Teaching, what’s all the stress about?

The world can be a pretty stressful place and stress is a natural thing. It exists to sharpen our senses, allowing us to can act quickly, get out of danger or do something important.

The problem comes when people are stressed all the time. When stress is compounded upon stress like a giant balancing act which unfortunately will, at some point, come unceremoniously crashing down.

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We all admit that teaching is a pretty stressful job – but what is the most stressful part of it?


I posted this question on Twitter last week and got a vast and interesting response.

Here are a few of them (not in order of importance):

Lack of clear communication between school management and teachers was mentioned a number of times. When the management of a school change their mind about something or don’t explain their vision effectively to us on the “shop floor” it can be very frustrating. We want to do the best we can for our students, and often work tirelessly for it. But when things are changed which make it more difficult, that causes a breakdown of trust and unnecessary anxiety.

We need to know why we are doing something. As above, when the reasons behind something aren’t explained, it’s easy to feel it’s pointless. As a teacher, I often explain the relevance of the task – but my commenters said that when this isn’t done on a school management level they found it unnecessarily stressful.

Changes to policy without the time to prepare. Change is always stressful, but in education at the moment the only constant seems to be change itself. Giving appropriate time to prepare always helps releave this – as ultimately we all want to do the best we can.

The sheer volume of work that’s expected. We all know that feeling when you’re stuck between the rock of marking and a hard place of lesson planning or some administration task. Then there’s the skill of attempting to balance that with having a life (whatever that is).

Pointless meetings required by management that have little or no relevance to those present. This commenter went on to say, “if you can’t answer the question, “how will this benefit our students?” then don’t do it”. Another said they were expected to attend some meetings until 6pm – despite having children of their own who they weren’t getting to see.

Beaurocracy of the school systems. One commenter mentioned that they love the actual teaching of their classes, its the “officiousness” of the people above that hurts. Another said that being used as an “administrator rather than a teacher” caused them stress, they have noticed that “administrative tasks have increased every year they’ve have been in the profession.”

Observations and scrutiny – people in your lessons can feel like they’re checking up on you. One commentator says that hasn’t got easier in the 8 years they’ve been teaching.

Data, and the constant need for it. When the focus on teaching seems to be secondary to the focus on the measurement of teaching there’s got to be something wrong.

Is it a surprise that children, students or actual teaching were not mentioned by any of the people who contributed?

What do you find stressful about teaching?

And, here’s the Grade 9 question, what do you think can be done about it?


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Photo by Jurica Koletić on Unsplash

3 Replies to “Teaching, what’s all the stress about?”

  1. Hey great article! I like that you shared the views of others.
    Yes, I was very surprised that the actual teaching of students wasn’t mentioned by any if the responders. Teaching is stressful for me when the students are indisciplined or unresponsive. However, this is something that can be changed through reflective practice, patience and a little enthusiasm.

    1. Yeah totally, but students (I think) are students the world over and we expect that from them – perhaps we don’t expect the systems or politics of education to make the job more difficult.

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