The purpose of this book is to help those who help others. Research has consistently demonstrated that those in the professions, particularly helping professions, have significantly higher levels of stress and burnout. Studies have shown that the profession with the greatest vulnerability to these illnesses is teaching.
Teachers and teaching have been subjected to unrelenting criticism over the past three decades. What this has failed to recognize is the increasing complexity and responsibility of educating our children and youth. The ecology of the school and classroom of the 1940s was significantly different from that of today. It is thus not difficult to understand why teachers are so susceptible to stress and burnout. Much of the criticism of teaching borders on ‘victim blaming’.
The problem we are faced with is not a simple one. Stress and burnout are so prevalent in teaching that they have an enormous detrimental effect on the teaching-learning process. Stress and burnout may be viewed as disabilities which are manifest in teachers performing far below their maximum potential, regardless of how well prepared and committed they are. In the view of many informed observers and researchers, the problem has reached a crisis level and demands a response.
We, the authors, have witnessed firsthand the increasing severity of the problem. As we work with teachers in schools, in new teacher support programs, in teacher preparation, and even in therapy groups, we have seen the debilitating effects on some of our most intelligent and creative teachers. Over a period of years we have seen a growing disillusionment in teaching, and an underlying lack of support and recognition for the contributions teachers make to society.
Of particular concern is the apparent attitude in the education establishment that it is not recognized as ‘our problem to solve’. Funding agencies are not aggressively attacking the issue. The reform movement, according to most analysts and surveys, has left out the teacher and their needs, focusing on organizational structure or curriculum. Education must recognize the problem and make a concerted effort to alleviate it, or all the reform efforts will have minimal impact on where most learning takes place, in the classroom.
This book is based on our work with teachers, stress and burnout over the years. It is also derived from extensive reviews of the literature, from our own research, and from analyses of research. These efforts led us to develop and test various strategies, searching for effective means of ameliorating these