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The experience of stress in high school teachers: appraisals of threat McGillivray, Laurie M. 1993

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THE EXPERIENCE OF STRESS IN HIGHSCHOOL TEACHERS: APPRAISALS OF THREATbyLAURIE M. MCGILLIVRAYB.A., University of Manitoba, 1982A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES(Department of Counselling Psychology)We accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA 1993June 1993© Laurie M. McGillivray, 1993DateDepartment ofThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaIn presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.DE-6 (2/88)iiAbstractThe purpose of this study was to expand ourunderstanding of the meaning of work-related stress,from the perspective of high school teachers, with afocus on threat appraisals.Data were collected through in-depth interviewswith a volunteer sample of 8 high school teachers (5men and 3 women). Background information was alsorecorded based on previous research and theories ofteacher stress. The initial interview focused on aschool-related situation that the teacher considered tobe stressful, and which had occurred in the previous 2weeks. In the second interview the teacher was askedto confirm or disconfirm the researcher's basicunderstanding of the story's themes and to clarify andexpand on specific statements.I analysed transcripts verbatim in order to allowthe meaning units to emerge from the data.^Dataanalysis followed Giorgi's (1975) steps for qualitativeanalysis. The eight themes that emerged were: (a) theexperience of conflict, with a subtheme of innerconflict; (b) the experience of power, with thesubtheme of control; (c) the experience of anger andfrustration; (d) the experience of autonomy; (e) theiiiexperience of role conflict; (f) the experience ofsupport; (g) the experience of efficacy, and (h) theexperience of workload pressure.The second part of the analysis involved askingthe data a question (Alexander, 1988). The focus wason finding threat appraisals and determining what wasat stake for the teacher (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984).All participants showed evidence of threat (and loss)appraisals related to the common themes. There wereindividual differences in terms of what was at stakeand in terms of the dominance of particular commonthemes. However, the dominant appraisals forindividuals did relate to the common themes.The results of this study indicate that teachersexperience similar stressors but that what is appraisedas threatening for individuals differs in three ways:(a) different themes are dominant for individuals, (b)appraisals of threat (and loss) weave throughout commonthemes in unique individual patterns, and (c) for aparticular theme, what is at stake is unique to theindividual.The implications of this research are thatteaching and stress must be understood at an individualand a systemic level in order for effective copingivstrategies to be found. In addition to the commonstressors within the profession, there is an appraisalprocess that involves personal meanings interactingwith that environment. It is incumbant upon theteaching and counselling professions to assist teachersin raising awareness of the existence and interactivenature of these components, in order for personalresources to be more adequately accessed andappropriate coping strategies found.vTABLE OF CONTENTSAbstract^ iiTable of Contents^ vAcknowledgements viiiIntroduction^ 1Purpose of the Study^ 2Research Question 3Background^ 4Theoretical perspective^ 5Burnout^ 6The teaching environment^ 7Theoretical Framework^ 9Review of Related Literature 16Stress and the Environment^ 16Stress: Personal Characteristics,Roles and Gender^ 18Stress and Coping 20Stress and Perception^ 21Stress and Research Methods^ 25Summary and Study Rationale 28viMethod^ 32Assumptions^ 34Pilot Interview 38Participant Selection^ 40Data Collection^ 42Data Analysis 43Presentation of the Findings^ 49Background of the Participants^ 49Description of the Themes 61The Experience of Conflict^ 64The Experience of Autonomy 73The Experience of Role Conflict^ 78The Experience of Anger and Frustration^ 82The Experience of Efficacy^ 86The Experience of Power 90The Experience of Support^ 99The Experience of Workload Pressure^ 103Appraisals^ 107The Essential Structure of Teacher Stress^ 134Summary^ 137viiDiscussion^ 139Themes and Appraisals^ 139Further Theoretical Considerations^ 142Ancillary Findings^ 143Limitations of the Study^ 144Significance of the Study 147Implications for Research^ 147Implications for Intervention 149Implications for Teacher Education^ 151Conclusion^ 152References^ 154Appendix A. Interview Format^ 159Appendix B. Background Information (form) ^ 163Appendix C. Letter of Information^ 165Appendix D. Consent Form^ 167Appendix E. Background Information (results) ^ 169viiiAcknowledgementsI would like to express my appreciation to theteachers who took time from their busy schedules totalk about their experiences of stress. I would liketo thank my thesis supervisor, Dr. B. Long, for hersupport and many hours of time, giving feedback andguidance. To the members of my committee: Dr. R. Youngand Dr. D. Kelly I give my appreciation for theirvalued contributions to this project. Thank you to myfriends Helen Orr, Gloria Tiede, and Lois Armerding fortheir belief in me, and their greatly valued supportduring this process.IntroductionTeaching has been pinpointed as a profession inwhich the negative effects of stress and "burnout" areof concern (Mcguire, 1979; Shaw, Keiper, & Flaherty,1985). According to the literature many aspects ofteaching have been identified as stressful (Finlay-Jones, 1986; Laughlin, 1984). If the assumption ismade that teaching is stressful, it is still not clearwhy individuals are affected differently within theprofession. In order to begin to understand individualexperiences of stress in the context of the teachingprofession, we must look at the meaning thatindividuals make of their experiences.This study was designed to explore the experienceof stress as it emerged from individual teachers'stories. The impetus for this study came from myexperience working with teachers who identifiedthemselves as "stressed" or "burned out". I wascurious about what these phrases meant and concernedfor colleagues who were on long-term disability"because of stress". Clearly there is a differencebetween a busy day when one feels "stressed" butreturns to work the next day refreshed, and the painfulexperiences that result in a need to take an extended1period of time from work. In addition, "stress" hasbecome a popular term on which to blame a varietyunpleasant experiences, so it was my goal to gain agreater understanding of what this phenomena called"stress" means to high school teachers.A strong influence in the design of this studycomes from the work of Compas and Orosan (1993) whostudied the experience of stress from the perspectiveof cancer patients. They integrated stress and copingtheory in a phenomenological approach in order tounderstand what aspects of the experience of cancerwere stressful. They found that although cancer isagreed by many to be a stressful experience, variousaspects of the experience affect individualsdifferently.Purpose of the StudyThe purpose of this study was to inquire into theexperience of stress in high school classroom teachers.Given the previous research related to stress andteaching, high school classroom teachers were chosen inan effort to keep the focus on individual experiencewithin a common environment. The second reason tochoose high school teachers related to my ownexperience as a high school teacher.2My personal goals in doing the study relate towanting to develop more effective ways to approachstress-related problems. Many current stressmanagement programs may be ineffective because stressis generally poorly defined and poorly understood. Inworking as a teacher and therefore working withteachers, it would be of great benefit to know morespecifically what stress is and what it is not, and toeventually develop effective coping patterns that arefunctionally appropriate to the experience of stress inthe schools.Though my personal goals are beyond the scope ofthis study, I expected that the information