Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Teacher Stressors

Mitigating teacher stressors is an important part of school administration. Teaching is not easy, yet too often we're reminded about our short days, extended vacations, and exorbitant salary and benefits packages by those who haven't been in a classroom since high school graduation. Those of us in the know, however, realize that teaching is quite a challenge yet a satisfying way to contribute to our future community successes. As a school administrator, I think it's important to recognize these challenges that teachers encounter on a regular basis and to do my best to minimize their potential negative influence on student learning.

I recently read Stauffer and Mason's (2013) paper on this topic and have been thinking about the sources of stress that teachers encounter, as well as the authors' strategies for school administrators to serve as mediators of these stressors. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the authors identified Political and Educational Structures as the most frequently cited source of stress from their sample of 64 teachers. The negative rhetoric that plays out in the media can cause even our most experienced educators to question their self and collective efficacy. I think one way that school administrators can work to preserve their teachers' beliefs about their instructional practices is to stay current with respect to not only the educational reforms that prevail in the media, but also to have a good understanding of what drives these reforms. Helping teachers to understand why educational experts politicians might have a strangle-hold on certain reforms is an important part of school administration.

Stauffer and Mason also identified the following categories of teacher stressors, in order of frequency: Instructional Factors; Student Factors; Parent and Family Factors; and School Climate. I'd like to get your thoughts about teacher stressors. Please comment on which of the teacher stressors identified by Stauffer and Mason have the largest influence on your teaching or administrative practice.

Stauffer, S.D. and Mason, E.C.M. (2013). Addressing elementary school teachers' professional stressors: Practical suggestions for school administrators. Educational Administration Quarterly, 49, 809-837.


  1. Sam, great post and welcome back. Your question is an important one since building level administrators are truly the "first line of defense" when it comes to mitigating teacher stressors (although I am sure some would argue they can also be a primary cause!) I believe that all of the factors of stress often have a synergistic effect which leads to the feeling of being overwhelmed. Since each building dynamic is unique, I encourage leaders to identify the most frequent or influential stressors and start there. At the very least, it facilitates important dialogue about addressing the issues at hand!

    1. Joe: Thanks for reading and commenting. Identifying frequent and influential stressors are critical, however, this could also be one of the more challenging aspects of school leadership. Keeping open dialogue, as you mention, should facilitate this, though.

  2. The teachers at my school were the most stressed during Term 2. That was the term we implemented technology for assessment before the technology was ready or the teachers were prepared. The best way to describe it was 'feeling blindsighted' while still working with the day-to-day tyranny of the urgent.

    I think this year will be better. We'll take more intentional time for PLTs. I'll also be more intentional about addressing the stressors when they arise. Sometimes teachers just need to be heard.

    Janet |

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Janet. Implementing anything before teachers are prepared is likely to contribute to teacher stress. I hope this year is better, and as you wrote, much stress can be alleviated when teachers are given a voice.