Date of Award

1998

Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Mary Jo Abascal-Hildebrand, EdD, Director; Johanna S. Hunsaker, PhD; Ray Latta, PhD

Keywords

dialogue, educators, listening, Leadership studies, mental health, Stress, principals, qualitative, school administration, teachers

Abstract

Research indicates that educator stress is a widespread phenomenon that not only impacts the educational community, but society at large. This being the case, there is an urgent need to consider this phenomenon within responsible school leadership. In particular, understanding what creates stress for educators, and learning more about leadership responses that would support educators under stress, are critical to more holistic school leadership, and for enabling teachers to envision a viable future for themselves. Thus, the purpose of this study is to examine how school principals and colleagues might respond to educators coping with professional stress, so that they can concomitantly support the educators' needs, the needs of the educational community, and the society at large. Clearly, educator stress is not simply a local issue for a particular teacher, at a particular moment in time, but for the whole of a career. Problems of educator stress affect the community of students, staff, parents, and the educator's family. Educator stress has a debilitating effect on the educator's personal well-being, performance in the classroom, and the process of education. Much has been written about various aspects of the teaching environment considered fertile for producing stress. Quantitative studies have examined job-related stressors for teachers, linking organizational variables with the experience of stress. However, a qualitative study, such as this, with the intent of developing understanding of the leadership wisdom which might be gleaned from the stories of teachers who have coped well with stress, may enrich the existing research. This research is a qualitative, phenomenologically-based interview study of six experienced public school teachers reporting to have undergone a prolonged time of workplace stress, to understand their responses to stress. This research discovers what factors they believe enabled them to triumph over stress. As such, this research examines their relationships with school principals or significant colleagues in order to determine if these relationships exacerbated or alleviated their stress. The findings of this study reveal the critical importance of school leaders establishing trusting, caring, and supportive relationships with educators so that educators are able to give voice to their experience. Thus, dialogue is key for building collaborative educational communities that flourish. Furthermore, school principals need to recognize, encourage, and empower educators in their work. Moreover, in order to manage workplace stress, educators need to balance their workplace needs with their personal life, and maintain a healthy mind, a healthy body, and a healthy spirit to address stress. The findings of this study offers leaders and educators new awarenesses that might be useful in building school communities in which both children and teachers might prosper, and in which teachers would better sense a viable future in their work.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access

Department

Education

COinS