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June 1, 2018
Vol. 75
No. 9

Perspectives / Summer Project: Managing Stress in Schools

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    School Culture
      In his article in this issue, Glen Pearsall makes the interesting point that, when introducing new initiatives, education policymakers and school reformers seldom stop to evaluate the impact their grand new plans might have on educators' workloads and stress levels. As Pearsall notes, this is a big oversight. It might even be considered flat-out counterproductive: A recent study out of the University of Missouri found that high levels of stress among teachers, especially if coupled with poor coping mechanisms, are associated with lower student-performance outcomes.
      That study also found, incidentally, that nearly all of the teachers in its research sample of 121 "fell into classes characterized by high levels of stress."
      This special summer issue of Educational Leadership takes a step toward redressing the balance in today's education climate by exploring ways schools and educators themselves can work to mitigate stress and burnout amid heightened accountability pressures and spiraling initiatives. As part of an organization that's committed to whole child education, we know that to thrive in schools, today's educators, too, need a broad range of resources and support that go beyond the strictly academic. School systems need to be mindful of the whole person dimension of the often emotionally demanding work educators do.
      Research shows that teacher burnout is generally not an isolated problem in schools. Fittingly, a number of the articles in this issue highlight actions that school leaders or leadership teams can take to improve school climates and teachers' working conditions to help alleviate faculty stress. In some cases, this work may require a reevaluation of priorities or a willingness to let go of pre-conceptions. In her article on preventing teacher demoralization, for example, Doris A. Santoro argues that school leaders may need to consider how well their schools' expected practices mesh with educators' professional values. Jenny Grant Rankin, meanwhile, advises administrators to become more mindful of teachers' needs and concerns, which can easily be lost in the ordinary course of school business.
      But since burnout is often experienced at the individual level, this issue also provides plenty of personal advice for educators on managing stress and maintaining perspective. Baruti K. Kafele offers insights on how school leaders can rediscover their purpose in times of professional crisis. Former National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki shares personal tips on keeping the not-inconsiderable forces of negativity in K–12 education at bay. Other pieces examine how teachers can "work smarter" and make better use of the resources at their disposal—in part, again, by resisting preconceptions about the way things are "done" in schools. (Educators tend to feel pressure to "do it all," notes Catlin Tucker, a mindset that isn't helpful to anyone in the end.)
      We hope this issue provides inspiration and plenty of material for reflection and discussion as you wind down from one school year and prepare for the next. But go easy on yourself. As teacher Justin Minkel says in our compilation of educators' personal perspectives, "If we don't show ourselves the same patience and compassion we show our students, we are doomed to burn out."

      Anthony Rebora is the chief content officer for ISTE+ASCD, overseeing publications and content development across all platforms.

      Previously, he was the editor in chief of Educational Leadership, ASCD's flagship magazine, and led content development for the association's fast-evolving digital outlets.

      Under his leadership, Educational Leadership won numerous awards for editorial excellence, increased the breadth of its coverage and contributors, and greatly expanded its online reach.

      He was formerly a managing editor at Education Week, where he oversaw coverage of teachers and teaching policy, and played a key role in online editorial strategy. He has written and developed impactful content on a wide range of key K-12 education topics, including professional learning, school leadership and equity.

      As a content developer, his foremost goals are to empower diverse educator voices and raise awareness of critical issues and solutions in education.

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