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Stress in the Day to Day Life of a High School Teacher
When a teacher has to work with up to a hundred or more students a day, each with their own personality, desires and stress issues will always be faced. This stress will be further compounded when these hundreds of students become teenagers. Teenagers are the most self-centered of all individuals.
There are many difficult issues that arise every day with teenage students that cause additional stress. They include:
• Motivation to learn. Often, students have to take subjects that have no interest or do not see relevance to them in life. Math is one of those subjects when Algebra comes into play.
• School absenteeism. This is especially true for boys. When they return to class, the teacher should take time to provide additional instruction to help them catch up with the rest of the class.
• Last period. Two problems arise here. The first is fatigue. Teachers should plan an active lesson to keep students’ minds on their learning. The second is the thought among the students that school is almost over and they are starting to switch off.
• Behavioral problems. There are all kinds of reasons for this. They affect the teacher’s concentration while delivering a lesson and disrupt other students’ ability to absorb the lesson well.
• After lunch. In particular, for boys, lunchtime is a time to engage in sports-type activities. They will arrive to class hot, sweaty and tired and often late, which means that the teacher’s planning for the lesson is often compromised.
• Hot summer afternoon. These afternoons often have a numbing effect on students, making it difficult for them to concentrate effectively.
• Late arrivals. They disrupt the continuity of the lesson and often require extra time from the teacher to go over what has already been taught.
• Student fatigue. In high school, this often comes from two factors. The first is related to extracurricular work where some students work long hours often late into the night. The second concerns the work task. Many students have poor planning and organizational skills and leave many important tasks until the last minute, forcing them to work until the wee hours of the morning to complete the assignment.
• Poor diet and physical fitness. A fit and well-nourished student concentrates more effectively and absorbs learning at a faster rate than others.
• Last week of term. Students very quickly go into vacation mode even though new work is being taught.
• Week after the exam. This week is important for the teacher to show students how they can improve their results when reviewing exam papers. But for many students, exams are over and they no longer care about what they did, only their results and whether or not they can get more marks from the teacher. Some students are very aggressive in doing this.
There are other issues that add to the stress of high school teachers. They include:
• Extensive hands-on classes where safety is an issue (eg craft classes) and where a lack of equipment means students have to share equipment. Students get angry because teachers can never guarantee equal access to equipment. Time wasted trying to do this affects teaching time and the teacher’s ability to cover the assigned learning for the teaching term.
• Get a class after moving to the previous lesson. It takes time and patience to set up the classroom before effective teaching can begin. The previous class may have been with a substitute teacher or the subject students are forced to take, often in high school.
• Teaching subjects for which you are not qualified.
• Internal relief. Secondary teachers have time for preparation and correction. Some teachers have more than the specified minimum. This extra time is used for internal relief without the teacher knowing when it will be used in any given week. Often internal relief comes when the teacher plans to do something urgent and/or important.
• Noisy classes next to your room at crucial teaching or assessment times.
• The role of “in loco parentis”. In today’s world, acting in this role, although part of a teacher’s official function within school hours, requires very careful consideration and a record of how, when and why the teacher has taken on this role .
• Prepare students for external “exams”.
• Requirements for access to the University. This often requires students to select subjects they find difficult or have little or no interest in, making motivation a factor in their personality in the classroom.
• Parents. Many are more demanding and protective of their teenagers, often siding with them against the teacher and the school. They forget that, as teenagers, they never told their parents the whole story. Then when they confront the teacher at a parent/teacher meeting, they are generally embarrassed when they hear all the details. Of course, there are those parents who believe that their child can do no wrong because they are “angels” at home.
This is a whole list of problems that affect the working day of a high school teacher. The list is by no means exhaustive. But, what is true of any teacher’s life is that their day in the classroom is never routine. So stress is something that is always present and it is important that the general public understand how stressful this career is. Teachers may have longer vacations than the average person, but these vacations are initially filled with the days necessary to relieve the teacher of this tension and help them return to some semblance of normalcy so that the vacation period can be enjoyed with the family.
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