Teacher Stress

The most commonly asked and dreaded question posed by students, “When will my grade be put into PowerSchool?” is beginning to breed an unhealthy tension between the student body and the teachers.

For any individual, stress is constantly looming over the mind, acting as a fixture in day to day life. But the major catalyst to the problem of teacher stress at Oyster River is the students who have grown increasingly impatient when waiting for grades. This creates an unnecessary amount of pressure placed on educators.

Regardless of an individual’s profession, there are likely chores to be completed, or families to care for at home; it’s what’s known as a personal life. However, for a teacher, many of their responsibilities are not carried out within the confines of their workplace, but in their own homes. For them, the work doesn’t stop when the last bell rings, but more likely when the last test, paper, or assignment is graded that following night. When a teacher receives assignments to grade, it is not just a few, it is not even a single class’s work, it is many. Teachers often teach numerous classes, with an average of twenty students in each class, resulting in a heavy homework load.

Issues brought by teachers with personal complications are rarely acknowledged by the student body. If students want their educators to be understanding of their own personal conflicts, it is only fair that we do the same.

It can be hard for the students (myself included) to understand that teachers have personal lives outside of the school they work in. But why is that the case?

It’s my belief that the lack of conversation about the topic of teacher stress causes misunderstanding. This is what creates friction between the students who set unreasonable expectations of their educators, and the educators themselves who struggle to juggle the many responsibilities that continuously land on their laps. This is not to say that teaching is the only profession that induces stress or pressure but to acknowledge that the job of being a teacher is much more than seven hours a day, five days a week.

“I think the daily, weekly routine of public high school teaching is pretty involved, with a considerable amount of time spent planning, prepping, and communicating with parents and administrators — a lot of which is happening outside a student’s general awareness,” explains Oyster River Humanities teacher, Scott McGrath.

From a student’s perspective, once a major assignment is completed, the eager want for satisfaction and validation from their grades escalates exponentially. Personally, once I have finished an assignment/project/paper, I sit content for an afternoon, satisfied with the work I put in. However, from that day forward, I refresh my PowerSchool every few hours with excitement and anxiety.

The negative side of this, is the growing resentment and frustration students feel towards their teachers once they decide that the grading process is taking too long for their liking.

“Students can put hours upon hours of work into their tests or projects, and when teachers take over two weeks to grade them, it can feel like the teachers aren’t putting in as much effort back.” explains Cameron St.Ours (‘19), “When a student stresses over a project for an entire week before it’s due, it can be disheartening to hear that your teacher hasn’t started grading them a couple of days later.”

This is where it is important to realize, that both outside and inside the school, teacher’s carry personal lives just as any other person would. This may appear different because of the setting and professional environment school provides, but it is essential to forming bonds between students and teachers, that there be recognition on both ends.

It is exceptionally unfair for students to expect their teachers to be grading around the clock, and I don’t think students always understand what they’re asking of their educators. This is why it is important to consider their personal lives and to develop an understanding; we all live separate lives outside of our work.

“If the student body starts to understand the lives that teachers have outside of school they might start to think about stepping off of the teachers a bit more. Right now it just seems like all we care about is our grades,” says Karlie Stevens (‘19).

With awareness of an educator’s personal life and responsibilities, it becomes easier to understand the wide range of stressors and added responsibilities teachers have. The same should be considered by the educator in regards to the students’ lives and commitments.

“It isn’t just, you come in when school starts and you leave when school ends, and then you’re done,” explains Hallbach. “I have great respect for teachers who are also parents. I think that that has to be incredibly challenging.”

For the parent whose work follows them wherever they go, dealing with the constant responsibility and obligation of raising a child provides an added difficulty to one’s life. Parenting is heavily regarded as the hardest job in the world, so how does one approach that hurdle while being an efficient educator?

“There’s some guilt involved. Sometimes I feel like I should be spending more time with my kids, or enjoying the time that I spend with my kids more, and then there are some things that are non-negotiable that are just things that I have to do,” says English teacher and mother Shauna Horsley. “[Sometimes] I have to drive my kids to practice or take them to a doctors appointment, and so I have to prioritize things.”

Horsley explains the added pressure of finding the right balance between parenting to her best ability and teaching to her standards. “Maybe what ends up happening is I don’t always prioritize the things I love about being a parent as much as the things I feel like I need to do,” adds Horsley.

Along with teachers who are parents, there are teachers like McGrath who take on the added stressors of becoming a homeowner and starting a family.

“I’m at a point where I am interested in purchasing a home as opposed to renting,” states McGrath, “there’s stress surrounding making time for visiting houses, and working with realtors.”

For a teacher, there aren’t enough hours in the day for the amount of time and effort needed to balance the needs and responsibilities of a home, as well as the needs and responsibilities of the classroom.

Some teachers may choose to raise children and others may have household chores. All of them, however, have their own personal lives, their own goals, and their own stressors in life. These must be considered by students in order to create a less hostile nature towards the topic of grades, and of teacher stress.

Hallbach concludes with some final words for teachers regarding their stress, saying, “It is important that you carve that time out [for yourself] because otherwise you will get overwhelmed and you will be so stressed that you will just burn out, and you aren’t going to be an effective teacher at that point.”

I urge students to consider the stressors of their educators and to acknowledge them as individuals with lives outside of work. Perhaps with honest communication, recognition, and understanding, we as a student body can alleviate the weight put on their shoulders and create a healthy environment for everyone.

Artwork By Emma Sourdif