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Teachers don't know what stress is

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Posital
908887.  Sat May 12, 2012 11:08 am Reply with quote

Neotenic wrote:
If nothing else, there is no applicable metric that can be applied to measure stress
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stress_measures

Joking aside - there's quite a bit of literature and research in this area.

Neotenic wrote:
and I can't help but think that if anyone finds their job too stressful, irrespective of whether they are a teacher or a tree surgeon, then they are very probably doing the wrong job.
Absolutely.

 
Sadurian Mike
908897.  Sat May 12, 2012 11:51 am Reply with quote

The key being 'too stressful'.

If there is no stress then the job is almost as bad as if there is too much. Indeed, a job where there is little pressure is also stressful, just in a different way. Bear in mind also that a qualified teacher might struggle to find a suitable alternative job should the job they are in become too stressful.

But, as Neo say, everyone gets stressed by different triggers, and they also handle it differently. I could never be a secondary school teacher because I would be too wound up by getting cheek from prepubescent oiks, the same reason I never applied to work in a YOI.

None of which is the same as saying that teaching is not a highly stressful job.

 
CB27
908900.  Sat May 12, 2012 12:16 pm Reply with quote

Neotenic wrote:
I also see from his bio that his last role before joining Ofsted was as principal of an academy in a particularly fierce part of Hackney - so I would wager that he's going to have as good a handle on the pressures and issues that teachers face as anybody.

Sorry, don't buy that. An area doesn't make the school what it is, there's the fact it was created as an academy, as opposed to being converted into an academy or being an existing school. The facilities and resources available at Mossbourne are not available in other schools in the area (and beyond). There is also a large question mark over the students allowed in Mossbourne, in that while free school meals are by no means the only indicator one looks at when guaging the economic background of students, the school has a lower than average proportion of kids on FSM than other secondary/academy schools nearby (33.7% compared to other nearby schools with figures in the high 40s, 50s and one in the 60s).

I'm not taking anything away from the success of the school or what it's done for students, I just question the idea that Mr Wilshaw was a superhead that was able to achieve terrific results at a failing school, or that he saw from first hand the pressures of teachers working in some of these schools.


Last edited by CB27 on Sat May 12, 2012 12:18 pm; edited 1 time in total

 
Neotenic
908901.  Sat May 12, 2012 12:17 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
Bear in mind also that a qualified teacher might struggle to find a suitable alternative job should the job they are in become too stressful.


I don't know if that's really true - I know at least a couple of ex-teachers working at my place.

I don't know if this is part of what I believe to be a faintly fallacial representation of the career path that stipulates that you go to an institution to get qualified for a job, then you go and do it, and only it.

Of course, there are career paths for which that route is entirely appropriate, but I can't help but think that, at times, the net is cast too widely.

I don't think anyone should ever feel trapped by their qualifications as any number of skills are transferable with the application of a little imagination.

Quote:
None of which is the same as saying that teaching is not a highly stressful job.


Of course - and I think probably the key mistake the Ofsted chap made in his reasoning is that because teachers do not face the same stresses that he faced in the eighties, they don't face any stresses at all. Whilst heads of today don't have to deal with teachers working to rule, the heads of yesterday didn't have to deal with cyber-bullying, or a psychotic obsession with league tables.

Although I do suspect that part of the reason that line of reasoning comes to the fore has more to do with way it has been reported than anything else.

 
suze
909058.  Sun May 13, 2012 10:10 am Reply with quote

I'm not planning to get involved in this debate, simply because I don't consider myself horribly stressed at work. That might possibly be because I'm really quite good at what I do, while a lot of those who find the job all too stressful aren't, but in Britain one isn't encouraged to say things like that.

But there's one thing upon which I must correct Neotenic.

Neotenic wrote:
Whilst heads of today don't have to deal with teachers working to rule.


Yes they do. Members of NASUWT are currently working to rule indefinitely, and have been since November.

In practice, this has little impact in well run schools. The definition of "work to rule" which is being applied is not necessarily the one you first thought of, and de facto what it comes down to is "I will only refuse to do things if they are things that you shouldn't have asked me to do in the first place".

