Over the recent years there has been an increase in the number of teachers being absent from work due to work related stress and this has become a growing concern.
I wanted to see why some member take days off so i conducted a small survey in my office and these are the results. As the pie chart shows, a lot of absences are due to direct stress from work and health problems that may be due to the long hours that staff are expected to work in.
Based on a recent survey conducted by the department of education (DfE, 2017), they found that teachers are now engaging in extensive working hours due to marking, preparations and admin work which most likely will be completed outside of their contracts. This therefore has an impact on their work-life balance.
Similarly, TES (2017) published an article which explains the stress that teachers are subjected to on a daily basis. Most reports based around teaching emphases that teaching involves more than teaching. Not taking into consideration the ongoing changes that are implemented from the government on the education system, as teachers we need to be able to deal with safeguarding issues such as sexting, sexual abuse, female genital mutilation and mental health issues, such as bipolar, depression, self-harm as well as, ensuring that workload is managed accordingly and teaching is delivered at a high standard. It is only inevitable that teachers struggle to cope with the pressures of their jobs.
Coping strategies therefore need to be implemented in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance. I myself, have a heavy background within psychology. I have worked as a support worker, healthcare assistant, research assistant, in Samaritans, mental health mentor and counsellor and have adopted coping strategies over the years. However, although this helps me with the emotional aspect of teaching, it does not take into consideration other factors.
From the DfE report, one of common mechanism were working collaboratively with other staff to plan and work. From the beginning of the academic year I feel team working is a skill that I have developed because prior to teaching, I have never worked in a job that heavily relies on teamwork. Sharing resources, and helping each other reduces the pressure of your workload. For example, at the beginning of the academic year, one of the tutors that I work with, gave me all the presentations that were prepared from last year. I used these slides as a basis and adapted them to fit my teaching styles which saved a lot of time. During our staff meetings, we have a time where we can introduce different practices. Sometimes ideas are rejected and sometimes they are liked but we try to fit them if we can around our teaching philosophies.
Another factor, which takes into consideration individual differences, was mentioned by Mulholland et al (2017) who states that teachers should be able to have time to reflect on their practice.
I do this in two ways, one during the teacher training course, as the emphasis is developing critically reflective skills as a teacher. There is a lot of opportunities available where we can discuss certain issues. For example, how to consider differentiation within your planning. The other way is, during my “catch up” meetings with my manager. Here, we discuss any issues that may have arose during the week. For example, a student of mine was refusing to attend lesson due to anxiety issues so therefore, we came to an agreement that is best if we give him time to think about whether he wants to continue the course. A plan was put into place.
I found that having these meetings have helped me immensely. It’s almost a form of catharsis which is used when debriefing a person after a traumatic or stressful event. As these meetings are regular, I have the opportunities to release the stress . It very similar to a concept that was taught during Samaritans, where they used the idea of wearing a hat: When you get into work you wear your “work hat” and when you leave you take this hat off and everything that is associated with work is also left at work.
PS 9, PS12,
Department of Education (2016). Teacher Workload Survey 2017. Social Science in government.
Tes. (2017). Teaching is bad for your health…but it doesn’t have to be that way. [online] Available at: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/teaching-bad-your-healthbut-it-doesnt-have-be-way [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].
Mulholland, A. McKinlay, J. Sproule (2017). Teachers in need of space: the content and changing context of work. Educational Review 69 (2), 181-200