By John W. Krupp
Although the teaching profession can change the world for the better, it often comes with a great deal of stress. Struggling to manage this stress can lead to burnout and the loss of teachers (Akin, 2019). Teachers’ daily responsibilities include teaching the curriculum, preparing for high-stakes testing, grading, collaborating, communicating with parents, being a first responder, and leading extra-curricular activities to build school culture (Daniels et al., 2016; Hupe & Stevenson, 2019; Katic et al., 2019; Manuel et al., 2018). When faced with the many demands of the profession, stress is inevitable.
New teachers typically learn about the many roles of educators, but they may have little understanding of the impact these roles will have on their personal lives until they’ve lived the experience (Daniels et al., 2016). This lack of understanding leads to increased stress, which causes new teachers to bring stress and work home, thereby affecting personal relationships (Katic et al., 2019). Therefore, it is important to recognize what you should do to understand the role you are taking on and find a means to mitigate stress. With the responsibilities that teachers encounter daily, plans shift often. Stress will happen, and the key to longevity is mitigation.
Personal characteristics typically determine the ideal coping mechanisms for teachers, leading to wide-ranging tactics (Cancio et al., 2018). Coping mechanisms have been broken down into two categories, internal and external (Cancio et al., 2018; Fernandez-Aguayo et al., 2017; von der Embse et al., 2019).
Internal coping mechanisms help a person achieve mindfulness or focus (Fernandez-Aguayo et al., 2017). Exercise, meditation, listening to music, or any personal destressing activities are examples of internal coping mechanisms (Cancio et al., 2018; Fernandez-Aguayo et al., 2017). External coping mechanisms are considered supportive social and communal environments with friends, family, colleagues, or leadership that help to mitigate stress (Molway, 2019). Here are a couple recommendations for success in mitigating stress:
- Take care of yourself in the best way for you through exercise, meditation or whatever activity relaxes you
- Find a group of likeminded people who would be positive and benficial to your growth as a teacher including colleagues, friends, or family
Effects of Stress
When the stress of the profession becomes insurmountable, you can easily experience burnout (Akin, 2019). Teachers may also begin cutting corners, becoming negative in personal or professional settings, and letting the focus of high-stakes testing change their pedagogical practices by removing engaging and creative practices to teach to the test (Zoch, 2017). Either one of these effects is detrimental to the profession and to students. Remember why you entered this journey: for the students. When stress occurs, it’s easy to forget about your students and focus on your frustrations, leading you to become more dissatisfied. If you keep your students in mind, you’ll be able to mitigate stress and continue to help the students regardless of the stressors.
A common recommendation for teachers has been to make sure they take care of themselves; however, this vague suggestion is not helpful. As a new teacher, you will not be able to conquer this profession alone. Every teacher has encountered an inspiring teacher who has helped him or her find the tools they need to be successful. Find those external supports and surround yourself with them. Know who you are and what helps you relieve stress. Ensure you engage in those activities daily to stay mindful. Doing so will help you overcome the stress of the profession and realize that we have the best job in the world. We can change the world. That can only happen if you stay in the classroom!
Dr. Krupp is an educator of 15 years. He has taught AP U.S. History, U.S. Government, and Macroeconomics. He completed his doctorate in educational leadership at the American College of Education with a focus on researching the coping mechanisms of teachers.
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