However, NASUWT conference last month voted to escalate, so this may changes. Probably not before September.

Declaration of interest: I am a member of NASUWT.

 
Jenny
909138.  Sun May 13, 2012 12:13 pm Reply with quote

I've worked in customer service and I was a teacher in a secondary school full time for four years and then as a supply teacher off and on for another seven. I'll agree that all work has its own stresses, but the stresses in those two were of a different order.

In customer service, you are dealing with people who can be awkward and difficult, but your job is to make things right and fulfil a need, and be apologetic if necessary. In teaching, your job is to offer education to 'customers' who may be distinctly unwilling to receive it, however well you prepare and however engaging you try to make your subject matter, for reasons totally unconnected with you and a great deal to do with what is going on in their lives outside the classroom. Then you are assessed on the outcomes of your efforts regardless of how well you prepare.

Moreover, in customer service you can generally pace your day at your own rate, focusing and concentrating when necessary for as long as necessary, but able to go to the loo/have a coffee when you need to, and able to switch off communication if you really have to. In teaching, you have to be full-on focused at every moment, and on the look-out for things that may be nothing whatever to do with teaching your subject and may be thought to be more in the realm of social work.

Moreover, in customer service you are generally expected to accomplish your work goals during your work hours. In teaching, there is not a hope of accomplishing your work goals during what is assumed by the rest of the world to be a normal working day of 9-6, so you end up working at home and at the weekends and during what are laughingly called holiday times in order to prepare, mark and assess work and keep accurate records and deal with pastoral issues that arise, none of which apparently count as 'work', because we know that only being in a classroom with children counts as 'teaching'.

And then you have to listen to idiots claiming that you only work 9-3 and get long holidays during which you are assumed to be doing nothing.

I preferred customer service, frankly. Except for adult ed, which I did for eleven years, and which had all the good bits of teaching and none of the bad.

 
Neotenic
909210.  Sun May 13, 2012 4:30 pm Reply with quote

I'm not sure that you're making a fair comparison there, Jen.

If nothing else, there are a multitude of roles that could be described as 'customer service' - and, for a great many people, that means sitting in a call centre. And, more often than not, far from being able to 'plan your day', you are entirely beholden to the beep in your headset announcing the arrival of the next customer in your ear.

And not only that, but you will be monitored on the amount of time that you are either not on a call or available to take another - so you can't always take as long as you want to sort something out from one call before you're being compelled to take another.

But, past the technicalities, I think the bigger problem is that it is not a direct comparison on the skills ladder - nor, for that matter, on the wage ladder.

So, rather than the person doing the customer service, probably a more appropriate comparison would be their manager. And they have to convince people to go out and provide excellent customer service that often would rather be sat in the pub instead.

And as you move up that pay and responsibility ladder, the notion of 'working hours' becomes increasingly quaint. You do what you need to do to get the work done, and don't get any overtime for it either.

I guess the key point, really, is that whilst teaching may carry with it a certain number of unique stresses, there are many that it shares with other, more comparable professions too.

 
Sadurian Mike
909231.  Sun May 13, 2012 5:11 pm Reply with quote

Neotenic wrote:
But, past the technicalities, I think the bigger problem is that it is not a direct comparison on the skills ladder - nor, for that matter, on the wage ladder.

Getting a higher wage does not reduce stress levels.

Yes, call centre work is crap (I've done it), but only moderately stressful because it is a job you leave behind when you log out. If someone rants at you, you can warn them and them cut them off. Wages are relatively poor, but it is the sort of work that can be done without formal qualifications or particularly long and difficult training. Normally, the customer gets helped and is grateful.

I've not been a teacher, but I'll use my Prison experience to make a comparison. It is well paid but you are under immense stress. Your 'clientele' are mostly unappreciative of your efforts, and even doing the basics requires constant concentration. Whilst most pupils are not looking to do you physical harm (I hope), they are similar to prisoners in many ways - they are somewhere they don't want to be, are ruled by institutional rules that appear petty and vindictive, and you are the embodiment of their dislike of the institution.

Air-traffic controllers were classically top of the stressful jobs list, I have no idea if they still are, and they are reasonably well paid.

