Top 3 Causes of Teacher Stress – Part 1

I had a great time presenting a one and a half hour staff meeting yesterday at a relatively small primary school in Adelaide’s southern region.  On the drive home I reflected on the session and at one of the many traffic light stops perused the responses I received from one of the standard questions I always ask participants, being “What are the three main causes of stress for you working at this site?”

I ask this question for a number of reasons.  Firstly, I don’t think may teachers have ever had the opportunity to think about this.  In great detail.  Or to be specific about what it is that causes them the most stress.  My hunch is when asked they would say things along the lines of “Work’s so stressful” but not be explicit about what is and how.  Secondly, I suspect the opportunity to have this information fed back to leadership may be a rare opportunity and my sense is that people feel empowered when they are asked to comment about what they feel affects the overall wellbeing of  the site at which they work.  Lastly, I feel this process acknowledges that there are going to be at least 3 things that are stressful about working in education and because participants have no difficulty responding (and some people give me 7 or 8 ‘most stressful’ things), they come to understand that feeling this way is normal because the pressures of working in education are very real and felt by most school based practitioners.  In fact when I ask participants how many find their role “extremely stressful,” the standard response is at lest 75% of the total group, often more.  This amount is consistent from site to site but is a stark contrast to Borg’s findings (Tyson, Roberts and Kane, 2009) which states that only one third of teachers rate the job as highly stressful.

The data I have collected so far shows these factors as the top 5 (well 7 really) causes of stress as experiences by teachers in South Australian schools:

1.  Student behaviour

2. Workload

3. Parent/family issues (including communication issues and parent behaviour)

4.  a) Administrative challenges and b) lack of time

5. a) lack of support for children with learning or behaviour needs and b) DECD priorities (including implementing ACARA)

I wonder what you find the most stressful part of your current position (that is if you happen to be school based).  I’d love you to reply so that I am able to collate a series of responses.  I’ll put them together with some recent research findings about how to best manage stressful situations in a post in the near future.

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