Stress Is Contagious: Don’t Let It Spread in Your School

Vol. 17 No. 2

PSN eletter vol16 no2 stress

Recent research shows that stress can indeed be contagious within your school. Researchers from the University of British Columbia conducted a study of more than 400 elementary school students from different grade levels. They examined students’ cortisol levels, finding that students who tested higher for the stress hormone also had teachers who reported higher levels of burnout.

Stress levels are typically lower in the summer months. But, as the school year gets underway, stress can creep up, creating lasting negative effects for faculty, staff, and students. In fact, researchers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found that teachers showing higher levels of stress in September illustrated fewer effective teaching strategies throughout the year than less stressed teachers. This included unclear instruction and ineffective classroom management.

A stressed teacher can lead to poor student performance. The American Psychological Association found that students who are in a positive emotional state remember more than those experiencing a neutral or negative state.

So what can administrators do to help alleviate faculty and staff stress in their schools, thus enhancing the learning environment for students? ISM believes the key to stress management is identifying stressors, examining what can be altered, and encouraging mindfulness.

  • Work with faculty to identify stressors. Faculty stress can often be based on the amount of support the faculty perceives they have from the administration. So it’s important to take the pulse of your faculty often to discern where they feel supported and what they feel needs attention. This should be done in the form of a third-party survey so faculty and staff can express their feelings openly without fear of retribution.
  • Examine what needs attention. If your faculty expressed that they need more opportunities for professional development or the schedule doesn’t provide ample time for instruction, make a concerted effort to address their concerns. When it comes to scheduling, ISM has often stated that a well-designed schedule makes a positive difference in students’ lives and provides the school a strategic advantage in its market. Begin the process of examining what can be altered, and take the steps to make changes to reduce stress and alleviate tension in your school.
  • Encourage mindfulness. Harvard Science found that people who spend a minimum of 27 minutes per day practicing mindfulness exercises are not just feeling better because they’re relaxing—their brains are actually changing. Participants in the study were found to have increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory as well as associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. So consider encouraging quiet time during the day for faculty, staff, and students, whether at the beginning or end of the day, between classes, or during a rest period. This small change can make a big impact while your school works on the larger initiatives highlighted by your faculty.

Don’t let stress become a contagious entity in your school. Follow these steps to help faculty, staff, and students reduce their stress levels as we continue through the 2017–18 school year.

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Advancement Vol. 9 No. 5 Reduce Stress and Increase Memory
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 9 No. 2 Managing Stress 101
The Source for Private School News Vol. 8 No. 11 Kids Feel Stress Both From Their Parents and Peers

Additional ISM resources for Gold members:
I&P Vol. 41 No. 11 The Rhetoric of Rigor II: Stress, Schedules, and Fun

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