Another toll of “teaching to the test” – New study shows educators’ chronic stress is worse in spring, during mandated, standardized testing season

The teaching profession remains one of the most stressful jobs in the United States, researchers from the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in Centre County, Pennsylvania and University of Virginia say.

As a matter of fact, New York City, New York-based life insurance company MetLife Inc. has indicated that the increase in stress that teachers experience contributes to the decrease in their job satisfaction rates to a 25-year low.

The study that was conducted by Penn State and which was headed by Deirdre A. Katz in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, analyzed longitudinal associations between diurnal cortisol secretions at three time points during one year, and self-reported emotion techniques.

Cortisol is a hormone in the body that helps in managing blood sugar levels, regulating metabolism, easing inflammation, and aiding with memory formulation. It also has a controlling effect on salt and water balance and helps regulate blood pressure.

The 30 people who participated in the study were observed during the fall semester, the spring semester, and also during the fall of the following year. The researchers collected a sample of the participants’ saliva at different times throughout the day to be able to conduct a cortisol analysis.

The researchers found that the study participants’ cortisol levels were higher in the spring than in the fall, which is indicative that the physiological indicators of stress heighten throughout the course of the school year. (Related: De-Stress Your Life.)

The study results show the importance of the summer break so that teachers can recover from the stress system disregulation that they experience throughout the school year, which is consistent with previous studies that have opined that teachers feel less stressed after summer vacation, weekends, and other breaks.

The researchers also analyzed how emotion regulation techniques can be a way to decrease levels of stress. One of these regulation techniques, called reappraisal, is characterized by recognizing a negative response to a situation and then reinterpreting it so as to turn feelings into a positive manner.

The use of reappraisal as an emotion-regulation technique lessened the effects of stress in the spring as compared with the teachers who did not employ the same strategy.

“Promoting positive behaviors could promote resilience in teachers, and, in turn, prevent attrition, improve health and well-being, and improve students’ experiences in school,” the researchers say.

The other researchers who participated in this study include Mark Greenberg and Rachel Abenavoli of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State and Alexis Harris and Patricia A. Jennings of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia.

The study is supported by grants from the 1440 Foundation; the Institution of Education Sciences; and the Penn State Children, Youth, and Families Consortium. The results of this study are published in the Journal of Stress and Health.

Dozens of teachers in the U.K. report stress-related health problems

In the United Kingdom, the situation for teachers is similar to that of teachers across the pond.

Councillor John Mooney, at a meeting of West Dunbartonshire in Glasgow, Scotland’s Educational Services committee during the first week of December, reports that it is concerning how the number of teachers that are using sick days have cited stress but not any mental health issue as a reason for their failure to attend class.

According to statistics, 100 out of 1,475 days have been lost by support staff over the second quarter of 2017 due to mental health issues. However, zero of teachers’ 734.5 days have been listed as mental health-related, while work-related stress have resulted in 36 days, and personal stress have caused 94.

“There could be elements of mental health [within the stress category] but we wouldn’t categorize it so specifically unless we had that from the health practitioner,” says Geraldine Lyden, a human resources business partner at the council.”

Sources include:

comments powered by Disqus