help them get their kid to behave at home because they behave for me at school. The lack of accountability is out of control. At some point, students and parents have to take responsibility for the problems rather than always blaming teachers.”
All the Other Stuff. Barb B pretty much sums up teacher stress with this comment: “ I’ve taught special ed for 30 years and 28 summers. It’s not the students that cause me stress, it’s all the other stuff. Excessive paperwork, meetings, and demands that cause the stress. Time with my kids, that’s golden!!”
Cathy G echoes Barb’s comments: “What is causing me stress is the massive volume of things we are expected to stay on top of in addition to the actual act of teaching. In addition, I am completing my certification, and that adds another layer of stress. I don’t think the non-education sector realizes the stress we are under. I find that all many people see is that we are off a lot. They don’t realize that the work never stops. I find that teachers that truly care bring their work home with them. Even if you don’t bring the actual paperwork home, it’s in your head.”
Of course, there are no easy teacher stress fixes, nor any one-size-fits-all solution. However, some of our fellow teachers came up with effective ways to deal with all this teacher stress.
Sheila H offered this solution: “Pray. I can’t change others, I can only change myself. I work on changing myself so that I can have empathy towards the people rather than resentment and anger over the issues.”
For dealing with students who aren’t performing up to their abilities, Meaza S says that she creates a plan together with the student and puts the ownership for success back onto the learner.
Natalie A says that the best way to deal with stress is to talk about it with her friends and colleagues. She also likes to take time to reflect and to focus on how many of her students have progressed. And, she says praying is a big one for her as well.
Colette D believes that quiet time and self-connection are key ingredients to use at the start of and throughout each day.
Perhaps teacher stress is no wider a problem than stress in any other profession? What do you think? What causes you stress in the classroom or school and how do you deal with it?