Teacher smile your stress away! Emotional Labour, Stress, and Stress Management Techniques in the Eastern Galilee
Teaching is an emotional profession that requires delicate balances. This study aims to explore the ways in which teachers in the Eastern Galilee (Israel’s northern periphery) cope with stress. Our main purpose is to examine the links between teachers’ stress, its sources and consequences, and stress management techniques and their positive or negative effect on stress.
To reveal the associations between these variables, we posited four main hypotheses: 1) there is a positive correlation between stress and the intensity of negative emotions; 2) there is a negative correlation between the level of stress and the ability to cope with it; 3) there is a negative correlation between the intensity of negative emotions and the ability to cope with stress; and 4) there is a negative correlation between seniority and level of stress – that is, the more senior a teacher is, the less stress he or she will feel. To test the above hypotheses, we assessed emotional labour, negative emotion, and stress management techniques in a sample of 100 teachers, using validated self-reporting measures.
The main findings show the following:
1) There is a positive correlation between teachers’ stress and the fact that they invest the majority of their time, whether at school or at home, in fulfilling their work responsibilities. Moreover, we found a very strong and significant positive correlation of p‹0.0l, r=0.724, showing that the more a teacher experiences stress, the stronger their negative emotions will be.
2) We found a weak negative correlation of p›0.05, r=0.142 between level of stress and management techniques.
3) Over time, negative emotions can affect the manner in which teachers cope with pressure. This is an important point. Various studies have shown that as a teacher’s work becomes more demanding, forcing the teacher to invest their internal emotional resources in order to cope with complex situations, feelings of frustration and discomfort increase, resulting in a heightened sense of stress and impaired functioning.
4) Seniority is a very important factor in balancing levels of stress. We found that the more senior a teacher is, the less stress they will experience. Teachers with seniority of one to five years had the highest measure of stress (M=3.03, Std=0.77), whereas the measure of stress among teachers with six to11 years of seniority (M=2.99, Std=0.53) or those with more than 11 years’ seniority (M=2.79, Std=0.63) was lower. This important point fills gaps in research in the field which examines the relationship between seniority and coping techniques.
Surprisingly, there is a discrepancy between the general perception that teaching is a very busy profession with high levels of stress and reports of average-reasonable levels of stress reported by the majority of teachers participating in this study. This does not mean that the profession of teaching does not produce high levels of stress.
However, new thinking may be required to see teaching as a profession which relates to emotional work and, as such, requires more emotional and social support as part of a broader professional and organizational approach.
For more information contact author
Faculty of Education, Ohalo College, Katzrin, Israel.
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