Stress: How Does It Affect The Teachers?

“Teaching can be a stressful job, mainly you juggle quite a few things,” said Zach Gonzalez, a first year teacher. He wants to put his best foot forward and do a good job.  With a full load of classes and homework also, teachers like Zach worry about what they have to do for the next classes and how they are going to teach it.

The most stressful time of this year for Zach was when he did the Model U.N. field trip to Boston. The meeting itself wasn’t that stressful; the thing that was stressful was when Zach dealt with organizing the trip.

“I do a pretty good job but my eye twitches involuntarily, and that’s how I know I am stressed,” Zach said. He hasn’t been super stressed, just very busy.  It can be uncomfortable because he can’t shut the stress off at some points like on weekends and Friday afternoons.

Zach has some strategies for relieving stress.   “I’ve been a musician since I was 11 years old,” he said. “I’ve been playing drums and you can hit stuff, that’s pretty fun.”  He also goes on hikes with his dog and his girlfriend.  

Another teacher, Erin Mooney, said that “….stress is about your perception… stress isn’t always a negative thing.”   When Erin gets a lot of papers to grade, she wants to hand them back, but she wants to put comments on.

“The weekends are stressful in that situation,” she said.

She wakes up in the middle of the night or wakes up early and is already thinking of what she has to do for the day. “The business can impact your life,” said Erin.

Erin said she uses a number of strategies to cope with stress. “I like to watch movies with my family; I like to go for a walk or run or hiking; gardening helps me relieve my stress,” she said.  Erin’s advice to a new teacher is that he or she should make time for themselves while trying to get good at the job. “Not doing everything at once, put some stuff on the back burner,” she said.

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Kathy Topping

Kathy Topping has been at U-32 more than three decades. “Teachers stress because they are in charge of the learning of a group of students and they always have to make decisions,” Kathy said. “When you are in charge of that group you get stressful.”

Kathy remembered one stressful moment early in her career.  She said that for one of her first labs she did not anticipate how much sodium hydroxide she needed. She didn’t have enough. When she went to make more she couldn’t because she didn’t have enough time to make it dissolve in the water.    

“I’m sure stress affects my health. I’m pretty sure that it affects everyone’s health,” said Kathy.

She said that U-32’s schedule contributes to the stress. Sometimes she doesn’t have the time to go to the bathroom, when her schedule has her go from one class to the next class.  A four minute passing time doesn’t allow her to clean up from the first class to the next class.

Kathy said if you laugh you can lower your risk of melting down or shutting down. She likes to use exercise, she also coaches for track. When Kathy gets overwhelmed she stands up and walks. When she comes back in she is calm and ready to get back to work.

Kathy’s advice for young teachers? “Don’t let the job take every moment of your day. If you come to the school and work all day and stay after school, keep working and then go home and then keep working at home, the stress will get to you at some point.”