Saving the stressed out teacher

Dr Karla
Hylton

Sunday, May 26, 2019

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Teaching, rated the most noble profession in the world, also ranks among the most stressful. The reason is clear: educators have to grapple with a multiplicity of issues, from large class sizes, increasing workloads, and difficult behaviour from both students and parents alike.

Stress is our body's response to the pressures of a particular situation, or life in general. Everyone feels stress at some point in life and the contributors of stress vary from person to person. It's not all bad; it helps us to develop resilience and inner strength, and can actually assist in navigating one's way through a tough situation. However, if stress becomes long-lived, the body can experience physical negative effects, and the wear and tear can become apparent and pronounced.

The effects can also affect one's mental health.

In the case of teachers, mental health is often neglected as parents, students and stakeholders may view teachers as superhumans. This is because most teachers do much more than teach. We nurture our students, which takes lots of inner strength and dedication. We manage classroom behaviour, plan lessons, set tests and worksheets, mark papers, and liaise with administration. We may also be a part of extracurricular activities, clubs, etc, and we are expected to live exemplary lives and be good role models.

But this is not always easy.

Teachers educate the future leaders and change-makers of the future. We help to develop societies by imparting good values, morals and ethics. It is necessary to do more for teachers who are exhausted, stressed and burnt out. Teacher stress fuels the high turnover seen in this profession and also contributes to the high level of absenteeism seen in some schools.

One way or the other, stressed out teachers do impact learning outcomes and thus stress should be seen for what it is: a major problem.

According to thegraidenetwork.com, studies show that student behaviour — including hostility towards the teacher, inattention during class, noisiness, unpreparedness for class, and disregard for school rules — contributes significantly to teacher stress.

But it isn't the only factor. Finances also play a major role, for while teaching is lauded as a noble professions, it is still tragically low-paying, with teachers generally feeling overworked and underappreciated.

The lack of classroom resources is another potential source of stress for teachers.

Needless to say, stressed out teachers are ineffective. Therefore, before they can help our children, educators must first take care of themselves. The schools must do their part by investing in teachers' well-being, and parents must also take care of their chidren's teachers, by expressing gratitude, participating in the parent-teacher's association, and lobbying for ways to assist teachers.

I believe that professional development programmes could be offered to help teachers acquire strategies for coping with stressful situations and to learn methods of developing inner calm in the face of chaos. Stress reduction programmes have been shown to reduce stress by providing tools for teachers to tap into their inner strength. These include, but are not limited to: breathing techniques, meditation, cognitive restructuring, gratitude journaling, self-care, and exercise.

Teachers should be provided with a relaxing space, such as a teacher's lounge where quietness and respite can be found during the school day. Soothing activities such as meditation, music or art could perhaps be available in these spaces. It may also be necessary for the guidance counsellor to also attend to the needs of teachers, referring them to external professionals if necessary.

Dr Karla Hylton is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools. She operates Bio & Chem Tutoring, which specialises in secondary level biology and chemistry. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, biochemtutor100@gmail.com or khylton.com.


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