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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 5, No. 4 - July/August 2013

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Happy Teachers - Happy Students

By Alan Stevens

Teaching is recognised to be among the most stressful of professions; greater than that of nursing and all levels of management. Over 40% teachers report high levels of occupational stress, which attributes to the high attrition levels, especially in the early years of a career.

Teacher unions and education academic surveys place the number of teachers leaving the profession within their first five years to be between 25-40%.

The steep learning curve that a new teacher must go through is hard not only on students, but also on the teachers themselves: 15% leave the profession and another 14% change schools after their first teaching year. This is often the result of feeling overwhelmed, ineffective, and unsupported (Ingersoll & Smith, 2003; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). Interestingly, student achievement tends to be significantly worse in the classrooms of first year teachers (Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005).

Dr. Philip Riley of Monash University and Dr. Andrea Gallant of Deakin University interviewed many former teachers in search of the reasons. They found that teacher education programs, school-based inductions and mentoring were failing to prepare teachers adequately for the stressful demands of teaching. Not surprisingly, this is also the case in the UK and USA.

While new teachers bring enthusiasm and energy to the classroom, they have specific unfulfilled needs. One of these is the training and preparation to deal with classroom management. A 2004 Public Agenda survey found that 85% of teachers believed "new teachers are particularly unprepared for dealing with behaviour problems in their classrooms". New teachers universally report feeling overwhelmed by the most difficult students, which significantly impacts on the rest of the class.

In business you wouldn't throw a new employee into the "deep end". Unfortunately this is all too often the case for new teachers. If new teachers do receive a mentor to help, often those mentors do not have the skills or time required to assist and guide them.

One solution to this problem for both experienced and new teachers is professional social and emotional awareness training. Being able to recognise indicators of behavioural issues before the issue rises is an essential skill for all teachers. It is important to have the ability to read the non verbal conscious and unconscious indicators that each of their students exhibit. Just as students excel academically with Social Emotional Learning (SEL) so can all teachers.

A good SEL program will;

  • Reduce teacher stress levels, illness & absenteeism
  • Show how to effectively engage & motivate difficult students
  • Enhance communication skills
  • Improve understanding of students &
  • what motivates them
  • Create a more enjoyable work environment

As one school principal said "we are increasingly coming across students who stretch our skills and lead us to seek out professional learning to best cater for them in our structured learning environments." In addition "schooling is a relationships business and every role within the system relies on effective communication". He also said that doing a SEL professional development program had increased his awareness when working with students, staff and the community.

About Alan Stevens

Alan Stevens, the Face Profiler, is a coach and trainer in the Art of Reading People, based in Newcastle NSW. He has developed SEL programs for school teachers and corporations including programs to recognise what other people are not telling you, what they are concealing, and how they are likely to behave in any situation.

His programs are delivered locally in schools and to business locally and internationally through the internet. He was described by the Newcastle Herald as "The Mentalist meets Dr. Phil meets Dr. Cal Lightman from Lie To Me", and his passion is to share these skills throughout the community.

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