When I visit a new campus I am invariably told by multiple sources that, “The teachers are really stressed,” or “We are really concerned about the amount of stress that teachers are under.”
To which I always ask, “What exactly is the source of all the stress?”
The answer is presented as a list of changes which almost always includes a couple of the following:
A. A new leader
B. A new curriculum
C. New pedagogy expectations
D. New technology
E. A changing student body
But here’s the catch, on these "stress filled" campuses, I rarely see any of those things being actually addressed or implemented. And I’ve been doing this for a long time, at hundreds of campuses across the county.
Here is what I think is really causing the stress.
Fear of the Unknown: The education landscape is changing rapidly and we are a risk-adverse profession. We don’t know what funding will look like, accountability will look like, or what schools will look like in the near future. This is stressful.
Lack of Control: Before accountability, all a teacher had to do was cover material related to the content, maintain decent classroom discipline, not upset parents, and maintain an acceptable pass/fail rate. Not easy work, but work where the teacher had near complete control and was questioned by essentially no one. Now in the accountability era, the teacher must teach specific content at specific rigor levels and have near 100% mastery. And now everything the teacher does or does not do is in question, by anyone. This is stressful.
Inadequacy: It’s time to be honest, what is expected of today’s classroom teacher far exceeds what was expected of yesterday’s teachers. This requires better tools, better models, better training and better support to build this new level of teacher capacity. And if the district and campus is not doing its part, teachers are being asked to perform at a level that they are currently unable to do. This is stressful.
Guilt: There are teachers who know they are not attempting to do what they have been asked to do. This is stressful.
Stress not addressed can be debilitating. Stress inappropriately diagnosed leads to frustration and wasted effort on empty solutions. Stress appropriately diagnosed can be managed and alleviated.
So what are the real stressors on your campus?
Think. Work. Achieve.
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