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You probably had a wonderful, relaxing summer vacation. Weeks of hanging out with your best friends and other seasoned international school teachers around the world can truly be most stressless time of the year.
It is exciting and fun to get back to school though and catch up with your colleagues (or get to know the new ones). Even when the kids start and lessons begin, there is still a good feeling in the air.
But after this honeymoon period of 2-4 weeks, the stress starts to creep in for at least some international school teachers.
So many factors come into play that might cause stress. Maybe the administration has some back-to-school initiatives and some new demands for the teaching staff that are overwhelming the staff. Maybe some of your students’ parents have been filling your inbox with messages that require prompt replies as you are also preparing the next day’s lessons. Maybe even you are meeting with your new teaching team and the discussions aren’t going so smoothly about how you plan be working together this year as everyone appears to have slightly different working styles.
And the list of stress-inducing factors goes on and on…with no real solution in sight.
On the positive side, many staff at international schools do work hard to try and reduce the stress levels of its staff. During the teacher inservice days, some international schools are, for example, taking some time to run whole staff yoga/breathing/stretching sessions. Taking a moment to meditate and connect to your inner-self can truly be a good daily practice to incorporate.
Other international schools cater a back-to-school BBQ for the whole staff during the first few weeks of schools. Relaxing, eating and chatting with your colleagues in such a way can really create the right climate for a more relaxing environment at work.
International schools should be mindful of planning in these types of things to help reduce stress in staff. Not just at the beginning of the school year, but maybe throughout. Additionally, it is important for staff to keep a health work/life balance as well when school is in session. “All work and no play….”
The big question always though is “what would a dream school do?” Is there such a thing as a stress-free life for a teacher working at an international school? Some schools are getting it right it seems, so it is definitely possible to reduce at least some level of stress.
Using the ISC’s unique Comment Search feature (premium access required), we found 58 comments that have the keyword stress in it. Some international schools have good news to share about how they helping teachers to reduce their stress. Other schools are struggling to achieve similar results. Here are just a few of the comment results:
“SLT mean well, but it’s gone past the point where it’s possible to get morale back to where it should be. Most teachers are fed up, stressed and over-worked.” – Smart Vision School (41 total comments)
“With the hiring of the new Lower Primary Principal and Associate Principal, morale has completely turned around in this division (K1, K2, G1, G2). So much is happening to create a positive and happy atmosphere. Many teacher requests to alleviate their stress/work load have been honored (less ad-on activities, meetings…just a reduction to the overall schedule). Also, once a month principals do an activity with an entire grade level so teachers can have that time to meet, or do work. (The kids also really know the principals). Once a month, principals host a gathering on a Friday after school. Whenever, this division has had a particularly busy day or week, our Principal stops by our rooms to check in and tell us to ‘go home’. 🙂 Let’s hope the morale can improve schoolwide.” – Hong Kong International School (136 total comments)
“It’s a true non-profit school. Board is not breathing down your neck. In some ways, it’s quite relaxed (no one is inspecting your lessons, usually.) In others ways, there’s unnecessary stress (poor communication, some teaching loads piled too high.)” – Berlin Brandenburg International School (80 total comments)
“There are 2 days for new teachers to attend at the beginning of the school year, before the other staff return. Given the complexities of the school, this is inadequate and can be a stressful experience for new staff. There are no social niceties or outings organised for new staff, who basically are expected to hit the ground running.” – College du Leman – International School (85 total comments)
“This is one of the biggest stressors at the school. The finance department can be very demanding and expects all forms to be filled out perfectly. It is not uncommon for teachers to have to fill out reimbursement forms multiple times, including getting signatures from 3-4 different admins depending on what is being reimbursed. Get used to hearing the term ‘fapiao’ used a lot. If you don’t have the correct one you won’t get reimbursed. It usually ends up working out for teachers, but the process can be quite rough.” – UWC Changshu China (38 total comments)