Are You in Teacher Crisis? Here are Some of the Signs

Are You in Teacher Crisis? Here are Some of the Signs

Why do most lottery winners immediately quit their jobs? The answer is intuitive, and a multitude of surveys have proven it to be true: work is often stressful. However, there are some occupations that are more prone to stress than others. Interestingly, teachers are more likely to report high levels of stress than any other profession. Teaching in the COVID era has only exacerbated the strain—and both epidemics can be equally dangerous. If you’re feeling the burn right now, you may want to check to see if you’re in teacher crisis.

Researchers have created a helpful chart to show the continuum of stress, allowing you to identify where you might stand:

Though this chart was originally created for emergency responders, it can certainly apply to teachers as well, especially this school year, given the amount of tension they are reporting. However, it may be helpful to put this chart into a narrative form that can represent what a day might look like for a teacher in each category.

1. Thriving

You wake up after several hours of uninterrupted sleep, excited to head into school. You are confident in your ability to handle the inevitable challenges and dizzying myriad of decisions. Before the students arrive, you laugh and chat with your colleagues. When a student throws a tantrum because they lost their favorite pencil, you stay calm and give the child space while still teaching the rest of your class. When the district announces that the learning modality is going to switch in two weeks with no extra prep time given, you let the feeling of annoyance wash over you and then begin to plan some action steps.

2. Surviving

You have a bit of troubled sleep and wake up with a small gnawing sensation in your stomach and a whispered voice in your head sarcastically muttering, “Oh great. Another day o’ fun.”  On your way to school, your mind occasionally wanders to that challenging 3rd hour, wondering if you’ll be able to tolerate them today. Throughout the day, you handle students talking out of turn with patient redirection, but the last period of the day, you snap on the students, letting out all your pent-up frustrations. When you get home, you let loose on your spouse for forgetting to stop at the store and pick up milk.  

3. Struggling

You wake up several times throughout the night. Your stomach churns, and the voice in your head is constantly telling you that you aren’t good enough. You take some aspirin to quell your headache, but you do so on a mostly empty stomach because you haven’t had much of an appetite recently. Your favorite song comes on the radio as you drive into school, but you barely notice. You say hello to a few colleagues as you walk to your classroom, but you shut your door upon arrival because you aren’t feeling jovial. When a technical glitch stops you from showing a video during your lesson, you aren’t sure what to do, so you let the students just have free time for the remaining 40 minutes. You can’t wait to have several drinks when you get home to take the edge off. You wonder if you should look into a different career.

4. In Crisis

When you are at home, you have moments where you just lie in bed, shaking and in a cold sweat. You have a really hard time sleeping. When you are socializing, you are thinking about school and barely focused on your friends. You eat copious amounts of chocolate and little else. You call in sick at least once a week. When you are at school, you don’t do a lot of teaching; you tend to give busy work to the students and stay at your desk. The voice in your head constantly roars. Sometimes you need to walk out of the classroom to catch your breath and wipe your tears. When parents send you emails, you tend to interpret them as criticisms and send caustic replies.

Obviously, nothing is ever as clear-cut as a color-coded chart makes it out to be. Most people will find themselves partially fitting the description of different categories at the same time. Similarly, it is perfectly normal to fluctuate between levels; no one is always in green. However, if you are finding yourself consistently in the orange and/or red zones, it is time to act. Prioritize your self-care. Perform what researchers call Stress First Aid. Talk with colleagues for support. Seek the care of a mental health professional. If none of that works, there is no shame if you decide to pursue a different profession. Teaching is noble, but it’s not for everyone. You must take care of yourself first. There are lots of other careers where you can make a difference—and they are likely to be less stressful, according to the statistics.

Also Check Out:

Are you in teacher crisis? Know the signs!

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Jared Daigle


Jared has spent 17 years in Education as a High School English teacher and an Elementary School Counselor. In his spare time, he loves reading, watching the latest big sports game, enjoying superhero movies, and spending time with his family.

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