STRESS, BURNOUT & SUPPORT. DR JOEL ROACHE. OVERVIEW. In the U.K. approx. 500,000 workers experience illness as a result of work-related stress and up to 5,000,000 people feel ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ stressed by their work, with an economic cost of £3.7 Billion per year.
DR JOEL ROACHE
In the U.K. approx. 500,000 workers experience illness as a result of work-related stress and up to 5,000,000 people feel ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ stressed by their work, with an economic cost of £3.7 Billion per year.
A study conducted for the Times Educational Supplement in 1997 found that 37% of secondary vacancies and 19% of primary vacancies were due to ill-health.
In a study of 25,000 professionals, teachers ranked:
Emotional labour is an important facet of the experience of occupational stress
Sources of stress:
Teachers are subject to higher stress levels than other comparable professions and higher than neurotic patients for that matter.
National Occupational Health and Safety Commission estimated of the cost of stress in Australia at $105.5 million in 2000–2001 .
Attrition rates in Aust.: 25 - 30% after three years, to 50% in some KLA’s after 5 years [U.S. 29% after 3 years; 39% after 5 years; U.K. 40% after 3 years].
29.6% of beginning teachers do not see themselves teaching in Australian public schools for more than 5 years - 55.5% of these will leave for another industry.
Significant associations between early career turnover intention and burnout in teachers have been found in Australia and OECD countries, as have links between stress and teacher retention.
Beginning Teachers top 4 concerns [3 years running]:
Stress - the experience of unpleasant emotions, such as tension, frustration, anxiety, anger and depression, resulting from work as a teacher.
“…for heuristic purposes we can divide causal factors in teacher stress into three broad areas; factors intrinsic to teaching, cognitive factors affecting the individual vulnerability of teachers and systematic factors operating at the institutional and political level.” [Pisanti et.al., 2003].
Wider effects of stress and burnout: stress effects a teacher’s students, colleagues, family, and the education itself.
Burnout causing departure from teaching represents a significant loss from a profession already under pressure from restructuring, low social recognition, an aging work force, and difficulties in recruiting.
The impact of stress is not uniform across individuals, rather it depends upon characteristics of the individual [‘set’] and upon aspects and features of the social environment [‘setting’].
An individual’s repertoire of coping behaviours may include:
Burnout - the syndrome of cynicism and emotional exhaustion in response to chronic stress, linked to teacher attrition.
“These techniques have a number of inherent limitations; for instance, the fear that reports of finding the job highly stressful or of finding, say, pupil misbehaviour a major source of stress might be indicative of the respondent’s incompetence as a teacher.” [Borg,1990].
Stress processes vary due to demographics, personality variables, work expectations, preferences and commitments, and abilities and skills.
Teachers with more adaptive coping strategies show a lower degree of burnout than teachers with coping strategies based on ignoring or avoiding problematic situations.
Teachers are able to recover from weekly workplace stress over the weekend early in the academic year, but this does not continue throughout the year.
What school administrations can do to help their teachers cope with stress:
“A sense of agency, a strong support group (including a competent and caring leadership team), pride in achievements and competence in areas of personal importance are all major protective factors….” [Howard & Johnston, 2004].
“Coping refers to both overt and covert behaviours that are taken to reduce or eliminate psychological distress or stressful conditions.” [Fleishman,1984].
Pearlin & Schooler  define an individual’s coping factors as:
These responses may involve:
Resilience was seen as ‘a strong belief in their ability to control what happens to them’, involving:
Hardiness: three key factors to hardiness – emotional control [e.g. Negative Mood Regulation], Moral Agency [commitment], and the ability to meet challenges [e.g. achievement motivation].
Social support systems, involving significant relationships founded on honest and open communication, are critical for teachers coping with workplace stress.
Such support systems act in three dimensions:
“Overall it is perhaps the general level of alertness and vigilance required by teachers in meeting the potentially threatening variety of demands made upon them that constitutes the essence of why the experience of stress and burnout is so prevalent.” [Kyriacou, 1987].
Teachers with support systems involving significant relationships with peers, employers, and family/friends, experience significantly less stress.
Support systems involving colleagues, mentoring by experienced teachers, and support from principals, are the most immediately effective interventions a school can deploy as a buffer to stress, illness, and burnout amongst its staff.
Support systems can be constructed in a number of forms, e.g.:
Increased amounts of practical support from colleagues and high levels of emotional support from family and friends reduces depersonalisation of students [a risk factor for aggressive disciplinary behaviour in teachers].
Informational support from supervisors, mentors, and principals reduces stress from role ambiguity, role overload, and role conflict, as well as helping with cognitive reappraisal of stressful events.
There are impediments to teachers using peer support, such as school culture and a reluctance to admit experiencing difficulties to colleagues.
This reluctance has led Lewis to propose a range of indicators that could be used as a means to identify teachers who may need support and may also be the very teachers least likely to seek support from their peers.
R. Lewis has obtained significant teacher support for the set of indicators below, to be used to assess whether a teacher needs an offer of support.
Lewis has identified positive and negative classroom management strategies used by teachers when confronted with discipline issues in the classroom:
Primary students and teachers report greater use of each of the discipline practices below than do secondary students and teachers:
SUMMARY OF STRESSORS, INDICATORS & BUFFERS TECHNIQUES
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