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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is a Ph.D candidate at the University of South Florida, where he also works as a teaching assistant, supervising and teaching pre-service teachers. Steve holds a master's degree...
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Helping Teacher Candidates Manage Stress: The Missing Ingredient

Becoming a teacher can be as stressful or even more stressful than serving in the actual job.

Teacher candidates must complete rigorous coursework, and if enrolled in a clinical program, must also spend time in the classroom as interns. This adds another layer of pressure as they balance assignments and projects along with being formally observed in classroom settings. Not to mention, developmentally, many teacher candidates are at an age where they are just entering adulthood, learning to cope with more responsibility.

The stress of becoming a teacher is a reality. How teacher education programs prepare candidates to positively handle this stress is another matter.

Often, the focus in teacher preparation programs is on pedagogy (of course, which is highly important). However, as we train teachers to effectively work with diverse students in a highly demanding profession, we should consider the impact that stress has on the development of new teachers.

If a teacher candidate is overwhelmed, for instance, it is likely he or she will have difficulty focusing on coursework and internship experiences and derive the most from the program. If candidates are consumed with how to manage their energy levels and emotions, what remains for them to concentrate on managing the classroom?

While individual stress management techniques have proven effective, teachers have little training in how to deal with stress (Harris, 2011). The few studies done around teacher candidates and stress management focused on how they could reduce their anxiety towards teaching rather than reducing stress in general.

A reasonable approach would be to embed the teaching of stress-managing strategies, techniques, and approaches within teacher education curriculum. This might mean that professors and instructional supervisors directly address the managing of stress by sharing meditation techniques, yoga, visualization, and exercise as well as time-management and scheduling.

Candidates could benefit from being provided a menu of stress-busting methods, rather than being prescribed a specific method that might not suit them. They can then draw upon various ways to deal with the inevitable stress that surfaces during teacher preparation. Stress management curriculum also assumes a long-term perspective, helping to ready candidates for the pressures they will experience year-after-year once on the job. This would also address high risk of burnout and high numbers of teachers leaving the profession.

In closing, I think we need to seriously consider exploring two areas:

1) embedding stress management curriculum in teacher preparation programs and

2) studying the impact of such interventions.

Stress is not something that’s going to go away, but as the world becomes more complicated and faster-paced and teaching more demanding, this is a topic that deserves more attention.

 

References

Harris, G. E. (2011). Individual stress management coursework in Canadian teacher preparation

            programs. Canadian Journal of Education, 34(4), 104-117.