The role of teachers and school managers (SMT) in addressing teacher work-related stress : teachers' perspectives.
This study sought to investigate teacher work-related stress. In my experience as a teacher for 28 years I found myself frequently enmeshed in the stranglehold of work stress and at times contemplated quitting as a teacher. I now reflect on my experiences as a teacher and consider the role I played as well as that of my school managers in addressing my work-related stress. As the Head of a Department and a manager, I am serious about assisting teachers cope as well as playing a role in reducing work-related stress of teachers. In this study I chose a secondary school, with similar context to that of my school, as a site to study the role of teachers and managers in addressing work-related stress of teachers. I have chosen to give voice to Level One teachers who I found in my experience were denied channels to communicate on how they experienced work related stress. The reason for my choice of school was that it would allow me to make comparisons as well as provide me with data from which I would be able to reflect on my own practices. I chose to gather data by means of a questionnaire which I handed to all Level One teachers and by two focus group interviews which I conducted at the school. The data revealed that teachers experience a very high level of work related stress at the school; that teachers believe that managers have an important role in addressing teacher-work related stress; and identified professional demands, interpersonal relationships, role based factors, career developments, school factors and home/work interface as the causes of workrelated stress. The analysis of the data gathered indicated the need for a regular appraisal on the level of work-related stress by managers; creating a means of communication between managers and teachers on factors which cause work-related stress, programmes of induction, mentoring and working through teams in order to address work-related stress. The data revealed that level one teacher’s place all blame of work-related stress on managers and conveniently absolve themselves from the responsibility of addressing their stressors. The onus of addressing teacher work-related stress is primarily that of the teacher. However, the constitution lists education as a basic right of all citizens. One of the ways in which this right can be effectively implemented is by emphasizing school effectiveness which invariably requires optimum levels of commitment and performance from teachers. Therefore it is essential for school managers to ensure that teachers are performing at optimum levels. Underpinning any notion of affecting and improving the performance capability of individuals is the concept of stress free working conditions. It is with this in mind that the study was conducted.