We hire teachers to teach, but won’t let them

Prabhu S

Organizational factors affecting the mental health of teachers

I have often felt myself and also heard many teachers saying that their job is stressful. A limited amount of stress is necessary to keep us motivated. But schools have to ensure that their teachers are not overwhelmed.

So what are the factors that can cause teachers stress?

Lack of trust and communication

Schools make or amend rules and regulations often, sometimes very frequently, which makes the job of teachers very stressful as they have to meet and follow unexpected demands, orders, instructions, rules, and regulations. This happens because of poor recruitment policies and practices, lack of trust on teachers, and lack of proper and periodical communication to teachers about what is expected of them. Though meetings with teachers are sometimes conducted, it is usually one way and teachers don’t get a chance to give their opinion openly. Teachers fear being targeted by their superiors if they give any suggestions. Most schools have great teachers but poor principals who do not have human resource management skills. School managements recruit people based on the number of years of experience and qualification, but they lack HR skills. Training programs are arranged for teachers relating to pedagogy and other aspects. But no one trains principals, coordinators, and other heads on how to treat teachers with courtesy, respect, and understanding.

Unhealthy environment

Some schools have classrooms that lack ventilation. With no fresh air and sunlight teachers and students become dull and less energetic during classes. There are schools that do not maintain clean classrooms and floors. Dust-free chalks are not always used. If washrooms are not cleaned periodically, bad smell permeates the air affecting classrooms closeby. Some schools operate sanitary napkin incinerators during working hours. Toxic smoke from burnt napkin waste spreads in the campus and affects children and teachers’ health. Like these there are many issues which are unaddressed for years and can cause health problems to teachers.

No work-life balance

There are schools that conduct online meetings after work hours in the evening or late evening for teachers, eating into their personal time. Sometimes teachers are also asked to take special classes for students either in-person or online during late evenings. This extra work is rarely compensated and schools take teachers’ time for granted affecting teachers’ work-life balance.

Meaningless, repetitive work

Schools follow academic or non-academic practices for years without considering how repetitive, cumbersome, and meaningless some of these practices are. Without a second thought to the labour involved in preparing some reports, notes, presentations, etc., school heads ask their subordinates to undertake repetitive and meaningless record making and clerical work. Teachers find it tedious and difficult to complete these tasks even as they have to be ready for effective content delivery in the class. The management or heads do not value the importance of quality preparation and effective teaching in class.

Now that we know some of the problems that lead to teacher stress, is there a solution?

Suggestion box

School managements say that they are very democratic and their doors are always open for teachers and teachers can bring grievances to them any time. But practically these words do not hold true. There are many layers, mostly unnecessary, that prevent teachers’ problems from reaching the heads or the management. Better the institutions have suggestion boxes which will only be read by the chairperson or a person who has a decision-making authority. The grievances and suggestions should be looked into without any prejudice and solved as far as possible. If the issues cannot be sorted out immediately, the management can communicate to the teachers that they are working on it.

Organizational factors play a major role in the mental health and wellbeing of teachers. If institutions look into these issues, we can really improve the mental and physical wellbeing of teachers and this will show positive results in terms of students’ behaviour, academic success, parents’ satisfaction, happy learning atmosphere, participation in academic and extracurricular activities and so on. Schools will grow in terms of quality students and satisfied stakeholders.

The author is a teacher in Chandrakanthi Public School, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu. He can be reached at prabhu@chandrapublic.edu.in.

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