Since 1989, I have been teaching high school music. High school. Teenagers (I call them “Young adults” but I get admonished (which stresses me out), “they’re children, Mr. Everts”) and their midlife crisis parents. Twenty-seven consecutive years. Wanna talk about stress? Teenagers? Midlife crisis parents? Yes… that is stressful and just think … high school teachers deal with that stress every day / every week / every month / every year. Y’all get to grow out of that time in your lives; not high school teachers.
When I see the increase of articles about teenage stress, both in newspapers and educational journals, I say, “HELLO!! Y’all just figured this out? Y’all just figured out that being a teenager is STRESSFUL? Being a human being from 35-55 is STRESSFUL? Ya just got this? Better late than never. Congratulations.” High school teachers have know this forever and a day… a long day. Today, I refer to an article: STRESS CRISIS: HOW BAY AREA SCHOOLS STRUGGLE TO KEEP KIDS SAFE by Sharon Noguchi.
I don’t mean to make light of your discovery of teenage stress. I do mean to make light of the discovery that the stress is due to everyone else and not to the STRESSED individual. When reading the articles about how stressed today’s teens are compared to five years ago, I am dumbfounded. I recently checked stories about teachers being abused. I do believe that teacher abuse is much the same as males being abused by females: neither males admit to being abused by females and neither do teachers admit to being abused by teenagers and / or their parents. just don’t admit it. My book CONDUCTING MY LIFE was written to encourage teachers to share stories about students and parents who hurt teachers, as well, as the beautiful stories teachers have in being a teacher. I just have always considered STRESS as part of the job as a high school teacher.
Let’s go to Ms. Noguchi’s article…
Being a high school music teacher, I am a SHAMELSS advocate for teachers. So, I look at Ms. Noguchi’s article with tremendous bias for my colleagues. As a high school music teacher, I have the very best students. I don’t have to deal with little old don’t give a damn Johnny. Yet, I have had my share of abuse. I can only imagine what my colleagues go through every day when they have little old don’t give a damn Johnny in his / her classroom and then, it is the teacher’s fault / responsibility that little old Johnny doesn’t give damn. The pain that that teacher must endure.
Here ya go (from the article)… Following a little bit of the blame on the parents who are pushing their teenager to do more comes this, “But, some parents, on the other hand, blame schools – teachers who don’t teach, unproductive homework and classes that aren’t’ stimulating. They say they have to hire tutors and seek out enrichment classes, further burdening their children.” I re-read the article, and look for some of my readers’ feedback to the question, WHERE IS THE CONCERN ABOUT THE TEACHERS’ WELL-BEING? Seriously! Do you not get the fact that the teachers are also feeling the stress from … PARENTS? The teachers did not tell you (parents) to select those HONORS / A.P. courses that your son / daughter can’t handle and then when the teacher (professional) informs you that your teenager cannot handle the class, you go ballistic on that teacher. The teachers did not tell your students to be in their “cyber world” crud all night the night before a test! Yet, there ya go, blame the teachers. From the parents / students, I would love to see more support for their teachers. Most of the time, many teachers get to only hear how “bad” he / she (teacher) is. Sure, teachers truly appreciate the annual PFSO “Teacher Appreciate Week.” We need to know we are appreciated. In addition to that very nice gesture, once in a while I am sure, Miss Jamie gets a “love-note,” but more than likely, most of the time the contact from the parent will be one of “concern” — Miss Jamie you don’t know my child / Miss Jamie, you aren’t doing your job.
