Carol’s Story

Wider Contextual Background

Research in Australia, US and the UK indicates that teachers experience the highest levels of occupational stress (Mason and Matas, 2015; Bailey, 2013; Milburn, 2011; Buchanan, et al, 2013). Kyriacou (1989, 2001) defines stress as a negative feeling or emotional state resulting from work as a teacher. These unpleasant feelings manifest themselves in a variety of ways such as anger, tension, frustration, or depression, and constitutes a significant threat to teachers’ self esteem and well being. Teacher burnout is a by-product of stress which leaves teachers exhausted and feeling “that their work is meaningless and that they are powerless, alienated and isolated” (Howard and Johnson, 2004, p.1). From an organisational standpoint, stress can result in loss of skilled and experienced teachers through resignations and premature retirement. Those who persist and stay are likely to become less effective in their work. At a personal level, stress can result in poor physical and mental health, reduced self confidence, poor self esteem, poor self efficacy, and damaged personal relationships.

Within Australia, an estimated 41 per cent of teachers report high levels of job related stress (Milburn, 2011) and teacher lodge more mental health stress claims than any other occupation (WorkCover, 2014). These high levels of stress can be attributed to a multitude of factors including excessive workloads, long working hours, very challenging student behaviours, reactive management strategies, aggression from students and parents, pressures of assessment targets and inspections, conflicts with management, conflicts with colleagues, adapting to new curriculum content, insecurity of tenure, lack of professional development opportunities, lack of involvement in decision making, poor self esteem, etc. Early career teachers have a particularly high attrition rate of 50% (Marshal, 2013). More than 1 in 4 early career teachers suffer from emotional exhaustion and contemplate leaving the profession within the first 5 years of their service (Marshall, 2013). In addition to these factors early career teachers attributed their emotional states to experiences of isolation, insecurity of tenure, being given the toughest classes, lack of administrative support, and being confronted by much tougher emotionally challenging conditions than expected (Marshall, 2013).

Messages from research indicate that being connected with students and colleagues, feeling supported by colleagues and management, feeling valued at work, and having resources aimed at increasing teachers’ sense of self efficacy can be key protective factors against teacher stress and burnout Klassen, et al, 2012; Flook, et al, 2013). This simulation presents a number of vignettes that are aimed at enhancing your capabilities as a teacher in identifying sources of stress and as well as helping you to further develop your strategies for responding to stressful situations…

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