Why Teaching Is a Stressful Career

TeachingNow in 2016, much is being written and spoken about teacher stress. Teaching has always been a stressful career. Working with 25 individuals children in a primary school class would stretch the patience of most people. Then, in a high school situation, a teacher might have to interact with over 100 individual teenagers in a wide age range over a single day. We all know how difficult the teenage years are for the teenagers let alone their parents and teachers.

Stress can be divided into two areas. The first is related directly to the teaching situation while the second is related to issues from outside the classroom. In the main, the first type of stress is part and parcel of being in front of a class. Most teachers take that stress “in their stride”. The second is not in the control of the teacher. That is the dangerous stress, the stress that caused mental anguish and often leads to illness.

In this article, the first type of stress will be discussed. Let me begin by listing the many roles a teacher plays in a single day. The teacher will be:
A lecturer; a demonstrator;
A story teller; a tutor;
An advisor; a disciplinarian;
a first aid attendant; a safety officer on playground duty;
a bus supervisor; an exam writer and marker;
a report writer; “a shoulder to cry on”;
a sport’s coach; a concert organiser
a work place health and safety officer; and
a student teacher supervisor. These are just some of the roles of a teacher over one day.

The lists can go on and on. What profession expects their personnel to have as many roles to perform as these each and every day of their working life?

Let us not forget that the teacher then has to interact with up to thirty different individuals at a time in the classroom. All are different in many ways. All have problems at one time or other that the teacher must address in his/her planning for each and every lesson. Many of these problems are not the fault of the child but are often the result of the environment in which they live. On top of these issues come the personal family tragedies such as a death of a loved one and a family breakup.

Now there are many extra activities that add to the day to day work of a teacher and that impinge on the teacher’s time and increase their stress level. They include:
• Preparing for day one with a new class;
• Setting, organising, marking examinations and reporting;
• Preparing for parent/teacher evening and attending them;
• Writing new work program for a new syllabus;
• Preparing for a school fete, concert, camp, excursion*;
• Training a sporting team*;
• Organising the teaching of a student teacher and then offering advice and writing an assessment of that student teacher.
• Planning for the next year;
• Attending mandated professional development.

The list again could be extended. But I’m sure the reader gets the message. Those with an * can add much for the teacher to enjoy but still create stress.

Finally, one of the important issues for teachers is their physical and mental health. Many teacher refuse to have sick days feeling they are letting their class down. They simply put off being sick. But the day the school holidays begin, they become sick. Many are so mentally exhausted and stressed; they simply sit down and vegetate for many days early in the holidays.

So it is easy to see how teaching is ranked second only to air traffic controllers in the race to be the most stressed professionals. So when you next think of being critical of the teaching professional, ask yourself this question. “Could I successfully adopt all the roles of a teacher every day without making any mistakes?” if “yes” is your answer”, then you are free to be critical of, rather than sympathetic towards, your child’s teacher.