Under Pressure

Is teaching a high stress occupation or are teachers who complain about it just "moaning minnies"? That’s the question BBC education writer Mike Baker is asking. He starts by noting a study on workplace stress done a few years ago by researchers at Cardiff University.

The study – The scale of occupational stress – found that 20% of people reported high levels of stress at work. Yet among teachers the rate was double that. Indeed teachers topped this particular league table, with 41% reporting high levels of stress. The next highest was nursing at 31% then "managers" at 27%. Interestingly the more people earned, and the higher their level of educational qualifications, the more likely they were to feel under stress.

The problem with such a study is that it is based on people’s perception of their own stress. If you think you’re stressed out, that’s what you tell the survey. But the most common source of stress reported by teachers was not student behavior, as many outside the profession think, but conflict with adults – colleagues, administrators or parents.

I’ve never seen any studies on stress among teachers in American schools but it seems to me that there are far too many factors to make a national generalization on the subject. There are too many schools where teachers work with the possiblity of physical violence in addition to poor facilities and I would imagine the stress levels there are pretty high. Then there are the type of schools I’ve been fortunate to teach in, with relatively good facilities and good people. In the end, however, in any situation most everyone has some control over their own stress levels, if they choose to use the necessary tools. Even in a classroom.