The hidden threat of teacher stress



(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)

Brandis M. Ansley, Georgia State University; Joel Meyers, Georgia State University; Kate McPhee, Georgia State University, and Kris Varjas, Georgia State University

(THE CONVERSATION) When a traumatic event such as the Florida school shooting takes place, often the focus afterward is on finding ways to make sure students and teachers are safe from violence and physical harm.

But there’s another danger that threatens teacher well-being that is often overlooked. The threat is stress — and it is something that nearly half of all teachers say they experience at a high level every day.

Teachers are actually tied with nurses, with 46 percent of both groups reporting high daily stress. Such reports are comparable with other notoriously demanding occupations, such as physicians and business managers. It’s not hard to understand the reasons why.

Teachers do much more than teach academic lessons. They must also manage classroom behavior and keep an eye on helping students grow and develop socially in a healthy way. On top of that, they must coordinate with other adults and keep records of just about everything they do.

Teachers are expected to perform these tasks effectively, even when their students face difficulties outside the classroom, from unmet needs to mental health issues. The more needs students have, the more teachers are expected to do.

If teachers already face high levels of occupational stress, it’s not hard to see how the recent spate of deadly school shootings – coupled with the idea that teachers should arm themselves to protect themselves and their students – can elevate their stress levels even higher.

We make these observations as researchers affiliated with the Center for Research on School Safety, School Climate, and Classroom Management at Georgia State University. Among other things, our research focuses on fostering better school and workplace relationships and cultivating safe learning environments.

The consequences of teacher stress are far-reaching and adversely impact not just the teacher, but everyone around them, most notably their students.

For starters, chronic stress triggers a range of physical and mental health symptoms. Physically, stress weakens the immune system and increases susceptibility to illness. Stress also exacerbates pain and reduces physical stamina.

Prolonged stress may increase risk of chronic fatigue, heart disease and other ailments. Stress also depletes mental stamina. Common symptoms include irritability, mood swings and exhaustion, which may escalate into depression, anxiety and lower quality of life. These symptoms have been identified by teachers reporting high stress. The consequences, however, do not stop with teachers.

Chronic stress can also impact teachers’ job performance. Unwell teachers have a reduced ability to teach and therefore call in sick. The more absences teachers rack up, the less time they spend with their students. Excessive teacher absences disrupt the flow of instruction, behavior management and connection with students. Research has confirmed that excessive teacher absences are linked to student underachievement.

Stress is also associated with high teacher turnover. Nearly half of all new teachers leave the field within the first five years. Among those who stay, nearly two-thirds were found in a 2015 poll to be “not engaged,” or mentally and emotionally disconnected from their teaching role and their students’ needs.

If nearly half of teachers leave the field within five years, and most who remain are disengaged, there is an epidemic of teachers who are stressed out, burned out and merely going through the motions.

Research suggests that active teacher engagement and positive teacher-student relationships result in high student achievement. Similarly, without active engagement, teachers cannot connect with their students and teach them effectively.

There are ways to lessen teacher stress and boost their capacity to perform their best.

School leaders can help reduce teacher stress by cultivating working conditions that support teachers. Teachers experience less stress and commit to jobs more often under satisfactory working conditions. The working conditions that lead to the most job satisfaction involve administrative and collegial support. In other words, teachers need their leaders to provide constructive feedback that helps improve their performance.

Schools can also help reduce teacher stress by promoting effective teacher-student interactions. One way to accomplish this is by using strategies that reward positive student behaviors. Teachers in schools with that utilize positive strategies on a schoolwide basis to support student behavior experience significantly lower levels of burnout. To promote positive teacher-student relationships, experts recommend a ratio of five positive supports for each punitive action. In other words, teachers should be commending students for doing the right thing five times as often as they take away privileges or scold them for doing the wrong thing.

Teachers also need to make sure they take care of themselves so that they can take care of others. Without actively caring for themselves, teachers lose the capacity to care for others.