Read that article and point out – from the article – how much stress is on the teacher (you may get stressed because you read it several times and could not find the part in the article of how the teachers are suffering from similar stress and ways to help those teachers). There seems to be little empathy that the teachers, as well, are going through some tremendous stress. But, hey, after all…the teachers are adults and professionals, why do we need to consider the teachers’ well-being? Really? Pretty callous of you. Just look at the first sentence of the article: Alarmed at escalating levels of student stress and fearful of its potential deadly impact, educators at the Bay Area’s top-performing high schools are desperately trying to ease up on pressure. I would have loved Ms. Noguchi to have included in the opening sentence, “Alarmed at the escalating levels of student and teacher stress…” Until we can acknowledge that the center of the education apple is: STUDENT AND TEACHER, I believe the stress will continue to be at an “alarming” rate. Students and teachers need to have support from administrators and parents. We need to return to time when teachers were respected. As my mother reminds me, “teaching is the only college-educated profession where everyone else knows how to do it better. Patients don’t talk to their doctors like students talk to their teachers. Clients don’t talk to their attorneys like students talk to their teachers.”
I bring to your attention the article http://nobullying.com/students-bullying-teachers-a-new-epidemic/ When we look at the teacher as a human being, more than an “adult” or “professional” that could also help DECREASE the level of stress in the classroom. Teachers are being abused. Teachers are being bullied and we need to also address that – “that” being the cyber world. One of the points missed in Ms. Noguchi’s article is the increase activity of the teenager in the “cyber world.” In Ms. Noguchi’s article, there was one school that “banned” email for a week. THE SCHOOL banned email! How about “tougher” parenting. Parents – BAN EMAIL / TEXTING / SOCIAL MEDIA for a week and see what happens. Your teenagers are going to go nuts. Withdrawls. Students are addicted to their “cyber world.” It’s not just the academic world that is causing the “increase” (in quotes because I believe there has always been stress and now we have data that “proves” there is an increase). To only blame school (teachers) for the “increased” stress seems to be shortsighted. It’s not about one or two major moments, it is the 10,000 moments (paraphrased quote) that led to the increase of our students’ stress. From the article: Experts agree on another thing teens need in order to cope: Getting at least nine hours of sleep a night can help in regulating emotions and reducing anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. Still, the reality is that many busy students tout their sleep deficits like a badge of honor. Part of the reason the teens are not getting the nine hours of sleep a night (for me — would love to get seven hours; but when I have a rehearsal that goes to 10:00pm and I have to be at work at 6:00am – sorry…went to me again (wink / sarcasm)… is because part of their time is spent in their “cyber world!” The constant need to know what is going on. How can any human at any age wind down from being in the “cyber world” right before he / she goes to sleep?
I know that I have increased your stress level by reading this blog. I will start to wrap it up. I would like to figure out how to teach our teenager to “own their stress.” Stress is part of life. M. Scott Peck: Life is difficult. To continue to be intellectually dishonest with our teens that their stress is not on them is wrong. All of us create our stress. I am sincere when I write: Writing this blog is stressing me out because I will have people upset at me because I believe the students need to own their stress and stop blaming others or moments for their stress.
“So, Paul, how are going to deal with the stress you just created by writing a controversial blog that states, “it’s up to the students to learn that they create their stress?” I am going to pray, have quiet time, love my family, and accept the responsibility that I created the stress. I wrote this blog. I took the risk in telling the world: STRESS IS YOUR CREATION! I created my stress. Now, I need to accept that responsibility of creating the stress and be ready to be hurt / challenged / ridiculed / criticized.
I love my students. I will do all I can to work with them — through their stress and I love them enough, as you do too, to remind them: EVERY CHOICE YOU MAKE IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. Take a breath and realize that all of us are a result of our decisions / choices. Sometimes we make the correct decision or choice and then … sometimes we don’t. And when we don’t, we are one of billions of people who made an incorrect decision or choice. It’s okay to make a mistake. It’s okay to fail. You get stressed out because…get ready … you chose to stress out. It is rough…a stress-free life in itself is stressful. God bless you and do all you can (walk; sleep; quiet time; hug a cat; color; pray; etc.) to accept and deal with your stress. In twenty-seven years of teaching teenagers and when they (parents) want to be involved, worked with their parents: THAT IS STRESSFUL and I love it!