By: Kyle Palmer and Matt Hodapp
Teacher stress, that old saw! A new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reveals 46% of teachers say they feel daily stress in their professional lives. (NPR points out these are self-reported levels comparable to doctors and nurses.)
So what gives?
In this edition of No Wrong Answers: Extra Credit, we get varying reactions from our teacher panel.
Rebeka McIntosh, a K-5 alternative school teachers, says bluntly: “If you can’t run with the big dogs, sit on the porch. This job isn’t for lightweights. You have to be able to do it all day long, everyday.”
Still, she admits, teachers need to support each other. Fourth grade teacher Maddie Burkemper indicates the stress is constant for her because of the expectations she puts on herself: “I truly believe I have the potential to impact another human’s life. It’s all the time. I’ll go home on Friday, and I will think to myself I can go out to a bar with my friends and have a drink. And every single time I think, ‘I should be lesson planning. I should be doing this instead.’”
Middle-school Gifted and Talented instructor Princeston Grayson cites yet another cause of teacher stress: lack of control. “A lot of times, the decisions that are made in education are not made by educators. So when we think of the targets and benchmarks that are set, are not reflective of the reality we are forced to navigate.”
That includes standardized tests, performance benchmarks, and the ever-present teacher bugbear: pay. Princeston says it’s hard for him and many of his colleagues--some of whom have Master’s and Doctoral degrees--to know they’re making less than other people with similar education levels.
“There is this degree of professionalism that teachers are not afforded. We are working so hard to improve our society and we’re not respected in a way that’s reflected in our compensation,” Princeston says.
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Cover photo from Kevin Dooley