I have often experienced the stress inherent in my job, a sentiment commonly echoed by teachers who frequently voice the challenges of their profession. A certain degree of stress can be beneficial, serving as a motivational force. The pressure to meet deadlines encourages effective planning and task completion. However, my observations indicate that in some educational institutions, stress is not solely attributed to the nature of teaching but also to the treatment and management of teachers. Drawing from my experience, I believe that adopting specific practices by management, principals, Heads of Departments (HODs), and Coordinators could contribute to a more positive work environment.
Let's begin by examining the factors leading to unnecessary teacher stress. Identifying the root causes of stress in teaching allows for effective management and avoiding situations and practices contributing to teachers' stress.
One prominent issue is the lack of trust in teachers and deficient communication. It is not uncommon for school or college management to frequently create or modify rules and regulations. This inconsistency in the work environment generates stress as teachers are often confronted with unexpected commands, orders, instructions, and policy changes. This stems from inadequate recruitment policies, a lack of trust in teachers, and insufficient communication regarding expectations. While meetings are occasionally held, they often take on a one-way communication approach, where the authority chairing the meeting does not allow teachers to express their opinions openly. This environment fosters a fear among teachers of becoming targets if they offer suggestions. Many educational institutions have skilled teachers paired with principals lacking in human resource management expertise. The recruitment process focuses on experience and qualifications, neglecting crucial HR skills. Traditional methods of control, such as punishment, scolding, memos, termination, insults, and exaggeration of mistakes, are commonly employed by these principals. This scenario is prevalent in approximately 90 percent of institutions in India. While training programs addressing pedagogy and other teaching-related aspects are organized for teachers, there is a notable absence of similar training for principals, coordinators, and other administrative heads on how to treat teachers with courtesy, respect, and understanding. Addressing this gap in many schools is essential, and implementing human resource management skills could significantly enhance teachers' mental well-being, ultimately leading to a stress-free environment in schools and colleges."
Ensuring a Healthy and Clean Infrastructure for Teachers
In some schools, I have observed classrooms lacking adequate ventilation, leading to a deficiency of fresh air and sunlight. This condition contributes to a sense of lethargy among both teachers and students during classes. Furthermore, the maintenance of classrooms and floors is neglected in certain schools, and the use of non-dust-free chalk persists. Not all classrooms are equipped with projectors or smart boards, necessitating teachers to pre-book the audiovisual room, which may not always be available due to conflicting schedules.
The cleanliness of restrooms in some schools is also a concern, impacting the air quality in classrooms and subjecting teachers to unpleasant odors. Additionally, the use of sanitary napkin incinerators during working hours generates toxic smoke, adversely affecting the health of children and teachers. These longstanding issues, left unaddressed for years, have resulted in various health issues for teachers.
Maintaining Work-Life Balance
The imposition of unplanned and sudden online meetings during after-work hours, often scheduled in the evening or late at night, adds an additional layer of stress for teachers. These impromptu meetings, occurring when teachers are at home and in need of personal time with their families or for personal activities, disrupt the work-life balance. Some schools also require teachers to conduct special classes for students in hostels or online sessions during evenings, demanding sacrifices of personal and family time. Unfortunately, this extra workload is seldom compensated, with schools taking teachers' time for granted. As a consequence, the work-life balance of teachers is adversely affected, leading to increased stress.
Eliminating Meaningless and Repetitive Work Assigned by School Administrators
In many schools, there is a lack of standardization in task assignments, with adherence to certain academic or non-academic practices persisting for years without consideration of the repetitive and burdensome nature of the tasks. Heads, often without a comprehensive understanding of the labor involved, require their subordinates to engage in seemingly endless and meaningless activities such as report preparation, note-taking, and creating presentations. Teachers, already burdened with the demanding task of delivering effective content in the classroom, find these clerical duties to be tedious and time-consuming. The value time that should be dedicated to preparing quality content for the next day's class is consumed by these repetitive and meaningless administrative tasks. It is evident that, in many instances, the management and heads fail to appreciate the significance of quality preparation for effective content delivery in the classroom.
Identifying Organizational Factors Causing Stress for Teachers
The factors contributing to stress in the teaching profession are numerous, often stemming from organizational practices without valid justifications. These issues, although well-documented by experts and widely discussed in literature, persist without resolution. Despite the abundant resources available in the form of books and discussions, institutions appear oblivious to the crucial role teachers play in the growth and development of the institution. The continuous neglect of these issues raises the question of how management can become aware of the organizational challenges faced by teachers.
Suggestion Box for Enhanced Communication
School and college managements often proclaim their commitment to democracy and open communication, asserting that teachers can approach them with grievances at any time. However, in practice, these assurances often face obstacles, primarily due to unnecessary bureaucratic layers that impede teachers' concerns from reaching the higher echelons of management. To streamline communication and foster transparency, institutions could consider implementing suggestion boxes. These boxes would be exclusively accessed by the chairman, chairwoman, correspondent, or any individual with ultimate decision-making authority. Grievances and suggestions submitted through these boxes should be impartially examined, free from any bias, and addressed to the extent possible. In instances where immediate resolution is not feasible, the management should communicate to teachers that the issues are actively being addressed.
In my professional experience, organizational factors significantly impact the mental health and well-being of teachers. Addressing these concerns within institutions can genuinely enhance the mental and physical well-being of teachers, leading to positive outcomes such as improved student behavior, academic success, parental satisfaction, a joyful learning environment, increased participation in academic and extracurricular activities, and more. By attending to these aspects, schools can foster growth in terms of increased enrollment and greater stakeholder satisfaction.