Given the demands of teaching, it may be easy for teachers to put their own needs last. A comprehensive self-care plan may help teachers identify signs of stress and improve their stress management skills. Examples of stress-reducing strategies with the most scientific support include yoga, exercise and mindfulness meditation. Yoga and exercise require physical exertion and have benefits beyond physical fitness. Both also trigger hormones that relieve stress and are associated with better mental focus and mood. No specific skills are required for mindfulness meditation, and with even a few minutes of practice most days, benefits include improvements to self-awareness, mental concentration and emotion regulation.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here:

New York Times Writer’s Tweet About Mirai Nagasu Sparks Controversy


“However, Weiss may have missed the point of the criticism. For minorities in the U.S., not being white often means having your status as an American questioned. It comes in the form of microaggressions such as being asked “No, where are you really from?” or being told to “go back to your country” because it’s assumed you can’t really be from the United States.”

Doha Madani

New York Times Writer's Tweet About Mirai Nagasu Sparks Controversy
Bari Weiss, an op-ed writer for The New York Times, triggered an intense online debate on Monday when she tweeted about Mirai Nagasu’s historic Olympic performance.

Bari Weiss, an op-ed writer for The New York Times, triggered an intense online debate on Monday when she tweeted about Mirai Nagasu’s historic Olympic performance.

Weiss captioned a video from the NBC Olympics account “Immigrants: they get the job done,” after Nagasu became the the first American woman to land a triple axel in Olympic competition.

The problem is that Nagasu isn’t an immigrant. She was born in California to Japanese immigrants and maintained dual U.S. and Japanese citizenship until she was 22 years old.

Many people criticized Weiss’ now-deleted tweet for “othering” Nagasu ? implying that because she is not white, she is an immigrant.

Weiss pushed back, saying she’d used poetic license in quoting the line from the wildly popular Broadway show “Hamilton.”

“Wow, this is utterly breathtaking in its bad faith,” Weiss responded to one critic. “Her parents are immigrants. And my tweet was obviously meant to celebrate her accomplishments. Perhaps you’d be more comfortable with an outlet like Think Progress making the same point.”

View image on Twitter

To be fair, it is clear that Weiss meant to be positive and praise Nagasu for her history-making performance at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Weiss defended herself by saying that many outlets were celebrating Nagasu as the child of immigrants, including HuffPost. Weiss characterized the backlash to her tweet as “another sign of civilization’s end.”

However, Weiss may have missed the point of the criticism. For minorities in the U.S., not being white often means having your status as an American questioned. It comes in the form of microaggressions such as being asked “No, where are you really from?” or being told to “go back to your country” because it’s assumed you can’t really be from the United States.

The fervor with which people attacked Weiss’ tweet may also be partly due to her reputation for controversial viewpoints. The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald described Weiss as a writer “who thrives on cheap, easy, and superficial ‘controversy’” after the Times hired her.

Multicultural Educators Tour to Greece 

Multicultural Educators Tour to Greece

A small group of us have been traveling together for years to different countries – China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Israel, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bali, Cuba, and now to Greece. We have visited schools and other places of interest to social justice educators. Please join us. Details at

PS – this is listed as a private tour, so please contact me if you wish to go.


The myth about smart black kids and “acting white” that won’t die

Nerds come in all colors.

You’ve probably heard it before: Too many black students don’t do well in school because they think being smart means “acting white.”

Just last week, Columbia University English professor John McWhorter mentioned it in a piece for Vox to support his critique of elements of the Black Lives Matter platform. Key to his argument was the assertion that the similar goals of the 1960s “war on poverty failed,”in part, due to black people’s “cultural traits and behaviors.”

While the “acting white” theory used to be pretty popular to bring up in debates about black academic achievement there’s a catch: It’s not true.

At best, it’s a very creative interpretation of inadequate research and anecdotal evidence. At worst, it’s a messy attempt to transform the near-universal stigma attached to adolescent nerdiness into an indictment of black culture, while often ignoring the systemic inequality that contributes to the country’s racial achievement gap.

Yet McWhorter — despite being a scholar of linguistics, not sociology — has become one of the primary defenders of the “acting white” theory and has dismissed those who debunk it as “pundits” who are “uncomfortable with the possibility that a black problem could not be due to racism.” But the people who challenge it are not pundits — they’re academics who’ve dedicated significant time and scientific scrutiny to this theory. Here’s why they say it’s a myth.