gatheredregarding individual experiences of stress wouldprovide direction for further study in this area.The third aspect of the study was to examine theteachers' experiences of stress, and compare it toLazarus and Folkman's (1984) theory of stress in orderto enhance the understanding of stress in the teachingenvironment.Research QuestionThe guiding question for this research was: Whatdoes it mean when a teacher says he/she is stressed,and what does he/she perceive as being at stake? The3only assumption implicit in the actual question posedwas that stress is associated with distress (i.e.,negative affect). The participants were asked to"describe one experience (of stress)" and to tell it(like a story) with "as much detail as possible,especially as it relates to how you thought, felt, andbehaved" (see Appendix A).A second question was asked of the data as asecondary analysis. Alexander (1988) identified astrategy for analysis which, after allowing the data toreveal itself the researcher would then pose a specificquestion of that data. The question in this studyrelated to Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) theory. Thisquestion was "In what ways, if at all, can theteacher's described experience of stress be understoodin terms of Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) theory,particularly as it relates to the concept of perceivedthreat?"BackgroundDuring the 1970s teachers in the United Statesbegan leaving the profession in increasing numbers(McGuire, 1979). One article reported that the lifeexpectancy of teachers in the United States was fouryears lower than the national average, and that4teachers filed more medical insurance claims than otherprofessionals (Shaw et al., 1985). These concernsprompted investigations into the teaching environment.Many different definitions of stress and burnout havebeen used in studying this phenomenon, which makessummarizing the literature difficult. Farber (1991)also made a distinction between teacher stress andburnout, and went on to describe three types of teacherburnout: (a) worn-out teachers (b) frenetic teachers,and (c) underchallenged teachers. In addition, fewstudies have been solidly grounded in theory and themany methodologies that have been used have beencriticized (see Hiebert, 1985). Moreover, theliterature relating to teaching and stress isextensive.Theoretical perspective. Stress has been definedfrom several theoretical perspectives (e.g., Cherniss,1980; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Selye, 1974, 1976).Because Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) stress andappraisal theory is comprehensive and is considered themost frequently cited theory, I have used theirdefinition of psychological stress to guide thisresearch. The definition of stress is "a particularrelationship between the person and the environment5that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceedinghis or her resources and endangering his or her well-being" (Lazarus & Folkman, p. 19). The theory iscognitive phenomenological in the way it details theappraisal process, and therefore has a framework thatis congruent with a phenomenological study. Thisallows a logical transition from the phenomenologicalanalysis that discovers themes to posing a question ofthe data (Alexander, 1988).A stressor refers to "demands...that may lead to astress reaction" (Carpenter, 1992).Burnout. The term "burnout" was coined byFreudenberger (1977). Although it has become popularto use this term, it is difficult to determine exactlywhat is meant. Freudenburger described "burnout" asemotional and physical exhaustion existing in somehuman service personnel. Maslach and Jackson (1981)operationalized the construct and defined it as havingthree specific components: emotional exhaustion,depersonalization, and personal accomplishment inrelation to work. Because Maslach's instrument is usedmost frequently in the literature (e.g., Russell,Altmaier, & Van Velzen, 1987; Schwab & Iwanicki, 1982),it is this operational definition of an individual's6state that I refer to as burnout.Considering the definitions of stress and burnoutI have presented, not everyone who is stressed and whoexperiences negative feelings is "burned out." Thisdistinction is important because popular usage of bothterms has blurred the meaning. Burnout may be theresult of chronic and unresolved stress, though thepossible progression is as yet unclear.The teaching environment. In terms of theteaching environment, the high school situation issignificantly different from the elementary situation.A high school teacher (also referred to as secondaryteacher) in British Columbia has different educationalrequirements than an elementary teacher. According tothe B.C. College of Teachers, "Applicants preparing forassignment at the grade 8-12 level must have completeda minimum of 70% of their studies in faculties otherthan a Faculty of Education. These studies must be infields of knowledge that are compatible with thecurriculum expectations of B. C. secondary schools andin sufficient depth to ensure an appropriate knowledgeand understanding of the subject...Applicants areencouraged to have a degree program with academic workin two teachable subject areas plus a teaching methods7course in each subject" (Information for applicants,1993). Part of what this means is that high schoolteachers have a fairly narrow focus in specific subjectareas. High school teachers are therefore less likelyto teach one grade level than several grade levels. Itis more likely they will teach across grades and teachin two or three subject areas. It is possible, andlikely, that a teacher must prepare several differentcourses within each subject area.It should be noted that the secondary system,because of the above organizational structure, requiresthat a teacher have several classes ranging from 16-35students with the average class size being around 25.The implications of this are that teachers interactdaily with 100-200 students or more.Another aspect related to focusing on specificsubject areas is the existence of departments. Withina high school there will be, for example, an Englishdepartment, a Science department, and so on. Eachdepartment has a department head. The head of thedepartment is a regular classroom teacher who iselected for at least one year to perform a semi-administrative role in addition to teaching duties.An additional point related to secondary teaching8is that the developmental challenges of students arequite different from those facing elementary teachers(Clifford, 1981). This is not to say one is more orless difficult. Issues related to learning,discipline, and extra curricular involvement forexample, take on different meanings.Theoretical Framework Little is known about the extent to which themeaning that teachers make of their situationinfluences the impact of a stressor. Benner (1984)studied stressor meanings for mid-career men andfollowed the early theoretical work of Richard Lazarus.She argued for the importance of background meanings indetermining whether or not an individual's perceptionof an event was stressful. Benner viewed "meaning as apreexistent whole that is greater than the sum of itsparts" (p.4) which has personal and culturalcomponents. She found that "background meaningsinfluence what is experienced as stressful and whatcoping options are available to the person" (p.168).She used a qualitative phenomenological method to studythe meanings of the mid-career men, in order tounderstand further the interaction between meanings andstress and coping processes.9Lazarus and Folkman (1984) proposed a theoreticalmodel to explain stress, coping, and adaptation. Thetheory explains the relationship between environmentalstressors and immediate and long-term effects or theresolution of a stressful encounter. The cognitiveprocess they call appraisal "goes beyond immediate andindeliberate cognitive-affective responses" (p. 26).Lazarus and Folkman label parts of the process asprimary appraisal, secondary appraisal, andreappraisal. The basic process is one in which anindividual categorizes an encounter with "respect toits significance for well-being" (p. 31).There are three possible primary appraisals:irrelevant, benign-positive, and stressful. For thepurpose of this study, I am concerned with