Trying to disregard stressful jobs because of the wage or skills is not going to work - job-related stress does not depend on how much you earn (low wages may mean domestic stress, but that does not make the job itself stressful).

 
Leith
909234.  Sun May 13, 2012 5:26 pm Reply with quote

Posital wrote:
Neotenic wrote:
If nothing else, there is no applicable metric that can be applied to measure stress
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stress_measures

Joking aside - there's quite a bit of literature and research in this area.


One such example:
Journal of Managerial Psychology: The experience of work-related stress across occupations

Quote:
Six occupations are reporting worse than average scores on each of the factors physical health, psychological well-being and job satisfaction (ambulance workers, teachers, social services, customer services call centres, prison officers and police).

 
exnihilo
909242.  Sun May 13, 2012 5:54 pm Reply with quote

Sadurian Mike wrote:
Whilst most pupils are not looking to do you physical harm (I hope), they are similar to prisoners in many ways - they are somewhere they don't want to be, are ruled by institutional rules that appear petty and vindictive, and you are the embodiment of their dislike of the institution.


Wow. You really didn't like school at all, did you? Do you really think that's a remotely fair representation of the average school pupil? If so no wonder teachers are stressed. Or, maybe, like the 'really high' stress levels it's utter hyperbole?

 
Sadurian Mike
909271.  Mon May 14, 2012 4:13 am Reply with quote

No, I don't think it's hyperbole in either case.

I didn't particularly hate school but:

1. I would rather not have been there. Thank god for holidays, teacher training days and the like.

2. I felt that the rules were petty and vindictive. Wearing uniform, having to sit for two hours doing 'prep' even if you didn't have any to do, assembly in the morning, not being allowed into town lunchtime unless you were signed out, being at the mercy of the school prefects' whims, and so on and so forth

Nowadays I see it differently, but at 12 and 13 I didn't see.

 
Neotenic
909274.  Mon May 14, 2012 4:34 am Reply with quote

Quote:
Getting a higher wage does not reduce stress levels.


I didn't say that it did - the only thing I was doing was suggesting that the role of a teacher can not be readily compared to that of the average 'customer service' monkey, because the levels of responsibility don't match up - and that is also reflected in the amount one can earn in such a position.

Of course, there's not a straight-line correlation between levels of potential stress and financial reward because, as I said, stress can not be readily and universally measured in standard units, and different people can experience different levels of stress whilst performing exactly the same tasks.

I am not trying, at any stage to 'disregard' stress. My point is just that the levels of stress that a teacher may experience are not necessarily that far removed from plenty of other roles for which one may earn a comparative wage.

 
exnihilo
909278.  Mon May 14, 2012 5:15 am Reply with quote

The people I meet who are good teachers do not speak of hopelessly unruly classes or of endless hours of their own time being used up precisely because they are good teachers. And suze made exactly the comment I expected her to on this matter, one which is supported by all my experience of teachers and the teaching profession. Indeed of all professions. If you're horribly stressed you're likely not very good at your job or just in the wrong profession*. You knew what the job was about before going in to it (perhaps uniquely given the media focus and the fact we all went to school) and yes there are some things you may sometimes need to do outside hours but boo hoo so do I, so do millions of people. Deal with it.





* Although how many 'professions' are kicking about where a 3rd from the University of You're Kidding Me can all but guarantee you a well paid job for life. Far too many people fall into this profession for lack of a better notion of what to do, and don't even get me started on 'teacher training' courses.

 
Sadurian Mike
909282.  Mon May 14, 2012 6:01 am Reply with quote

Thankfully, medical recognition and treatment of stress has progressed well beyond the 'boo hoo, deal with it' stage.

 
Sadurian Mike
909283.  Mon May 14, 2012 6:03 am Reply with quote

Neotenic wrote:
I am not trying, at any stage to 'disregard' stress. My point is just that the levels of stress that a teacher may experience are not necessarily that far removed from plenty of other roles for which one may earn a comparative wage.

I'm still not sure why you felt the need to add the part with the comparative wage. If you are not correlating stress levels with wages, why does the wage you earn have anything to do with the discussion?

 

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