You must take the bull by the horns
Writing about stress in teaching is a delicate business. Some authors prescribe group discussion, assertive discipline schemes and the like, but basically they believe the source of the stress lies with the individual teacher. Others see the problem originating outside the individual at an organisational or even national scale. The blame is attached to school management, politicians, society or even the way pupils today seem so different from those in the past. These approaches can leave you feeling more helpless, and more stressed, than when you started.
William Rogers has produced a book which manages to avoid any of these common pitfalls. The author is a Australian former teacher who came to the UK to undertake research on teacher stress in 1988. Since then he has worked as a consultant and trainer on the issue. The book reflects what Rogers has found successful on his own courses and it is written with that touch of pragmatism with which teachers will at once identify. In places it is idiosyncratic - Rogers even draws his own cartoons - but, as a brief, practical, jargon-free guide to making one's work more acceptable, it makes excellent reading.
Above all else, it is realistic. It isn't sentimental about pupils and the advice on dealing with what Rogers calls the "reputation class" or "reputation individual" could be put into practice straight away.
Rogers first analyses managing yourself and pupils, with the emphasis on thinking about how to take control of situations. The second section focuses on how the whole school environment could be made more supportive of the individual teacher, who is often operating in relative isolation. The final chapter on staff development underlines the responsibility that senior management have for sustaining a climate within the school which actively reduces, rather than increases, the amount of stress that teachers experience. Rogers concludes that "we live in a marginally sane world". Blaming others or moaning that life shouldn't be like this will not help us cope.
The author's humane and realistic ideas are about dealing with the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. As such, this book has the potential to make our working lives more meaningful and hopefully more enjoyable.
The writer is deputy headteacher of Varndean School, Brighton.