eventsappraised as stressful that Lazarus and Folkman (1984)further categorize as: harm/loss, threat, andchallenge. All three of these categories are stressappraisals, but not all categories are associated withnegative feelings.Lazarus and Folkman (1984) describe a harm/lossstress appraisal as likely if:some damage to the person has already beensustained, as in an incapacitating injury or1 0illness, recognition of some damage to self- orsocial-esteem, or loss of a loved or valuedperson. Threat concerns harms or losses that havenot yet taken place but are anticipated. Evenwhen a harm/loss has occurred, it is always fusedwith threat because every loss is also pregnantwith negative implications for the future. Forexample, if there is a loss of self-esteem in agiven situation, the individual may anticipatemore such loss if a similar situation were tooccur again, thus there is both loss and threatinvolved. The primary adaptational significanceof threat, as distinguished from harm/loss, isthat it permits anticipatory coping (pp. 32 -33).A stress appraisal of threat is accompanied bysuch feelings as anxiety, fear, and anger.A stress appraisal of challenge requires copingefforts as well, but gains are anticipated for thefuture and the process is accompanied by pleasurableemotions. Although threat and challenge are quitedifferent, they can occur at the same time.Lazarus and Folkman (1984) point out thatchallenged persons "probably have advantages overeasily threatened people in morale, quality of11functioning, and somatic health" (p. 34). Theimplication is that a challenged person may be moreable to use available coping resources possibly becauseof the absence of negative emotions (e.g., fear, worry,anxiety). Lazarus and Folkman also speculate that thephysiological stress response may be qualitativelydifferent.After or simultaneous to primary appraisal, thereis an evaluation of the situation that Lazarus andFolkman label as secondary appraisal.^This is anappraisal of the availability and effectiveness ofcoping options. The primary appraisal of what is atstake interacts with the secondary appraisal adding tothe complexity of the process.The third aspect of this transactional process isreapraissal. This is the same process as appraisalonly the appraisal may change because new informationis available. Defensive reappraisal is different inthat it is an attempt to reinterpret the event in morepositive light and in a less threatening way. Thedisinction between defensive reappraisal andreappraisal is that defensive reappraisals are "self-generated; they arise from needs within the personrather than from environmental pressures" (p. 38). The12significance of defensive reappraisal regarding stressis as yet unknown.As Lazarus and Folkman (1984) point out, cognitiveappraisal is the "subjective interpretation of atransaction [and therefore] is phenomenological" (p.46). The study of appraisal is aimed at understandingthis subjective experience. However, this does notnecessarily minimize the influence of the environment.An individual's ability to appraise and copeeffectively does not rest solely on the individual asmany stressful situations require social orinstitutional change in order for coping efforts to beeffective.It is not my intention in conducting this study tosuggest that the individual assume all responsibilityfor the effects of stress. Previous literature hasidentified various stressors in the teachingenvironment, and it is my assumption that there arestressful situations that may require institutionalchange. This is not always immediately possible.Meanwhile, teachers are in specific contexts that areexperienced differently by individuals. In order tounderstand appraisal fully, which according to thetheory is significant in employing effective coping13efforts, a study of teachers' personal meanings mayreveal common themes, threats, or losses associatedwith negative affect, and, given the context couldprove useful in assisting teachers to understand andcope with stress.Once a stressor is perceived, an individual makesa series of judgments and choices in response to theenvironment. The choices one makes are the ways ofcoping. Coping process is not viewed, therefore, as anevent, but as a series of judgments and choices, whichinteract with the environment to create new conditionsrequiring new evaluations and choices. The judgments,or appraisal process, mediate the event and the copingresponses.Resources, according to Lazarus and Folkman(1984), are one's "health and energy (a physicalresource), positive beliefs (a psychological resource),and problem-solving and social skills (competencies)"(p. 159). These aspects of one's person form the basisfor evaluating environmental events.In this study, secondary teachers were asked toreport a recent work-related stressful experience. Iassumed that although cultural values, physical health,and personal resources would interact with the14appraisal process, a self-selected stressful situationwould reveal appraisals of threat and/or loss. Theseappraisals have a significant role to play in personalmeanings and the negative emotions associated withwork-related stressors.15Review of Related LiteratureOne of the problems inherent to understandingstress, is that individuals can react differently tothe same stressor. A recent Canadian study (King &Peart, 1992) found that 17% of the teachers studiedscored in a high stress category. Differences werefound relating to, for example, grades taught, coursestaught, as well as perceived support particularly fromprincipals. Although this points to some environmentalcircumstances commonly found to be stressful, it doesnot account for individual differences. If theenvironment is stressful, why is it that "only" 17% arehighly stressed. The literature on stress in teachinghas focused primarily, though not exclusively, onenvironmental stressors.Stress and the environment. Although variousteaching-related events and situations have beenidentified as stressors, there is little consistency inthe literature regarding the most common stressors.For example, Finlay-Jones (1986) found that studentmisbehavior, efficacy, relationships with colleagues,and time pressures were listed as the most stressfulissues for Australian secondary teachers. Laughlin(1984) showed that there were differences between16primary and secondary teachers, and that the importanceof stressors changed with age and teaching experience.At the secondary level, student recalcitrance was aproblem, but this was not the main concern of primaryteachers (Laughlin, 1984). However, Shaw et al. (1985)did not find that student misbehavior was the majorstressor. Notification of unsatisfactory performance,involuntary transfer, and threats of personal injurywere the top three stressors for teachers sampled fromall grade levels. Litt and Turk (1985) found thatteachers who have 5 to 15 years of experience werestressed by inadequate salaries and low status, but didnot even mention student misbehavior. Class size ismentioned in some studies as problematic (Der, 1980;King & Peart, 1992; Russel et al., 1987).Six factors related to teacher stress, whichincluded all grade levels, were found in the recentCanadian study (King & Peart, 1992). The first was,Workload and Time Demands, which was divided into: (a)out-of-school preparation, (b) class size, and (c)split grades. The remaining five were: Lack ofRecognition and Support from Administrators, StudentBehavior, Status in the Community, and GovernmentPolicies and Policy Implementation.17It should be noted that because studies areconducted in different countries, regions, cities, andso on; it would be expected that the teachingenvironments would be different, and therefore that thestressors would be different. It was found in Canada,for example, that job satisfaction levels for teachersvaried from province to province (King & Peart, 1992)with B.C. scoring fourth lowest. They also found thatthe highest stress group by community size was incities of 300,000 or more. Although this could accountfor some of the discrepency in the literature, it doesnot account for why different individuals feel stressedby different events (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984).Stress: Personal characteristics, roles, andgender. Recently researchers