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Stress? What Stress?

Are you ready for this? Be seated , because the news you are about to receive will be jarring. OK? Here goes:

Researchers at the University of Houston suspect that the stress that teachers undergo in the classroom may actually not be healthy for them, mentally or physically. A $1.6 million federal grant will fund an inquiry into how chronic stress impacts the classroom.

This investigation, reported recently in the Houston Chronicle, is undergone in good faith but if the outcome is not a foregone conclusion, then the sun has commenced to set in the east.

The stress of teaching surpasses that of practically any other career activity. The pressures are many-layered and often intractable. The rewards can be commensurate, which amount to a very rewarding professional life indeed, so certainly there’s a trade-off. But anyone who has actually worked “in the trenches,” knows that the wear and tear on the body and psyche can be momentous.

Law enforcement officers, even if their lifestyle and genetics contribute decisively to eventual illness, are presumed by law and public sympathy to have developed sickness and disability as a direct cause and effect of the nature of their work and receive lifelong payments accordingly. But if a teacher develops high blood pressure or is compromised emotionally because of the abuses and insults of the edu-political system, which need not be documented here but are unrelated to the enduring joy of teaching kids, then the tabloids raise the red flags of suspicion that these teachers are shirkers out to betray and scam the city.

Teresa McIntyre, a professor at the University of Houston’s Texas Institute of Measurement, Evaluation and Statistics, says that the education system is “at a time of a lot of change and change can be stressful.” Change? What change? That word is too ambiguous, all-embracing, and defused of its lamentably explosive charge during this so-called “reform” era.

McIntyre acknowledges the “toxic combination” of what the Chronicle calls the “constant interaction and minimal levels of control.” They report that a goal of the research is “to pinpoint triggers and coping mechanisms for increased stress.”

Anyone out there reading this have a clue as to what those “triggers” might be?

Interestingly, a pilot study found that “experienced teachers — those 55 and older — were better able to handle the stresses of the day. McIntyre suggests that pairing veterans with newer teachers may help the latter to deal with the stress,” says the Chronicle.

Any potential evidence to support that conclusion would no doubt be “dead on arrival” at Tweed where experience is viewed as a millstone and a menace.

The results of the research study are due next May. Stay tuned and stay on your feet until then.



  • 1 Bob Calder
    · Jun 11, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Did they examine site management? My experience says that it has more to do with imposing stress than students at the high school level.

    Have you ever noticed your inflammatory response change under stress?

    This is why we have workplace safety rules for other kinds of businesses. Workers die and citizens react by changing the workplace through regulation.

  • 2 EduGirl
    · Jun 13, 2011 at 12:37 am

    They needed $1.6 mil to find out stress effects health, or to find out that teaching is a high stress job? Seriously, why didn’t I think to go for THAT grant?

    Of course teaching is high stress. The current culture places ever higher demands on teachers while allowing them less and less authority with which to accomplish the goals. Kudos to those that have the dedication to stick with it. They’re the unsung heroes. ~ Beth