Sunday, July 15, 2007

Coping In Bureaucracies as a Special Education Teacher

Despite the current trend toward school-based decision making, many schools remain bureaucratic organizations where teachers have little control over major decisions in their environments and frequently work in isolation (Skrtic, 1991). Further, with increasing demands to be accountable, teachers' work is becoming more intense, leaving many teachers feeling emotionally exhausted (Hargreaves, 1994). Thus, in school bureaucracies, teachers may become stressed by role overload and lack of autonomy.

Additionally, since the focus of teachers' efforts is to help students, many teachers enter special education because of their desire to help children and youth. While the desire to help others can lead to strong student-teacher relationships and can provide teachers with commitment to education, this same desire can also make it difficult for teachers to leave their work at the schoolhouse door. In fact, professionals who are empathic, sympathetic, dedicated, idealistic, and people-oriented are vulnerable to experiencing excessive stress (Cherniss, 1980; Pines, Aronson & Kafry, 1981), particularly when they face the multitude of problems that students with disabilities present. Although special education teachers have many reasons to feel stressed, they can more effectively deal with stress by using specific strategies. As such, the following suggestions are provided to help teachers manage their stress levels.

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