have investigatedconcepts such as locus of control (Capel, 1987;McIntyre, 1984), role conflict and ambiguity (Capel,1987; Schwab & Iwanicki, 1982), the role of variousschool principal behaviors (Blase, 1984), personalitydispositions (Holt, Fine, & Tollefson, 1987), studentbehavior (Bacharach, Bauer, & Conley, 1986), and typesof coping behaviors (Dewe, 1985). Holt et al. (1987)found that factors such as marital status werecorrelated with burnout (i.e., married teachers18reported less stress), and that personalitycharacteristics may be related to resistance toburnout.Harris, Halpin, and Halpin (1985) reported greaterstress among authoritarian teachers compared withhumanistic teachers, and that more male teachers tendedto be authoritarian. Laughlin (1984) found that juniorhigh teachers reported the greatest stress with regardto pupil recalcitrance, and that teachers in theirmiddle career years were most concerned withprofessional recognition. He also found that womenreported more stress from pupil recalcitrance, and thatmen reported more stress from curriculum demands.Greenglass, Burke, and Ondrack (1990) found that menscored higher on the depersonalization scale of theMaslach Burnout Inventory (Maslach & Jackson, 1981)than women, and that men who have children report thegreatest amount of stress. Other studies haveindicated that social support may mediate stressfulsituations (Russell et al., 1987) and the role ofsupervisors and principals has also been found to besignificant (Bacharach et al., 1986; King & Peart,1992).This body of research has begun to clarify19differences that intitially appear unrelated to theenvironment. At the same time, it points to a varietyof variables that may interact with each other (e.g.,locus of control, gender). What it clearly showshowever, are significant factors or differences thatexist apart from the environment itself. This is notto suggest they exist as entities without relationshipto the environment.Stress and coping. With regard to teachers'coping strategies, Dewe (1985) reviewed a variety ofstategies from different theoretical orientations andidentified 10 strategies that were commonly used. Ofthese he classified six as "direct action strategies"and four as "palliatives" (e.g., minimization,positive-comparisons). He found that the palliativestrategies were "more specific to individualcharacteristics and school environments" (p. 34). Dewe(1984) concludes, based on Folkman's (1982) work, that"coping depends on how we appraise the situation, andit appears likely that the more control we perceive wehave over it, the more likely we are to use problem-solving (direct-action) strategies. If the situationis appraised as offering little or no control, then itis more likely that palliative coping will be20initiated" (p. 39).The Lazarus and Folkman (1984) model provides atheoretical framework for identifying coping patternsbut does not assume that certain coping efforts aremore effective than others. It is not at all clear howteachers' coping efforts, perceived stressful events,and a resulting experience of distress interrelate.Although it is not the intention of this study to focusspecifically on coping strategies, it is important tokeep in mind that coping efforts influence theappraisal process in a reciprocal manner.Stress and perception. A recent study hasaddressed the question of cognitive appraisal andperceived threat from the experience of having cancerand how the meaning of the illness varies for differentindividuals (Compas & Orosan, 1993). Compas and Orosanposit that one's sense of self is what effects theindividual's experience in addition to the threat ofdeath, pain, or loss of physical abilities.A study done with teachers who were on long termdisability has shown that stressed teachers wentthrough several stages that included changes to thesense of self and the loss of hope (Jevne & Zingle,1992). In Jevne and Zingle's study the loss of hope21was a key factor that was significantly associated withdistress. This study was extensive, combiningqualitative and quantitative research methods. Thequalitative aspect focused primarily on teachers whowere already on long term disability (LTD), andexamined the phases of the experience as well as theprocess of reintegrating into the system. The goal ofthat study was to develop an understanding of theexperience of long term disability. The first phasedescribed was: Recognizing I'm in Trouble. Thisprocess was either "sudden" or "insidious". "If onsetwas insidious, teachers describe[d] four processes thatlead to phase two: denying the signs, coming toacknowledge the symptoms, feeling less, and makingefforts to continue" (p. 6). The second phase was`Making the Transition to Long Term Disability'.Although there is a great wealth of informationgathered from this study, one can only speculate abouthow highly stressed teachers would compare to the groupon LTD. Jevne and Zingle state that there is a fineline between health and illness and support the viewthat personality traits do not account for illness.Although the study points to a continuum of stress toillness (burnout) this question is not adequately22answered because the study implies that everyone ismore or less at equal risk.Kahn (1990) investigated how the sense of self or"personal selves" becomes engaged or disengaged fromwork role performances. He found through twoqualitative studies that personal engagement wasconnected to higher levels of psychologicalmeaningfulness. The more meaningful the work the moreengaged employees were in their work. However,emotional resources were needed to meet the demands ofpersonal engagement. Kahn also found that "insecuritydistracted members from bringing their selves intotheir work; it generated anxiety that occupied energiesthat would have otherwise been translated into personalengagements" (p. 715). Although Kahn was studyingcounsellors and architects rather than teachers, hiswork is relevant because what emerged, among otherthings, was the identification of three psychologicalconditions that influence personal engagement ordisengagement at work. Kahn assumed that "workcontexts, mediated by people's perceptions, create theconditions in which they personally engage anddisengage" (p. 695). In relation to the teachingprofession, this engagement/disengagement theory could23explain part of the process that leads to poorprofessional functioning. The mediation of personalperceptions could be compared to Lazarus and Folkman's(1984) theory of the appraisal process. Disengagingcould be viewed as a way of coping that mediates thenegative effects of stress.A similar concept was explored in terms ofCherniss' (1980) model of career orientations. Burkeand Greenglass (1988) used Cherniss's four careerorientations to investigate which group of teacherswould more frequently have higher levels of burnout asmeasured by Cherniss's definition of burnout and theMaslach Burnout Inventory (Maslach & Jackson, 1981).They found that teachers who fit into the SocialActivist orientation reported greater burnout. Thisgroup wanted to do more than help individuals, theywanted to transform the profession and they placed moreimportance on these factors than on personal securityor status (Burke & Greenglass, 1988, pp. 113-114).Similar to Jevne and Zingle's (1992) study, loss ofhope was identified as a significant factor in theprocess of burnout.Anderson and Iwanicki (1984) studied differentneed deficiencies (security, social, esteem, autonomy,24self-actualization). They used the Porter NeedsSatisfaction Questionnaire (Porter, 1961), which wasadapted by Trusty and Sergiovanni (1966) for use inschools. They found that young teachers had greateresteem deficiences and that males had higher social,esteem, autonomy, and self-actualization deficienciesthan women. The stress that teachers experienced wasrelated to the needs that were not filled at differentpoints in their career. Although needs are differentfrom ideals, an individual's interaction with theenvironment could explain in part how ideals aremaintained, lost, or compromised, and how needs are orare not met.Stress and research methods. Several authorscriticize the research findings on teacher stressbecause they are either based on poor methodology orlack empirical data. For example, in a review of