Where the “acting white” theory came from

The “acting white” theory — the idea that African-American kids underachieve academically because they and their peers associate being smart with acting white, and because they’re afraid they’ll be shunned — was born in the 1980s. John Ogbu, an anthropology professor at the University of California Berkeley, introduced it in an ethnographic study of one Washington, DC, high school. He found what he dubbed an “oppositional culture” in which, he said, students saw academic achievement as “white.”

read more:

The legacy of Manifest Destiny? Trauma and suffering


The All Pueblo Council of Governors consists of the 19 sovereign Pueblo Nations of New Mexico, with the 20th Pueblo nation, Ysleta del Sur, in Texas. We are the oldest political organization in the country, dating back to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. We are the primary and official advocacy organization representing the Pueblo Nations on all matters locally and at the state and federal levels.

We are appalled and deeply offended by the recent statements at a charter school conference by Public Education Department Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski regarding Manifest Destiny as the continuing core value of this nation and the state that drives the education agenda. This is utterly disgraceful, lacking any sensitivity, understanding and appreciation of the atrocious impacts of Manifest Destiny upon generations of our people. The principles of Manifest Destiny have inflicted multigenerational trauma. That is the legacy of Manifest Destiny in our history.

Manifest Destiny for tribal nations is aligned with the Doctrine of Discovery that justified the racial hierarchy. The discriminatory principles drawn from these two doctrines made their way into the earliest U.S. Supreme Court decisions that defined policies and laws significantly disadvantageous to Native Americans and their nations that continue to this day.

As a result of the Western expansion, the General Allotment Act of 1887, commonly known as the Dawes Act, formalized and incorporated “Indian Education.” The policy of assimilation was, in their words, to “convert them into American citizens.” These combined policies ushered in the boarding schools. The mantra was “to kill the Indian and save the man. The way you kill the language and culture is to remove the children and deny those children their language and culture.”

In the words of Thomas Jefferson Morgan, commissioner of Indian affairs in 1889, “We must either fight the Indians, feed the Indians or else educate them. To fight them is cruel, to feed them is a waste, while to educate them is humane, economic, and Christian.” This was the justification to transform us, to strip us from our identity and to force us into the “melting pot.” We have resisted, struggling to find a balance and, in many places, created great successes.

The Santa Fe Indian School on Cerrillos Road was one of the earliest schools constructed in 1890 to fulfill Manifest Destiny and to further the assimilation of our children. Since the historic enactment of the Self Determination and Education Assistance Act that we actively worked on and passed into law in 1975, we have taken ownership and transformed the school driven by our vision of education. The Santa Fe Indian School was the first Indian-controlled school recognized by President Ronald Reagan as a School of Education Excellence.

Unfortunately, for many schools out of our control, since the earliest days, study after study documents the failures and the devastation caused by ill-conceived policies and laws. It may have made America great, but it has been at a huge cost to the indigenous peoples of this nation. We are the surviving nations and peoples.

A person in Ruszkowski’s position in 2017 in a state with a population that has been significantly victimized and devastated by these policies he espouses regrettably has no place in a leadership capacity. The least that our children, their parents and our leaders deserve is an apology for those comments.

In the last several months, we have been engaged in protesting proposals by the department’s Bilingual and Multicultural Education Bureau to repeal and replace essential language programs — this, after years of struggle to legitimize indigenous languages to take their rightful place among heritage languages that are in statute. We have argued that our children should have the opportunity to learn their languages as a basic and fundamental right in their education, and we have accomplished that. It is at the heart of our protest to any changes to that framework.

This conflict exemplifies at the most fundamental level our continuing struggle and fight for what our children deserve in maintaining their identity, while having the best education possible. When children were forcibly removed from their families and shipped off to boarding schools, Hopi elders protested against the cruelty of these government policies. For their protests, they were imprisoned at Alcatraz. Our advocacy on behalf of our children continues with the deepest of our love for them and what we feel they deserve. What the man in charge of public education espouses is offensive, given our history and fight for survival.

E. Paul Torres is the chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors. He is from Isleta Pueblo.

Here’s what Public Education Department Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski said earlier this month, speaking at the Charter School Coalition’s annual conference in Albuquerque, as reported by the Albuquerque Journal. Ruszkowski was discussing the notion of school choice, which he touted as “quintessentially American,” before going on to say: “This is a country built over the last 250 years on things like freedom, choice, competition, options, going west, Manifest Destiny — these are the fundamental principles of this country. That’s why charter schools make so much sense — high-quality options — in the context of where we are as a country.”