The impact of work stress on teachers varies. Some are more resilient than others. This may be because they have different levels of support available to them. Let us face the truth; mental health education for new teachers in the service is not enough. Something has to be done to help all teachers deal with the symptoms of stress. Teachers need help to identify early signs of burn out and access to good skilled support, which can help them continue their work as teachers. Interactions in TeacherPH show that teachers of all ages are susceptible to stress with both young and old suffering work-related stress symptoms.
Most importantly, much more has to be done to reduce the causes of stress in teaching. This could be achieved by DepEd Central Office through their policies. It cannot be right that they can add to the duties of teachers without limit while setting no ceiling on working hours. However, experience shows that teachers are seeking solutions themselves through personal or collective means and this equally contribute to their being burnt out. Raising standards in our schools will not be achieved by putting more and more pressure on teachers. Do these tons of paperwork significantly contribute to the increased academic or technical performance of our students? Do these ancillary duties raise the students’ MPS in the National Achievement Tests?
Let’s use the 40 hour work week as a benchmark where 30 hours is for the actual classroom teaching. On the average, the teacher has 10 hours left per week for lesson planning and preparation of IMs, evaluating student work, reporting and communicating with parents, attending required meetings and supervising students. Given the nature of the job of teaching and the turbulence associated with the current teaching expectations on K to 12 programs, it is impossible to imagine any teacher being able to accomplish these tasks in the allocated time. In fact, most teachers do most of these activities on their own time, at the expense of their own families.
In school, most of the time not spent in teaching is needed for copying curriculum materials, tests and handouts, filling out forms, doing attendance checks, counseling students, conducting home visits, organizing extra-curricular activities and in some instances, filling in for other teachers, to name some. Moreover, teachers need time to reflect on their current teaching methodologies; that for teachers to increase the learning of their students and to grow professionally they must be afforded adequate opportunity during the regular school day for reflection, personal planning and collaboration with colleagues. Combining all, this results in invisible work for teachers – the work is done outside the school day. For most teachers the time associated with this invisible work is significant, and as a result, school work tends to “bleed” into the personal lives of teachers. I admire those who say that they can handle several ancillary duties and can still perform daily quality teaching to their 200 to 300 students.
The job description of teachers needs to be redesigned so that teachers can do an excellent job working a reasonable number of hours per week. By changing teacher workloads and the way that schools are organized and managed, teachers would have more time for encouraging excellence and personal growth. After all, parents would agree that their children need to be taught by somebody happy, healthy, and with a life outside of school.