theliterature, Hiebert and Farber (1984) concluded thatthere was very little empirical support for the claimthat teaching was more stressful than otheroccupations. They categorized the literature accordingto statements of personal opinion, self-reportquestionnaires, and third party observation (e.g.,doctor's reports). A variety of stressors emerged from25this literature including staff interpersonalinteractions, working conditions, time pressures, roleambiguity and conflicts, and inadequate teacherpreparation. Although Hiebert and Farber questionedthe validity of self-report appraisals of stress, itwas clear that the teaching environment containedelements that were experienced as stressful, andwhether or not teaching was more stressful than otheroccupations, teachers expressed significant concerns.In addition, an important study by Kyriacou andPratt (1985) found a positive relationship betweenself-reported stress in teachers and anxiety, andsomatic and depressive symptoms. Furthermore, if oneaccepts the Lazarus and Folkman (1984) model, it wouldbe important to study the stress appraisal process(i.e., the subjective experience) and to account forindividual differences. Therefore, one can notdiscount the validity of self-reported stress.Most studies of teacher stress have been done inthe elementary schools in large urban areas. Otherstudies have investigated teaching staffs in highschools and community colleges, or have used studentteachers as respondents. This latter group inparticular may have very little in common with26established professionals. Still other studies grouptogether teachers in the public school system, and makelittle differentiation between the elementary andsecondary school environment. Studies that have lookedat different subgroups of teachers have found, forexample, that there is greater emotional exhaustionamong younger teachers and those who teach largeclasses, and that male and secondary teachers reporthigher depersonalization or emotional detachmentespecially from students (Russell et al., 1987). Thus,the generalizability of findings from one teacherpopulation to another is questionable.Although events and circumstances that may bestressful for teachers can be identified, and we canmeasure certain emotional and attitudinal positions,very little research has been done that takes intoaccount the relationship between the individual and theenvironment. Theoretical perspectives regarding theindividual, or the individual and environment fit havebeen considered, but these theories do not seek todescribe the individual process that interprets andresponds to the environment in light of specificappraisals.Dewe (1992a, 1992b) did not study teachers, but he27argues in his study that context is of utmostimportance in understanding stress, and that in orderto tap the interactive process of stressors andindividual meanings, that qualitative methodologiesmust be used (alone or in combination with quantitativemethodologies). Dewe designed his study to focus oncoping, and in that process analysed the meaning ofprimary appraisals as an essential component.Summary and Study Rationale Research indicates that there are specificenvironmental stressors in the teaching profession.From Holt et al. (1987), we know that teachers areprone to burnout if they are idealistic and in Jevneand Zingle's (1992) study we see that when teacherslose hope and meaning, they are at high risk of burnoutand at risk for long term disability. From studiesdone in non-teaching environments (Benner, 1984; Compas& Orosan, 1993) we know that the appraisal process iskey in understanding what is threatened uponencountering environmental stressors.Studying teachers before their functioning isseverely impaired may yield information that could helpreduce stress and prevent disability from occurring.As Jevne and Zingle's (1992) study has shown, impaired28functioning is a stage among other stages in a process.Therefore, if we can understand what goes on at apersonal level in the experience of stress, we may beable to increase our understanding of what is needed atan individual level when stress is experienced as athreat (and/or loss).According to Lazarus and Folkman (1984) thesubjective experience of stress includes threats tovarious personal/occupational needs. Although theorieshave identified basic human needs (Glasser, 1984;Maslow, 1977), people go about meeting these needs indifferent ways. I expect that if an individualperceives that needs are threatened at work or if workinterferes with getting these needs met, the appraisalprocess will include negative affect (anxiety, anger,fear), which are the emotions associated with stress(threat). Burnout is typically characterized by a lackof feeling (Jevne & Zingle, 1992; Maslach & Jackson,1981).I am not suggesting that one must simplyreappraise events in order to reduce stress, but I amsuggesting that in order to effectively mediatestressful encounters, it is necessary to know what isthreatening to an individual. Compas and Orosan (1993)29studied the experience of having cancer as a stressorand they found that it was stressful for individualsfor different reasons. One cannot effectively assistteachers if appraisals are not understood.Therefore, there is a need to study cognitiveappraisals from a phenomenological perspectivespecifically focusing on threat appraisals in order tounderstand further the experience of teacher stress.It would be equally interesting and useful to explorethe process of a challenge appraisal, because challengeis still dealing with stress and could lead to usefulinformation as well; however that is beyond the scopeof this study.In terms of the teacher population, this studyfocuses on secondary teachers. In part this is anarbitrary decision as no literature identifies thisgroup as more "stressed" than any other. In fact, Kingand Peart (1992) identified the most highly stressedgroup of teachers to be teachers of grades four to six.However, the literature does indicate that differentteaching environments are significantly different intheir impact on the experience of stress (Laughlin,1984). Therefore, secondary teachers were the focus ofthis study for the following reasons: (a) the30environment is an important factor in Lazarus andFolkman's (1984) theory and, (b) Tesch (1990) suggeststhat qualitative research should be done in an area offamiliarity to the researcher.The focus of this investigation is on theappraisal process (specifically threat appraisals), andsecondarily to determine what is perceived to be atstake. The appraisal of threat, which ranges fromminimal to the extreme, is "characterized by intensenegative emotion such as fear" (Lazarus & Folkman,1984, p. 167). The level of threat "in turn influencesthe extent to which available resources can be used forcoping" (pp. 168-169). If we can understand what isthreatened or at stake in a stressful situation, thenwe can perhaps understand how this influences usingavailable resources, and then more effective assistancecan be planned for intervention and prevention.31MethodA qualitative research design is particularlyuseful when exploring and describing phenomenon,especially in the context of a participant's frame ofreference (Marshall & Rossman, 1989). The importantaspect of this type of research is to contact the"phenomenon as people experience it" (Colaizzi, 1978,p. 57). The general research question that guided thisresearch was based on this premise. The question was:What does it mean when a teacher says he/she isstressed?Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) stress appraisaltheory is phenomenological in that "cognitive appraisalrests on the individual's subjective interpretation ofa transaction" (p. 46). Because the cognitive appraisalprocess is inherently subjective, objective measureshave been inadequate to tap the meaning of theexperience.A problem that Lazarus and Folkman (1984) identifyis that "phenomenological approaches are inherentlycircular" (p. 53) in that the researcher must infer anappraisal of threat from what is verbalized. Theypoint out, however, that in the appraisal processantecedents and consequences of appraisals can be32identified. This removes the process from an entirelycircular nature as a trigger point can be identified.With regard to teacher stress, quantitativestudies have identified relevant environmentalstressors, but not the individual's experience of thosestressors. Given the limitation of these studies, thenature of phenomenological research, and thephenomenological nature of Lazarus and Folkman's stresstheory, a qualitative/phenomenological methodology wasappropriate for a detailed exploration of the personalmeaning of teacher stress.Giorgi (1975) defines phenomenology as:the study of structure, and the variations ofstructure, of the consciousness to which anything, event, or person appears. It is interestedin elucidating both that which appears and themanner in which it appears, as well as in theoverall structure that relates the 'that which'with its mode or manner (p. 83).In order to allow the experience of a teacher'sstress to emerge, Giorgi's (1975) analytic method wasused to identify themes. As a second step once thisprocess was complete, I posed a question of the data(Alexander, 1988). This question, based on Lazarus and33Folkman's (1984) theory, permitted analysis for threatappraisals and what was at stake for individuals.Assumptions A concern for "rigor" (scientific integrity andexactness) is of importance when qualitative methodsare used (Giorgi, 1978, p. 72). Because the purpose ofqualitative research is to reveal "the meaning of thesituation as it exists for the subject" (p. 74), thebiases and assumptions of the researcher must beexamined as much as possible in order to allow themeaning to emerge. By making biases and perspectivesas explicit as possible, the researcher, according toGiorgi (p.78):is able to communicate to other researchers theattitude that he assumes with respect to hisdescriptions. The point is not so much that otherattitudes cannot be assumed, they can. Rather,the claim is that if any other researcher assumesthe attitude described by the researcher then heshould be able to perceive and understand the samemeanings (Giorgi, p. 78).In addition, by articulating assumptions and thusmaking them known, it is possible to deliberately putthese assumptions aside in a process of "bracketing" in34an effort to reduce the influence of the researcher'sbias.I have identified the following assumptions ofrelevance to this study. The first four are related totheory and the following four are personal assumptionsbased on my experience:I. The experience of stress is the result of aninteraction between the stressor, the environment, andthe individual.2. The individual's past influences the appraisal ofthe present.3. One cannot completely separate past experience andcurrent experience outside the work environment frominfluencing the appraisal process, therefore one mustplace the individual in his or her unique context asmuch as possible.4. Some aspect of threat or loss will be involved in anappraisal of stress that is associated with negativeemotions (e.g., fear, worry).5. Threat appraisals will involve threat to basic needsincluding one's identity (e.g., being a fair person,being a controlled person) and one's sense of self as ateacher (e.g., being an interesting/stimulatingteacher, being an effective teacher).356. An appraisal of harm or loss may be associated withthreat appraisals, but the ambiguity regarding thefuture associated with a threat appraisal is morestressful.7. Teaching is a profession that involves demandingrelationships with many different people on an ongoingbasis. Most stressful situations will have arelational component, which adds to the complexity ofthe appraisal process.8. Teaching is a profession with many varied demandsthat require emotional and creative energy as well asintellectual and physical energy. It also requiresflexibility and willingness to meet new and unexpectedchallenges on a frequent basis. Therefore, theenvironment and expectations of the environment arepotentially stressful.In addition to these assumptions, I have somepersonal expectations based on my experience and onobserving other teachers while I was teaching. Myexpectations relate more to themes than to personalmeanings. One of the main areas I have observedinformally relates to a teacher's sense of control overa situation. The situation may be discipline issues ora heavy workload in which the teacher finds36himself/herself feeling helpless to change or improve.It may be a perceived inability to effectively managethe ongoing work demands, or an inability to maintainor earn the respect from students necessary to maintaindiscipline. When this happens, I have observedteachers begin to avoid the issues and put lesscreative energy into developing interesting activities.At the same time there seems to be more energy used tosustain what may appear to be a boring routine. It ispossible that these teachers are bored and lack theability or interest to identify the root difficulties.It is important to include that I perceive thesedifficulties as training issues and as systemic issues,as much if not more so than strictly individual issues,although the individual responses are highlysignificant. By systemic issues I am referring to alack of team work or of a cohesive philosophy shared byteaching staff and the administration. Also, currentchanges from a more traditional hierarchical structureto shared decision-making models may be threatening forteachers and administrators alike. The concept thatstudents and parents have input into educationaldecisions may be difficult for some teachers, whobelieve that their authority, by virtue of their37position, ought not to be questioned. If they feelinsecure about implementing new ideas, or feelthreatened because of personal insecurities, it may bevery stressful to work from a more co-operative model.The second category of issues that I expected tofind relates to past experiences. I believe that one'spast shapes how one interprets the present. I did nothave particular expectations regarding how stressfulevents would be interpreted, only that they would beinfluenced by both family of origin issues and pastteaching experiences. Because of the phenomenologicalapproach to this study, and the open-ended design ofquestioning, it may be beyond the scope of this studyto ascertain specifics regarding this expectation.After articulating these assumptions and expectations,I set them aside as much as possible (the bracketingprocess) in an effort to keep the analysis processfocused on what was present in the data.Pilot InterviewA pilot interview was conducted in order to checkthe validity of the questions posed to be sure thatthey were tapping what they were designed to tap. Theinterview provided an opportunity to remove or rewordquestions that were confusing. Third, it allowed an38opportunity to add questions that would moreappropriately or efficiently probe the phenomena to bestudied.The results of a pilot interview with a maleteacher were primarily helpful in refining the wordingof questions to ensure they were specific but notleading. I included a final question that was anopportunity for the participants to add anything he orshe chose that related to the incident, and that I hadnot asked about. By doing this it ensured continuityfor all participants.In informal discussion after the interview, Iasked the participant if he felt that the interviewprocess allowed him to express what he believed werethe essential, as well as related thoughts and feelingsconnected to the experience. He thought this was thecase and expressed that the questions both facilitatedand clarified his thinking.It was interesting to note that at times myquestions were open to the extent that this individualwas uncertain about what I was looking for. Iintentionally left these questions in as I decided itwould place the onus on the individuals to rely ontheir experience.39After the pilot study it was also clear that theprocess would take about an hour and a half.Explaining the study, signing the informed consentforms, completing the background information, and timefor questions took about half an hour before the storyaspect of the interview began.Participant Selection The participants were secondary classroom teachersworking in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Ateacher, for the purposes of this study, was anindividual who was currently teaching full time, in aregular classroom in the public school system. Regularclassroom teachers, for