Narratives of teacher stress : the impact of the changing context of professional work
In our daily lives we all experience forms of stress and as humans, we are equipped with internal mechanisms to react to the phenomenon. We utilize tactics that are recognised as `fight or flight' depending upon how we perceive the threat and we employ them accordingly. However, when we are unable to meet the challenges placed upon us, when they form a barrier to our achievement and progress, we become overwhelmed and are susceptible to the detrimental effects of stress. The past two decades have witnessed rapid technological advances and we are thus connected to a global set of networks. Education has had to change in order to compete with a global market that requires new skills. Teaching and what teachers do have come under scrutiny in terms of audit to ensure that a `World-Class' education system is being delivered. As a result there has been an increase in teacher workload and the profession has become re-defined in order to meet contemporary needs. Recent research by government led bodies supports the need to address teacher workload as a major cause of stress. One result has seen the development of the Workload Agreement (2003) aimed at easing the ever-increasing demands placed upon teachers. Whether this measure will be enough to address the difficulties surrounding teaching in a post-modern society remains to be seen. This inquiry focuses on teachers who have experienced work place stress which is a widely recognised phenomenon and has its own particular features. In revealing key issues surrounding teachers and their workload this study aims to uncover the particular features of teacher stress with specific emphasis on role, role conflict, change, management issues, age and workload. Furthermore the study hopes to expose how teacher's lives are changed as a result of their encounter with stress. The harrowing nature of the participants' stress narratives compelled me to chronicle the stories and unveil the impact of their experiences upon all aspects of their lives. Employing methods associated with the case study approach, I conducted unstructured interviews with eight participants. Each person provided me with stories that are narratives of their stress experiences. The nature of this work is grounded in the qualitative paradigm and I have approached this from an interpretative stance. I believe my study confirms issues surrounding teacher workload and teacher stress merits inquiry.