Dr. Somali Ghosh, Asst. Professor, Case Western Reserve University, and Chief Strategy Advisor, Kapdec

Dr. Ghosh began her career with the elite Indian Economic Service (IES) within the Planning Commission of India. She has been a part of the mathematical modeling unit within the Planning Commission that helped formulate India’s 5-year plans that guide the Indian economy. Having interacted with world-class economists and academicians, who ultimately inspired her journey into academia, Dr. Ghosh followed her dreams to pursue a Ph.D. in Marketing Management. Dr. Ghosh is inspired by the fascinating field of marketing and the wonderful students who brighten every classroom. Dr. Ghosh has previously taught at the University of Michigan, and currently a professor at Case Western Reserve University in the USA. Dr. Ghosh is serving as a chief strategy advisor at Kapdec.

 

We often overlook the importance of looking after those who look after us. Homemakers, caregivers, and yes,  even educators.  The general philosophy is that the higher the number of hours they put in, the higher productivity. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. A well-rested and happy educator is more likely to be more patient and understanding and even more pleasantly persuasive than someone whose week schedule makes for a life that is more like running a marathon across an obstacle course.

Educators are the frontline workers and bear the brunt from all sides – students, parents, and administrators. A struggling student depends on a teacher; parents depend on educators for the well-rounded growth of their children. The success of any academic institution depends on the efficacy and skills of its educators. Educators carry the most critical responsibility on their shoulders, which can usually leave them stressed and exhausted. 

Educators often get sidestepped when it comes to the stress that descends on them, especially in a covid-19 pandemic situation – where most educators entered the online educational arena out of necessity and not out of actual interest or intent. They ended up juggling a multitude of unfamiliar technology and gadgets, and software while trying to engage students online.  Zoom fatigue afflicts them too but being the adults in the situation; the only option is to grin and bear it. 

Historically, teachers were given the highest status and respect in the societal hierarchy. A most respected and well-regarded profession. However, in recent decades the appreciation for teachers has declined. Teaching has become an underpaid and overworked profession. According to the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), teachers tackle a lot more stress than any other professionals. Teaching is not just restricted to books and curriculum, but it comes with unforeseen challenges along with the inability to strike a work-life balance.

Stress comes to educators from multiple sources – inside and outside educational institutions, from balancing academic integrity in grading to facing the trade-off between conscientious grading and parental student backlash.  

Factors Causing Stress Among Educators 

Though innumerable reasons are leading to stress in educators, some are more pronounced and worrisome, such as misbehavior issues coming from students, excessive teaching workload on teachers, lack of autonomy, prolonged or, in some cases, non-existential professional growth, in some cases poor school ethos, and lack of job security along with low salary in many cases.  Unfortunately, teachers are always expected to do more in less time, with fewer resources and financial support.  

Teaching has become somewhat more challenging after the pandemic. Now that the classes are being held online, discipline issues among students raise questions on teachers’ capability to manage their classes.  

Since the rise of the virtual teaching model, teachers have continuously juggled between work and personal life. Many still struggle with the online tools and software, while others are trying to become adept and prepare lessons and assignments. Due to the sudden closure of schools, colleges, and universities amidst the lockdowns, teachers and students could not get any guidelines, instructions, and training for the smooth functioning of online classes. This added to the educator’s woes further. Discussing concepts, clarifying doubts, and explaining complex ideas in online teaching comes with their own set of challenges. 

Many educators now find themselves exhausted, strapped for time. In the blurry picture of Covid-era teaching, they achieve very little even after putting in the extra effort. The new normal is gradually moving towards causing severe health ailments to the teachers in our country.  

Solutions to Combat Stress

The importance of educator’s mental health is crucial and invaluable for a student’s well-being. The school and university administration has an essential role in ensuring that teachers remain within the system and be happy and healthy when performing their job roles. 

Teachers deserve better financial reward: The only country in the world that realizes the importance of educators and the need to take the stress off their shoulders, at least monetarily, is Germany, where educators have higher salaries than many other professions. They believe that education should be well-paying enough to attract the best talent – so they can, in turn, nurture the best in future generations. It is a worthy thought that should echo across the world. 

Social Reward: Educators are often motivators. They inspire and encourage – while they can’t give exams or interviews on behalf of students, but their motivation leads students to success.  While praise for student success may flow in occasionally, they always face the ire of those who spent on education yet refrained from the application of adequate effort to imbibe that education. 

Support Programs: Authorities must provide support programs to help teachers deal with and alleviate their stress levels before becoming too overwhelming. Wellness programs for improving teachers’ mental health, sanctioned leaves, and health benefits like subsidized gym memberships can drastically reduce teachers’ stress.

Self-help: There are some ways teachers can adopt in their daily lives to help them overcome debilitating amounts of stress. Exercising for 30 minutes, meditating daily for 15 to 20 minutes, and performing cardiovascular activities can help them stay fit, mentally and physically. Besides physical and mental fitness, it is essential to invest some time in one’s emotional well-being. Spending some quality time with one’s family and loved ones can prove highly beneficial in releasing work tensions. Taking a walk, going for a jog, and listening to songs can also help. 

Summing Up

The harsh reality is that every year, more work is added to the work platter of educators without anything being taken away. Administrators need to come forward and take responsibility for the welfare of teachers. It is time for a revision in the government’s policies for the education industry regarding the wages and benefits to address the overall well-being of teachers. It is time that the health of educators, both mental and physical,  is treated as a priority, and they are provided with enough resources to help them deal with stress. 

Experience has shown that happy and successful people make happy and encouraging educators, making for happier students and a brighter future for the world.

Dr. APJ Kalam, former President of India and an eminent educator in his own right, has said – “Education is the best weapon in the world that can change the world.”  The educational system is only as good as our educators; hence ensuring educator well-being should be a top priority. 

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