Reduce the pressure on teachers to promote efficiency

To say that the teaching profession is demanding is quite an understatement. In any one teaching day, you not only teach overcrowded classes, but must also manage behavior, plan lessons, separate fights, assess learning, counsel students, write reports, mark books, do lunch duty, tidy classrooms, create resources, deal with bureaucracy, create displays, attend meetings, speak with parents... the list is endless.

All these duties are performed, of course, with your bosses breathing down your neck on a daily basis. The supervisors themselves undermine, demean and diminish the profession, yet they are expected to be more understanding. Without mincing words, this is a hard punch in the face. Even worse is when they strip the profession of autonomy and freedom to independently pursue our craft so that we can seek out the best for our students. To them, you can never be good enough. Unfortunately, most teachers cannot handle such dissonance.

Such a high level of strain coupled with a dispiriting environment can have devastating effects on a person’s health. In fact research suggests that almost all illnesses can be attributed to stress in some way because of the harmful effects of raised levels of toxic stress hormones which flood through your body as a result of the stress. High blood pressure, heart disease, ulcers, strokes, migraines, inflammation, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, low immunity, skin problems, headaches, back pain, joint problems, name it, can all be attributed -either directly or indirectly - to the action of stress hormones. In this case, is all the stress worth it?

Then there are the knock-on emotional problems which chronic exposure to these hormones and various health complaints often leads to - fear, irritability, anger, frustration, insomnia and forgetfulness. Eventually, everyone around you is consumed in your stress. Considering that classroom teachers can take on many roles for students including mentor, role model, and parental roles, it is possible that spending most of the school day in interaction with a stressed and burned out teacher is strenuous for students and can affect their physiological stress profile. As a whole, the stress in teachers is a crisis that needs to be addressed before it reflects negatively on educational outcomes in students.

Since no one loves working under such an uncomfortable environment, we should strive to make teacher’s lives more comfortable. The starting point is reducing the workload. Give them less teaching hours and more preparation time. Secondly, reward the teachers where gratitude is due- I can grumble on and on about teacher’s salaries. We should also do away with the ridiculous expectations put on teachers; we are not angels. Finally, teachers themselves must also learn to recognise their stressors and live one day at a time.

Sure, it’s stressful, but the most important thing to remember about the stress is that it exists only because we care about the work, because we care about doing the best we can for our so-very-important charges. We feel the stress precisely because we are trying to keep running, no matter what they throw at us or how badly they break the road. We can regret that we were born to teach in these times, and that we face such unnecessary and destructive obstacles. But no matter the stress, we should never regret that we cared enough to try to do some of the most important work in the world.

The writer is a Language Consultant