the purpose of this study, arefull-time teachers who teach core academic subjectsexcluding specialty areas such as music, physicaleducation, and art. In addition, due to previousstudies that identify differences in the type of stressbeginning teachers experience, only teachers with aminimum of five years experience were interviewed.Teachers were contacted through informationsheets, and the snowball effect. I began withindividuals known to me personally and asked if theywould be interested in participating. Theseindividuals came from different school divisions, and40in turn, knew other teachers in a variety of settings.I gave them the advertising material either verbally orin written form as well as my phone number, which theycould then pass on. I contacted no one without priorpermission from the individual through my contactperson.This style of recruitment does not screen for anyparticular level of stress. Interested individualswere given a letter (see Appendix C) that detailed thenature of the study, issues of confidentiality, andwhat would be done with the information.Once the teacher had been presented relevantinformation and indicated a desire to participate inthe research, the participant signed a consent form(which was read to or by the participant) to ensurethat the expectations and responsibilities had beenread and understood (see Appendix D).An attempt was made to balance the number of menand women in the study with the final numbers beingfive men and three women. No teachers were eliminatedfrom the study either before or after the interviewoccurred. No participants dropped out at any stage ofthe procedure.41Data Collection The initial collection of data was through semi-structured interviews. Background information was alsocollected (see Appendix B). The interview proceededfrom a set of open-ended questions (see Appendix A).After each response, there were requests forclarification if necessary. This involved probes,summaries, direct requests for clarification, and orrequests for more detail (Egan, 1986). The purpose ofthis aspect of the questioning was to allow theparticipant to tell his or her story in depth so thatthe participant's perspective became as clear aspossible within the limits of the interview.The interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed.Interviews ranged from an hour and a half to two hours.After the data collection and initial analysis, Imet with the participants for a second interview. Theparticpants were given a typed overview of themes (foreach individual and before indepth analysis) andsignificant comments that summarized the chosenstressful situations as I understood them. The purposeof this interview was to give each participantopportunity to clarify points of ambiguity and concuror correct the researcher's understanding of the42original content. The transcription of the interviewswere also available to the participant to refer to ifhe/she so chose. The participants confirmed my summaryof the interview as accurate and each concurred that myinitial analysis of main themes fit their experience.A few individuals clarified points and in one or twocases, emphasized one theme as particularly importantwhere I had isolated two or three as equally important.No participants made major changes or additions to thesummary. In addition, the participants withoutexception maintained the same interpretation of events.Nothing was changed in terms of their view of the eventeven though several weeks had passed betweeninterviews.Data Analysis The research design followed the guidelines forthe qualitative method as outlined by Giorgi (1975).Giorgi has attempted to achieve a procedure in whichthe resulting descriptive statements "capture the naivedescription in a more clarified and morepsychologically relevant way" (p. 75). Giorgi outlinesthe characteristics of phenomenological research, andin so doing emphasizes "fidelity to the phenomenon" (p.99) by "allowing anything that the subject feels is43worthy of mentioning to be registered as data as wellas making explicit the perspective of the researcher."He also emphasizes the primacy of the "life-world",which is "the everyday world as it is lived by all ofus prior to explanations and theoreticalinterpretations of any kind" (p. 99). He lists othervital components of the phenomenological method in anattempt to achieve rigor in its application.The qualitative method described by Giorgi (1975,pp. 74-75) is illustrated in the following learningsituation used as an example:1. The researcher reads the entire descriptionstraight through to get a sense of the whole. Aphenomenological interpretation of this processwould be that the researcher is present to thesituation being described by the subject by meansof imaginative variation, or by means of themeanings he apprehends through written language,and not that he is merely present to words on apage.2. The researcher reads the same description moreslowly and delineates each time that a transitionin meaning is perceived with respect to theintention of discovering the meaning of learning.44After this procedure one obtains a series ofmeaning units or constituents. A constituent isnot an element; the former means differentiating apart in such a way that one is mindful of thewhole, whereas the latter implies a contextlessdiscrimination.3. The researcher then eliminates redundancies,but otherwise keeps all units. He then clarifiesor elaborates the meaning of the constituents byrelating them to each other and to the sense ofthe whole. This process also clarifies why thespecific meaning units constituted in Step 2 wereperceived.4. The researcher reflects on the givenconstituents, still expressed essentially in theconcrete language of the subject, and transformsthe meaning of each unit from the everyday naivelanguage of the subject into the language ofpsychological science insofar as it is revelatoryof the phenomenon of learning. In other words,each unit is systematically interrogated for whatit reveals about the learning process in thatsituation for that subject. It is at this pointthat the presence of the researcher is most45evidently present, but he is needed to interpretpsychological relevancy.5. The researcher then synthesizes and integratesthe insights achieved into a consistentdescription of the structure of learning. Thestructure is then communicated to otherresearchers for purposes of confirmation orcriticism.These steps were followed first to determinethemes that emerged independent of the aspect of theresearch question that related to theory. I took eachtranscript and isolated themes before reorganizing thethemes in relation to the previously analysedtranscripts, and continued this back and forth processuntil all eight had been completed. During thisprocess I conferred with my thesis advisor. She pickedrandomly from the data and concurred that the processand thematic groupings were reliable. Major themeswere identified in terms of frequency of occurrence andkey words or phrases (e.g., conflict, power struggle).Once the groups of initial meaning units were made (12-15), I developed definitions for the groups thatminimized overlap and redundancies. This refined thegroupings considerably and resulted in the eight major46groupings, which were eventually labelled as themes,and the two sub-categories (sub-themes). I then readthrough the transcripts to ascertain whether or not thecommon themes were consistent with the individualcontexts. All transcripts had an unclassified categorythat I analysed and documented if the comments wererelevant to the experience of stress.This process resulted in isolating thecommonalities woven throughout each transcript.Although some themes were more significant to someindividuals and less significant to others, nosignificant material was left out. Individual themesthat did not appear in the majority of transcripts, yetseemed significant, were documented in the second phaseof analysis.The second phase involved posing the question(Alexander, 1988) related to Lazarus and Folkman's(1984) theory, of whether or not an appraisal of threatcould be found and what was at stake. Initially I wentthrough all transcripts, highlighting all statementsrelating to stress, emotions, and personal meanings.The next step was to identify the individual'spredominant