Teacher health is understood to mean the physical and mental well-being of teachers on duty.
Under stressors refers irritations which can cause the affected individual stress. A distinction is made between external and internal stressors. The external stressors include a. "Conflicts in the staff, problems with students and their parents, noise [and] time pressure." Internal stressors, on the other hand, would be "own [n] demands, expectations, fears and thoughts."
Negative feelings determine whether a certain situation is perceived as uncomfortable and stressful. Thus, stimuli that are perceived as stressors depend on the individual concerned. In relation to the teaching profession, for example, a substitute hour in an unfamiliar class could trigger negative feelings and thus be perceived as stressful. In order to reduce stressors, it is therefore not enough to simply avoid external circumstances. You also have to rethink and change your own attitudes towards certain triggers. To take up the example given above, the substitution hour just imposed could not be viewed as a threat or personal attack, but rather as a challenge. So you have to release the tension by rethinking before it turns into stress. (see resilience factors and salutogenesis)
Stress caused by stressors can lead to serious illnesses. Teachers in particular are very susceptible to stressors in their work. Causes can be various factors such as social, psychological, physical and psychosomatic.
The most common ailments that cause incapacity to work are of psychological origin. Immediately afterwards there are musculoskeletal disorders, followed by nervous disorders. Nevertheless, the trend towards early retirement due to incapacity for work is declining. While in 2007 23% of retired teachers left their jobs due to incapacity, in 2017 it was only around 12%. This development, which has been evident since 2001, can be explained, among other things, by the pension discount introduced in 1998, which was supplemented in 2001 by the “Law on the Reorganization of Pension Discounts”. This law applies in the event of early retirement. As a result, teachers have to work until retirement age in order to receive all of their due pension.
Resilience Factors and Salutogenesis
Resilience factors are factors that strengthen inner resistance and thus help against stress. It makes it possible to become more resistant to stress. The concept of resilience is closely linked to salutogenesis according to Aaron Antonovsky , which deals with the development of health-promoting and thus stress-resistant forces. The core of the whole thing is the so-called sense of coherence - “a feeling of trust”, needed to be as resistant as possible to external and internal stressors. The sense of coherence is made up of three parts: understandability, meaningfulness and manageability. In relation to the profession of teacher, it is therefore a question of whether the environment in which you work is clear and tidy, you see a meaning in your teaching and whether you can perform your profession and the associated, sometimes complex tasks well thanks to the qualifications you have acquired. If one is aware of all parts and can fulfill them, one has a high sense of coherence. In addition, resources also play an important role, which are divided into internal and external resources. Only through this it is possible to successfully fulfill the big three components for coherence. Inner resources include one's own physical and character traits, such as self-confidence and fitness. External factors, on the other hand, would be the social environment, to name an example. The more of these positive resources you have, the better your sense of coherence is. In a stressful situation, one or more suitable resource (s) can therefore be used to counter the tension. For this reason, such resources are also called “resistance resources or protection factors”.
According to Bründel / Bründel, the three key resources for the teaching profession are “emotional attachment, social support and appreciation”. In particular, this means a good relationship with fellow teachers and, above all, the school management with mutual support and appreciation.
Some of these resources or competencies can be innate or have already been learned in childhood. However, it is possible to acquire and practice some skills well into old age. As a basis for building resistance resources, Werner u. a. innate resources such as "a generally low tendency to affliction, a tendency to lively striving for sociability, a high level of physiological activity or a low degree of irritability and excitability". In addition, there are “social and personal resources such as situation-appropriate communicative behavior, independence or problem-solving skills”. A helpful “environmental factor” also proved to be “the (early experienced) reliable attachment to an (adult) caregiver” who “conveyed supportive social affection in the first years of life and remained an emotional contact person and a positive role model over time”.
However, this basis is only optional and it is not absolutely necessary to have all of the basic factors. If, for example, one has / did not have a reliable adult caregiver from childhood, there is no reason not to be able to develop resilience factors.
In summary, one can say that people with a strong sense of coherence and many useful associated resources do not necessarily confront a stressor with stress, but rather react “rather with commitment, devotion and willingness to deal with the stressor”.
Resilience, protection and resistance resources and a high sense of coherence can therefore make a very significant contribution to a physically and psychologically healthy teaching profession.
Teacher Health Studies
The findings and diagnoses are often contradicting and imprecise. This is due to methodological problems. The items “health, illness and stress perception” are often assessed differently on an individual basis. In addition, each teacher has individual and external resources, which is why the individual information on the state of health can only partially (and with caution) be traced back to the profession. According to this, most studies - which collect such individual factors - cannot be transferred to causal relationships or even complex systemic interactions.
Nevertheless, statistics offer added value; from them it can be deduced which circumstances are stressful or which compensation strategies are perceived as helpful by many teachers. In addition, factors such as the hierarchical structures at the school, communication and the staff as a whole can be included. This makes it possible to identify important resilience factors.
The DAK-Leuphana study
In 2011, a large-scale study was carried out in cooperation between the DAK and the Leuphana University of Lüneburg as part of the project “Developing a healthy school together”. The information provided by 1,300 teachers from 29 schools examined was evaluated, regardless of the school type and state. It is noteworthy that the majority of the teachers surveyed came from vocational schools and only 3.1% from primary schools.
A central point of the survey was about “staying power up to retirement age”, where only 41% were certain that they would work until they reached the statutory retirement age. 44% of those questioned answered with “maybe”, 16% with “no”. According to this study, female teachers and the group of primary school teachers were the least likely to imagine holding out until retirement. The teaching activity itself was named as "stressful factors in everyday working life" on the one hand, but also the working conditions on the other.
Missing islands of calm in everyday life are mentioned. In this, 45% of the teachers stated that it was difficult for them to switch off and 30% described themselves as emotionally stressed. However, it must be added that the survey period was in May 2012; Many schools have final exams this month.
The DAK Leuphana study also asked about the internal and external resources of the teachers. The main external resources mentioned were social support in the family and in the partnership.
Internal resources provide:
- the support of the college,
- Cooperation among colleagues with regard to lessons or lesson preparation,
- Feedback from the school management.
It is assumed that diverse resources lead to a higher tolerance for frustration, balance and calm.
The Potsdam Teacher Study
In the first stage (2000–2003) the stressful situations were analyzed with the help of questionnaires and the AVEM test and compared with 8,000 representatives from occupational groups with similar psychosocial stress (e.g. police, nursing staff, educators). 16,000 teachers, 2,500 student teachers or trainee teachers and 1,500 teachers from other countries were interviewed.
In the second stage, measures and offers of support were developed to reduce the stress. (see resilience factors and salutogenesis)
The AVEM process
The first stage of the Potsdam study was carried out with the help of the so-called AVEM procedure (work-related behavior and experience pattern) by Uwe Schaarschmidt . According to Schaarschmidt, four patterns are distinguished:
- Pattern G stands for "health". This includes a strong but not too intense professional commitment, positive feelings, high resilience.
- Pattern S stands for "protection"; this refers to the not too excessive professional engagement.
- Pattern A stands for the "effort", which can lead to excessive demands. A health risk arises from excessive self-demands.
- Pattern B stands for a "burn-out", which can be the result of pattern A.
The patterns reveal the factors that may cost a person or group of resources. However, they do not provide any information about the causes of the stress situations.
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