Thursday, January 17, 2008

School teachers and stress

Across different countries school teachers are among those professionals with the highest levels of job stress and burn out and many teachers retire early because of this. As well as contextual factors such as job demands and job resources research has now started to look at personality characteristics which may predict differences in teachers' stress and burn out and one characteristic that researchers believe plays an important role in creating stress is perfectionism. Perfectionism is a personality style characterized by striving for flawlessness and the setting of excessively high standards for performance accompanied by tendencies for overly critical evaluation of one's behaviour. Perfectionists often put great importance on the evalution of others and may perceive a great deal of pressure to excel because they have to live up both to their own high standards and to those of others. A study of 118 secondary school teachers in Germany found that there was a difference between striving for perfection and having a negative reaction to imperfection. Those teachers who strove for perfection tended to see things as a challenge rather than as a threat, to tackle problems constructively rather than trying to avoid them and were less prone to burn out. Those who had negative reactions to imperfection were more likely to see things as threats, not challengs, tended to aviod problems and were more likely to suffer from burn out. Pressure from students or students' parents was linked to burnout whereas pressure from colleagues was associated with a reduced sense of threat and a lower level of burnout.

Stoeber, Joachim and Rennert, Dirk - Perfectionism in school teachers: relations with stress appraisals, coping styles and burnout Anxiety, stress, and coping January 2008, 21(1), 37-53

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