Stressed Out: The Personal Lives of Teachers

Stressed Out: The Personal Lives of Teachers


Howdy! Teaching is the most life-changing
profession on the planet; second only to being a parent or a caretaker. But let’s
face it, teachers are only human and they go
through the same problems as everyone else on the planet. For example, take my
friend Judith, just weeks before she took on her first teaching assignment, she was
diagnosed with stage 2 cancer. And during the middle of all of that, she mustered
up the energy to say I have found my profession. Now you have to remember that
teachers’ stress can be quite traumatic for everyone, and we get great joy from
our teachers. And true, the story reminds me of the seasoned teacher who still gets
excited reading great literature aloud to her mature students. Judith’s passion
also reminds me of the new teacher who gets pure joy when his Pre-Kinder babies
recite the alphabet for the very first time. We all love our teachers and we
understand that they are America’s future keepers. But Judith reminds me of
the three and a half million teachers across the United States. Research
confirms that 61% … two out of every three teachers are often or always stressed
out. Stress is defined as that emotional or mental anguish that comes about after
one has experienced emotional trauma. Now there are two types of teacher stress –
the first is occupational stress, the second is personal stress. And we don’t
talk about that one that because teachers are held in such high
regard that we often think that they don’t have problems. But despite their
noble mystique, we have to remember that teachers don’t fold away neatly into the
drawer at the end of day. They are real people with real problems, and
they teach in a postmodern society and they are confronted with such issues as
divorce, domestic abuse, financial trouble, and
even life-threatening issues like Judith. Teachers are human and they can’t check
their problems at the door – the good, the bad, and the ugly
are going into the classroom with teachers. Now neuroscientists and
learning theorists know something that a lot of us fail to appreciate … that there
is this social and emotional dimension to teaching and learning. We need
teachers to be resilient and show up inside the classroom as emotionally
competent professionals ready to give back to our babies. We know that the more
the resilience that they have, the more likely they are to stay in the classroom.
So what? Well, there are these incredible devastating effects on teachers – there is
diminished performance in the classroom it can negatively impact student
achievement and motivation – it also affects their health. And we need to know
that many of them are choosing to leave the profession all together. For new
teachers, 30% are gone after year 3 and 50% are gone after year 5.
There’s also collateral damage. We need you to understand that there’s an
interruption in instruction; we also see a negative impact on student achievement
and motivation; and there are financial cost to school districts. Nearly 2.2
billion dollars are spent annually in identifying, retraining, and restocking
the teacher profession. But let’s not lose hope! There
is a new teacher care movement on the horizon and they’re taking advantage of
such techniques as mindfulness, also yoga and some of our brothers and sisters in
the profession are seeking professional help. In my own research, I’ve looked at
the art of storytelling as a powerful form of self-care; and in my latest book,
Teacher Confidential – personal stories of stress, self-care, and resilience. I
invited seven resilient educators – Pre-K through Grade 20 – to share their stories
of tragedy and triumph; and Judith is one of those stories in my book. You should
know that Judith looked cancer dead in the eye and she rallied a great community of
medical professionals and her family. She fought cancer and she won! She rose up
against it! Judith is a star teacher still in the classroom … thirty years
later. Scholars of resilience – they tell us that there is this unique window of
opportunity where people who’ve gone through trauma can actually grow or they
can be consumed by it. In closing, I want to leave this with all of you … we can
attend to the public and the professional to train our teachers, but
we may have to attend to the personal to keep the 61%. The personal lives of
teachers matter! Thank you! you

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