Tag: #teacher5aday

Stress Awareness Discussion Points #teacher5aday

Stress Awareness Discussion Points #teacher5aday

April is Stress Awareness Month – a perfect time for reflecting on your own well-being and how you tackle stress in your life and work!

The aim of this article is to raise awareness of some of the more theoretical work that has been done in the area of (tackling) stress and burnout, particularly among teachers, and to provide impetus for reflecting and discussing with colleagues. The post can be used to support stress awareness discussions in staff meetings and other developmental groups. If you’re unable to join a discussion in person, please add your comments and answers to the ‘Talking Points’ in the comments box below. 

Burnout

One of the most widely used definitions of the complex construct of ‘burnout’ was developed by Maslach & Jackson (1981).  Their research explored the organizational contexts which often provide a background to burnout and similar syndromes, and they developed the multidimensional Maslach model, which includes emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and a sense of reduced personal accomplishment as its three main symptoms. Maslach, Jackson & Leiter (1996) described these symptoms of burnout in more detail. Emotional exhaustion is linked to feelings of anxiety and fatigue, for example, and a general feeling that one’s emotional resources are depleted. Highly correlated with exhaustion is depersonalization; the development of negative or cynical perceptions of others. The third aspect, reduced personal accomplishment, refers to dissatisfaction and prevailingly negative self-evaluation regarding professional activities.

This model of burnout and the self-diagnosis tool derived from it, the ‘Maslach Burnout Inventory’ (MBI) (Maslach & Jackson, 1981), have promoted a vast amount of research over the last few decades, and many studies have shown the MBI’s reasonably high internal consistency and test-retest reliability, and as well as good levels of validity, both concurrent and predictive.

TALKING POINT: Have you ever experienced any of the symptoms of burnout (in bold in the text above), or other negative effects of stress? Have you ever noticed any of these symptoms in your colleagues? How did these symptoms manifest themselves concretely in your life? What would you advise other teachers to watch out for when it comes to catching burnout symptoms early enough to do something about?

Well-being

A strong sense of well-being, then, is the positive antithesis of burnout; something we should all strive for. The term ‘well-being’ is used to imply a sense of balance between being under-stimulated and overwhelmed, with regard to various facets of life. Holmes (2005), for example, denotes four intrinsic sub-categories of well-being: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. Physical well-being starts with the absence of illness, and extends to being in good physical shape. For an individual’s emotional well-being, they need to be able to suitably handle the emotions they feel and apply this to maintaining healthy relationships with others. Within Holmes’ definition, intellectual, or mental, well-being involves having a positive attitude to developing both personally and professionally. And finally, spiritual well-being is the ‘ability to be constructively self-conscious and self-critical when a sense of greater good is being pursued’ (Holmes, 2005, p.10). This four-category definition of well-being provides a useful framework for any work or discussions pertaining to well-being training and awareness.

TALKING POINT: What do you do to maintain or improve your own well-being?  What do you do to help others maintain or improve their well-being? How do these activities relate to the four categories in Holmes’ definition? Did you choose these activities deliberately to counteract stress? What activities would you recommend to other teachers?

 

 

References

Holmes, E. (2005). Teacher well-being: Looking after yourself and your Career in the classroom. London & New York: Routledge Falmer. http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9780203465400 

Lee, R.T. & Ashforth, B.E. (1990). On the meaning of Maslach’s three dimensions of burnout. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75(6), pp. 743-7. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.75.6.743 

Maslach, C. (1982). Burnout: The cost of caring. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Maslach, C. & Jackson, S.E. (1981). The measurement of experienced burnout. Journal of Occupational Behavior, 2. pp 99-113. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/job.4030020205 

Maslach, C., Jackson, S.E. & Leiter, M.P. (1996). Maslach burnout inventory manual (3rd edition). Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologists press.

 

Do one thing every day that’s not work.

This is not a challenge; you don’t need to tip water over your head, take a photo of yourself with a sign, or post anything at all if you don’t want to! This is about YOU. And it’s just my suggestion of a small first step in making sure work doesn’t take over your life.

I’ve borrowed the title from adapting the lyrics of Baz Luhrmann’s “Class of 99” – where he sings/says: Do one thing every day that scares you!

This may sound dramatic but it is a serious danger in the teaching profession. More and more frequently, I read newspaper articles, blogs, etc. about the lack of work-life balance teachers are having to live with. This doesn’t seem to be limited to any one country or system; it seems to me that there’s something about the teaching profession and the kind of people who become teachers that makes burn-out an inherent risk. That probably sounds more negative than I mean it to! I just have the impression that, especially in places were teachers are poorly paid, most of the people who have (nonetheless) chosen to pursue this career do so out of a motivation to help, share, inspire, and so on. We want to do our best for our learners/students. And since a lot of our work (preparation, marking, etc.) necessarily takes place outside of the classroom, it’s all too easy for it to spill over into our homes, our evenings, our weekends, and so on. And it can start to take over, if we’re not careful. Yes, I speak from experience.
And so I try to live by the motto of “Do one thing every day that#s not work”. This may sound really easy for you. For others less so. But a lot of it is to do with noticing, re-categorising how we see things in our minds. For example: cooking dinner. Yes, you’ve got to eat, and that generally involves cooking something. But by mentally noting the time you stopped working, and enjoying focussing on the tears the chopped onions provoke, the smell of the chicken in the oven, the creamy consistency of the sauce, or whatever, and categorising ‘cooking dinner’ into something positive that you have achieved today, you’ve already changed your mindset from eating being something to squeeze in between marking essays and planning tomorrow’s lesson. Win!
Here are some other things I do which I count as my “one thing”:
– gym
– phoning a friend for a chat
– watching a film
– writing a blog post
– baking a cake (sharing with colleagues the next day can count as another “one thing”! 🙂 )
– paying bills online
– cleaning the bathroom
Some of these may sound silly and not very fun. But the aim is to make yourself consciously aware of something that you have done that was not related to work – this tiny change can make all the difference in times of stress. Of course, the bigger the “one thing”, the better you will feel, and I would suggest that if your “one thing” is paying bills five days in a row, then you maybe need to get help! But as I said, this is one small step in preventing work from taking over entirely.
I was writing this and thinking of starting the hashtag #onethingELT so that we can all share our “one things” – I can imagine that sharing makes the experience even more rewarding! Then I discovered #teacher5aday the more advanced version, let’s say, where teachers (not only ELT) are encouraged to five things per day: notice, connect, learn, exercise, volunteer. See here for more details.  You can choose which hashtag you use; I’ll see both. And I look forward to sharing and inspiring each other. Let’s beat burn-out together!
Another way to make it rewarding is to use an app like photo365 where you take a photo of your “onething” each day and make a collage to be proud of!

Baz Luhrmann also sings: “The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself!” So look after yourself, and you’ve already won!