Teacher Stress Often Overlooked

Amanda Young, Staff Writer

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With all of the attention on student stress, which has been cited as a driving factor in the use of the Stanford student survey and implementation of various strategies advocated by the Challenge Success program, the transition to a block schedule that offers a later start 3 days each week and the addition of an Academy period, as well as the creation of a campus wellness center, it is easy to forget that teachers also have their share of challenges that can be stressful.

In fact, all of these new strategies for reducing student anxiety may actually be heightening stress among their instructors.

“I think teacher stress level is fairly high this year because of all the changes that have taken place. There hasn’t been a way to give teachers more space to think about how they want to address all of these new changes because the change happened fairly quickly,” said World History teacher and Leadership advisor Lindsay Webb-Peploe.

In addition to the stress of preparing instruction for block periods, many teachers are also being challenged by the shift in curriculum standards for various subjects, or by the implementation of completely new course offerings.

“People are teaching new courses; there’s the HSD [Human & Social Development] course and the semester courses. There’s a whole set of new science courses that are being taught in addition to whatever new preps people might be teaching. There have really been an unprecedented number of changes this year,” Webb-Peploe explained.

Due to all of the changes, even veteran teachers are feeling like they’ve been starting over this year.

“I do hear a lot of teachers feeling like new teachers because they have to restructure their day. The fact is that, I can’t lecture to students for an hour and a half, because no student wants to hear me talk for that long,” said English teacher Jake Donohoe. “But it becomes that [question of], ‘How do I make sure you guys get what you need knowing I’m not seeing you everyday?’ And that’s hard.”

Sometimes the level of challenge facing teachers isn’t apparent to students because teachers spend a considerable amount of time perfecting their lessons long before they open their classroom doors. “I had Ms. Cody and she seemed very put together. She always had slides ready, she knew what she was doing, and she seemed very well-educated about this new topic,” explained Alica Hober about her HSD instructor.

Webb-Peploe believes that the best way to combat stress for both teachers and students is to “acknowledge it and be open and honest with your students, and say ‘Hey, look; this is going on, I’ve been able to do X, Y, and Z but not A, B, and C. Let’s approach this from a collaborative manner and move forward.'”

Yet freshman Sebastian Fojut said that when teachers express their frustration to the class, it can make students anxious. “There’s always this moment of anticipation when someone asks a stupid question, like waiting for the teacher to go off on them, so that causes stress for students, in turn,” he said.

However, Fojut thinks that teachers’ stress is often repressed, which can be detrimental. “They should have a more appropriate way to voice their opinions on how their classrooms are run and they should have creative control over their classrooms,” said Fojut. “I think that teachers are often seen as not like a human, but more of an entity that’s there to provide you grades and things. Whenever there’s an error, we often forget their human, basically.”

Hober also acknowledged that students can often be so concerned with themselves, they forget to consider what their teachers do: “Kids are always saying that they’re stressed, but the teachers have to grade tons of worksheets and tons of papers and tests and all this stuff, so they have a lot of stress on top of them. If kids are always complaining about their stress, it gets to the teachers, because the teachers are thinking, ‘I’m literally in the same situation as you.’ And they probably spend late nights stressing about trying to get papers back because kids are always like, ‘Give me my test back,’ and all that stuff.”

It makes sense that reducing teacher stress may also reduce student stress. “From a student perspective, it’s kind of hard to say whether it should or shouldn’t be a bigger issue. If you talk to teachers and find they’re stressed, you should make sure you find ways to reduce their stress because I could definitely see how having teachers who are stressed affects the students,” said junior Adriana Derksen.

“I do think that in an interesting way student stress and teacher stress levels tend to ride in the same waves. I think it makes sense to some extent because we do a lot of the work together and in the same cycle,” Donohoe added. “Obviously, if I can create an environment that is the least stressful possible, it helps you manage your stress, and therefore, if I’m more freaked out that’s going to trickle to you guys because you have to listen to me talk all day.”

[The new changes are] exciting but the reality is there’s only 24 hours in a day and there’s a lot to be done. Positive changes and teachers feeling heard is a big part of it,” Webb-Peploe said. “I think that that would make a big difference.” 

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