Academic journal article Education

Coping with Stress: An Investigation of Novice Teachers' Stressors in the Elementary Classroom

Academic journal article Education

Coping with Stress: An Investigation of Novice Teachers' Stressors in the Elementary Classroom

Article excerpt

"Preparing lesson plans, changing them to fit students' needs, and constantly grading papers while preparing for the next day of teaching ... My cooperating teacher was certainly not a positive role model and we did not have a good relationship during my junior block experience ... I was worried about the students' home situations and whether the children's basic survival, social, and emotional needs were being met by the families ... I had very little sleep and no time for myself ... Time management and getting used to not having time during the day to get things done... The preparation of lessons for the following days ..." These responses were given by a group of pre-service teachers after being asked, "What do you consider to be your main causes of stress during your field experience?" Many novice teachers verbalized the same apprehensions which focused on four domains: students, teachers, parents, and self. How can teacher educators prepare future teachers to handle these issues effectively?

Teacher preparation programs should prepare students to recognize stress factors and to employ effective coping mechanisms. As reported by Fleener (2001), twenty-five to fifty percent of beginning teachers resign during their first three years of teaching. Roulston, Legette, & Womack (2005) confirm this estimate by reporting that about thirty-three percent of new teachers quit the teaching profession during their first years. Among all the causes, stress from teaching is one of the salient factors that has been investigated by many educators. Having the ability to deal with stressors is vital in teacher retention. Pre-service and novice teachers should not "sink" but rather identify stress factors, cope with these issues, and "swim" happily through a rewarding career in education.

Questions addressed in this study included, "What are the leading pre-service teachers' concerns prior to their field experiences? What are pre-service teachers' and novice teachers' main stressors during field experiences or their first year(s) of teaching? How can teacher educators assist with relieving pre-service teachers' and novice teachers' stress? How can pre-service teachers and novice teachers identify their personal stressors and utilize effective coping mechanisms to eliminate and/or alleviate the identified stressors?

Literature Review

What is Stress?

Although studies of pre-service teachers' stress did not identify one universal definition of stress (Miller & Fraser. 2000; Morris & Morris, 1980), there seemed to be a shared understanding of stress as an unpleasant emotional state (Miller & Fraser, 2000). Other definitions of stress include: the non-specific responses of the body to any demands made on it, a behavioral adjustment triggered by certain environmental conditions, and a response to pressures, responsibilities, and real or imaginary threats from the environment (Morris & Morris, 1980). Specifically for educators, teacher stress is defined as a response syndrome of negative effects resulting from the teachers' job (Kyriacou & Sutcliffe, 1997, as cited in Hopkins, Hoffman, & Moss, 1997).

Sources of Stress

Studies of pre-service teachers' stress usually began with an investigation of the causes of the stress. Lack of experience, unclear perception of own status, conflict between advice and expectations, and lack of strategies coping with emergent situations are among those factors that make pre-service teachers extremely vulnerable to stress (Abebe & Shaughnessy, 1997; Beach & Pearson, 1998; Hopkins, Hoffman, & Moss, 1997; Kaunitz, et al, 1986). Bowers, Eicher, and Sacks (1983) reported that pre-service teachers' anxieties are based upon two areas of concern: classroom discipline and relationships. Specifically, relationships with students, cooperating teachers, and parents constructed the affective concerns, while subject knowledge, instructional strategies, and differentiated teaching constructed the instructional concerns. …

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