No Pressure

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John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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Do you find your job stressful?

It’s official – teaching isn’t stressful. Well, okay, that’s not quite right. According to one report, teaching doesn’t even make it into the list of the top ten most stressful jobs. This is good news isn’t it?

Compared to other jobs we’ve got it easy. Yeah right. Career and jobs information company CareerCasts, produce an annual ‘Most Stressful Jobs report’ and for 2017, this showed the following jobs and their stress-related scores:

The 10 Most Stressful Jobs of 2017

  1. Enlisted military personnel: 72.74
  2. Firefighter: 72.68
  3. Airline pilot: 60.54
  4. Police officer: 51.68
  5. Event coordinator: 51.15
  6. Newspaper reporter: 49.9
  7. Corporate executive (senior): 48.56
  8. Public relations executive: 48.5
  9. Taxi driver: 48.18
  10. Broadcaster: 47.93

Teachers will be gobsmacked ‘Teacher’ isn’t on there. I’m as outraged as you are. But then others will be outraged too: nurses, junior doctors, social workers, prison officers, air traffic controllers and plenty more besides.

What about OfSTED inspectors? Being pelted with food and being jostled in corridors by pupils has got to be stressful.

Teaching (along with lots of other jobs) is dripping in stress but as always the devil is in the detail and how things are measured. CareerCast’s considerations centred on 11 stress factors when assessing which careers faced the most stress. They looked at

  • Travel
  • Career Growth Potential
  • Physical Demands
  • Environmental Conditions
  • Hazards Encountered
  • Meeting the Public
  • Competition
  • Risk of Death or Grievous Injury
  • Immediate Risk of Another’s Life
  • Deadlines
  • Working in the Public Eye

Using these considerations it is easy to see why teaching would score ‘high’ in a couple of respects but ‘low’ in many of the others. To be fair the report does make the point that,

These scores, of course, reflect only a typical stress profile for any given occupation. For any individual worker, stress can vary greatly depending on the particular working conditions, his or her boss and co-workers, mental outlook and a multitude of other factors which play a part in stress.

Take a look at their methodology here.

Take No Notice

Take surveys and reports with a huge pinch of salt. Perhaps we can be disappointed that teaching isn’t on there because when surveys are reported, broadcast and shared on social media, things can get squiffy. Perhaps others will start telling us that teaching is stressful but ‘not that stressful’. They might keep going on and on about the holidays teachers get. They might just not have any respect for teaching.

It doesn’t take long before some news hack jumps on the figures and starts fiddling with the wires. With some selective reporting here and a bit of skullduggery there, certain jobs can be misrepresented and forgotten. There are stacks of jobs that need recognition for the stresses involved. Yes, some jobs are quite simply more stressful than others but other jobs just seem to get missed completely.

I can tell you now that ‘school receptionist’ should be in the top ten for example. They never get the air time and credit they deserve dealing with problem after problem. Some receptionists have to deal with some pretty gobby students and plenty of pushy and aggressive parents…that’s stressful.

And what about being the referee of an under 11s football match? If you have ever had to referee a football match then you’ll know that it involves tension, fear, discomfort and you have a popularity rating of zero.

We shouldn’t feel hard done by that teaching isn’t on the list or argue that those occupations listed don’t deserve to be there. Of course they do. You could pay me £1 million a year and I wouldn’t risk my life doing some of those jobs. But some people do enjoy elements of the job that are considered stressful.

Teachers: A Hardy Bunch

Some like the danger, extreme pressure and massive responsibility or if they don’t ‘like’ these elements, they have found ways to cope and equip themselves with the mental minerals and fortitude to do their job where it becomes a norm, a thrill and a way of being. For some, it is their passion and stress helps them do their job to a higher standard and guarantees they perform miracles every time.

Everyone knows that teaching is stressful, that is not in dispute and if I could create a new list then of course it would be in the top ten. Teaching would also be in my ‘Top Ten Best jobs ever’ and I’d rank it as Number 1 as there are at least 156 reasons to teach.

But when it comes to stress, one very significant factor plays a crucial role in determining our resistance and that is hardiness.

With so much talk about resilience and grit whenever we mention well-being, hardiness doesn’t get a mention.

Hardiness views stress as a challenge rather than something to suffer and cripple us. Research has shown that hardy-personality types are far more able to combat the harmful effects of stress because they wire themselves up for success by having a healthy sense of control.

The concept of “stress hardiness” was developed by Dr. Suzanne Kobasa. She studied groups of people who had stressful occupations and found those that seemed to cope or had a ‘hardiness’ to it shared three specific characteristics:

The 3Cs Of Stress Hardiness

1. Commitment

People who are highly committed feel like they are part of a larger purpose and are therefore able to find meaning in their work. They are fully involved in what they are doing and always give it their best effort. They see problems and stresses as setbacks rather than major obstacles.

2. Control

How much control we perceive we have over any stressor influences how difficult the stressor will be for us to cope with. In other words, we can’t obviously change what happens around us and what others say and do but we can learn to control how we react and respond. Those with a strong internal locus of control have a strong sense of self-efficacy rather than feeling powerless or feeling like a ‘victim’.

3. Challenge

Stress-hardy people perceive difficulties as challenges rather than threats. They aren’t defensive but curious and begin to look for different ways to approach a problem and ideas they may have missed. They welcome new situations as opportunities to learn, grow and develop and can turn difficulties to their advantage.

Every job will have its stresses but how we perceive them and whether we adopt a hardy mindset makes all the difference. Some teachers don’t see their jobs as stressful because they have developed ‘hardiness’ and keep control.

You may not be the stress hardy type but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn to be hardy with time and practice and cope with the challenges of the job.

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