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Being a teacher: The psychological and emotional stress and coping strategies

By Emiline Joy N. Cerbo


According to the De la Salle Research Congress in 2017, teachers have been a key factor in promoting learning and have a crucial role to play in the upbringing and caring of students who will become tomorrow’s leaders. They admitted that, despite being one of the most crucial jobs in the nation, teaching is also one of the most stressful professions (Adams 2001).


Since 2015, I have worked as a teacher in a public school. I have gone through the good, the terrible, the highs, and the lows in my teaching career. In the current environment, teachers only serve as facilitators of the learning process, active learners, and mentors who assist students get ready for the future. Teaching, according to Exceed College, has many faces, and a teacher is required to fulfill the roles of an external parent, counselor, mentor, and role model, among others.


Being a teacher calls for a lot of effort, tenacity, perseverance, attention, and dedication. As a teacher, I am expected to do more than just impart knowledge; I also have a responsibility to inspire and motivate my students. I also have a responsibility to be accountable for my actions and decisions, to be an expert assessor of students’ learning, and to interact in a constructive manner with students, parents, co-workers, and administrators. A teacher’s life is a never-ending cycle of maintaining a healthy work-life balance, forming connections, advancing their careers, and delivering the desired results.


The world in which we live and work is full of difficulties. According to a 2017 study that was presented at the DLSU Research Congress, when a person responds ineffectively to problems, this condition of stress might be hazardous to his performance and well-being.


Stress is described as a constricting force or a condition of both mental and emotional tension that results from reacting to challenging, unpleasant, demanding circumstances or external forces or influences in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. According to the World Health Organization, stress is a condition of anxiety or mental tension brought on by a challenging event. Stress is a normal human reaction that motivates us to deal with risks and problems in our lives. They assert that stress can have an impact on both the body and the mind and that a small amount of stress can be beneficial and aid us in carrying out daily tasks. Learning how to manage stress can make a person feel less overwhelmed and can support his or her emotional and physical well-being because too much stress can lead to physical and mental health issues.


In the 2017 study about Filipino teachers’ stress levels and coping strategies, five factors stand out as the common sources of stress for Metro Manila teachers. They are as follows:


1. Having too much paperwork (52%)


2. High cost of living (51%)


3. Insufficient salary and other monetary concerns (46%)


4. Oversized classes (43%)


5. Being too busy with school activities, pursuing graduate degrees, parenting, community service, et cetera (32%)


Seeing the results of this study does not surprise me. We, especially the teachers who are teaching in the public school, are very familiar with these. Accomplishing a stockpile of paperwork throughout the year has been the norm for teachers. Countless evaluation reports, lesson plans, and daily lesson logs among others. “Having too much paperwork can be a consequence of having oversized classes.” stated the study. Also, learning that a teacher experiences financial difficulties is not new. Actually, it has been common knowledge that once you become a teacher, you will soon become a regular client of banks that offer loans as well as lending companies. In 2021, Casinga, et al, conducted a research titled Financial Literacy Challenges: The Case of Filipino Public-School Teachers to discuss the longstanding problem of teachers who are experiencing financial difficulties. The study aims to analyze the Philippine public school teachers’ financial literacy challenges. There are many reasons why teachers borrow money from different lending companies. One is because of the high daily expenses that include food, monthly bills, and public transportation. Because of this, teachers struggle to budget their money, which results in borrowing from friends or relatives. The lack of teaching resources is another factor as to why teachers borrow money (Hanushek, 2019). Furthermore, the study also stresses that most teachers invest in their classrooms to make them presentable and child-friendly. Educational support for children and unexpected medical emergencies is also a factor in why they borrow money. Moreover, there is a culture in the Philippines about being a breadwinner. If the teacher is the breadwinner, he is expected to provide for the family’s daily needs, siblings’ education, and financial support for the parents. That is another reason why teachers tend to borrow money. At present, new laptops, tablets, smartphones, and internet connectivity are the challenges teachers face in the new normal. Teachers also spend money on purchasing technological products they need for online classes. These financial difficulties, in addition to being overworked and too busy, can be a major source of stress that can be potentially dangerous to the teacher’s physical, psychological, and emotional health.


Various coping mechanisms were identified during the completion of the study. The Metro Manila teachers perceived work-related, personal, and economic aspects as their main stressors. However, to combat these, various coping strategies were listed like watching television or going to a movie house, spending quality time with family, attending a mass, or going to the malls. The study also suggested that teachers are capable of addressing the sources of their anxiety in different ways. They may use (1) taking prompt and active measures to address the root of their stress, such as regulating the workplace or enhancing the productivity at their area of employment workstation, climate control, and maintaining cleanliness. (2) Teachers may look for outside help. They might also ask the management of the school to reduce class size, take action to clean up the school’s air and noise, reduce paperwork, practice allocating tasks among one another, and request seminars on stress and stress management as well as provide training on financial literacy.


Teachers must maintain strong physical, mental, and emotional health in order to continue serving as useful knowledge carriers. The study’s conclusion, which was delivered at the DLSU Research Congress in 2017, stated that “With happier, less stressed teachers, there would be a more positive teacher-student relationship and a healthier and more conducive learning environment.”


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