common themes and the personal meaningstatements (including stress and emotion) related to47those themes. After the language of the naivedescriptions was used to identify the individualmeanings, I then interpreted the findings in light ofLazarus and Folkman's (1984) theory of appraisal.If there were statements related to stress made bya participant, which did not fit with common themes, Ireferred to them separately in the Appraisal section.I chose two or three common themes to illustrate thefindings of threat appraisals though the existence ofthreat appraisals was not limited to these particularthemes for any participant. This process also allowedindividual differences in appraisal for the same themesto become evident. It was difficult to determine indetail what was at stake for the individual as noquestions were designed to probe this in detail.However, because the appraisals were analysed in thecontext of the themes it was possible to make somestatements related to what was at stake.48Presentation of the FindingsIn order to provide a context for furtheranalysis, and therefore to facilitate understanding ofthe teachers' experiences of stress, the followingsection will give a brief description of each of theparticipant's stories. All names used are pseudonyms.For more detailed background information for eachparticipant see Appendix E.Background of Participants Fraser The story Fraser told as an experience of stressrelated to a very specific series of events andconflictual interactions between him and his schoolprincipal. The principal, with no prior warning,called Fraser to the office and removed him from theleadership of a project and stepped in to lead ithimself.Fraser is a somewhat unique in that he is the onlyparticipant with a doctoral degree. He teaches onegrade level only, and stated that outside of schoolhours he spends an average of three hours preparationtime. Fraser also immigrated to Canada, however, he iscaucasian and racism is not an issue in how heexperienced stress.^Fraser is divorced and has49clearly focused much of his energy into this specialproject.According to Fraser, he had developed an excellentprogram (to which the special project was related) thathad been successful for a few years. Fraser thoughtthat the purpose of the principal's actions was to"undermine" his work on a particular project in orderto step in for some personal gain. Fraser had spentseveral years investing time and work both inside andoutside class time, to bring the program to a standardof excellence.Fraser frequently pointed out his sense ofprofessionalism, high standards, and the importance heplaces on "doing things right". Fraser mentioned thatthese qualities may be particularly important to himbecause of his upbringing in an English style boardingschool.The result of the interaction was that theprofessional relationship between Fraser and theprincipal was altered.Although I had asked for an experience thatoccurred within the past two weeks, this incident hadoccurred six months prior to the interview date.Fraser made several references to the incident being50fresh in his mind, that he does not forget thesethings, and that the experience has an ongoing andcurrent impact on their working relationship. Also, hestated that this experience stands out as somewhatunique in his career.Lynn The experience of stress for Lynn related tointeractions with students as discipline issues. Lynntalked about one particular class being difficult sincethe beginning of September and three particularstudents in that class who she felt caused frustrationto build all year. She described feeling "worn down"by these students and stated that it seemed to her thatone particular student had more power than she did.Lynn described a recent incident where this studentignored her request to work and interrupted the classby chatting to his neighbour.It is interesting to note that Lynn teachers in acore area urban school with a population comprised of60% East Indian and Chinese. Lynn made no specificcomments related to this issues. In addition, she gaveherself the second lowest rating (good) of all theparticipants and tied with one other participant forthe greatest number of days absent (15). Lynn's51classes are slightly smaller than average (16-25).Also of interest, and an issue that is an unexploredfactor that could relate to stress, is that at age 46Lynn has only 10 years of teaching experience(presumably she took time out to raise children whichis a completely untouched suject in the literature onteachers and stress).During the interview Lynn described feelings ofanger and that she was in 'less control'. The focus ofher comments were on these particular students who"ruined" the class.Lynn expressed some concern about the lack ofadministrative support from the counselling staff andthe busyness of her schedule. Lynn was involved withcurriculum development that added work and time awayfrom class. She stated this resulted in getting"further and further behind" both in her work on thecurriculum and in the classroom where she prepared forand followed up on the substitute's work.JoeJoe's experience of stress is connected to hisrole as department head. The situation he describedconcerned decisions made by the administration thatadversely affected his department. Joe spoke52frequently about having to make decisions in this roleand feeling pressured to make good decisions. He felthe had to live with the consequences of his decisionmaking and yet he did not have a great deal ofauthority as head teacher. The administrationultimately make final decisions but on therecommendation of head teachers.Joe believed there was a need for creativeteachers and for good decisions to be made so thatstudents do not suffer from boring or inadequateteachers. He spoke often, and in positive terms abouthis desire to be innovative and develop qualityeducation.Joe is closer to retirement than the otherparticipants, and based on the interview this appearedto increase his motivation to positively influence theschool teaching process. Joe has a masters degree andprepares a total of 31 hours per week.Other issues around the stressful encounterinvolved a conflict of values between the need torecommend good teachers and the desire to help a fellowteacher who was in crisis.He was aware of making inconsistent comments at timesas he talked about this aspect of what was stressful53for him.Joe emphasized that the main issue for him wasfeeling frustration in a system that does not allowenough freedom to make autonomous educational decisionsyet has specific expectations for high standards.FredFred is also head of a department. Fred describedhimself as a teacher not a politician, i.e., not havingthe "political skills" to do battle for what would begood for his department. He felt frustrated with thehassles of the political process and expressed concernthat it detracted from the time and energy needed toteach.Fred thought that the political process wasmanipulative because he was unable to disclose allinformation to everyone, which felt secretive andunpleasant to him. He felt dishonest and therefore inconflict with his values even though his motives wereto provide a high standard of education for students.Working this problem out interfered with his ability tosleep and the energy he had for family life. Part ofthe stress involved the extra energy required to dealwith the particular issue of teachers being declaredsurplus. He said he thought that it was impossible to54make a good decision though perhaps there would be abest one. This bind could potentially reflect badly onthe school, the department, and on him personally. Hedescribed this as frustrating because it was a no-winsituation.Patti Patti is a department head and when describing astressful experience she related her stress to dilemmasand frustrations in this role. The experience shechose to describe had to do with the implementation ofa new course and resulting "battles" with the schoolbased administration. She experienced feelings offrustration and anger and stated that she thought herdepartment had been "slighted". Over the past fewyears her department, and she in particular, had beeninvolved in new programming in the school, yet a changein timetable made it impossible to implement a newcourse. In addition to her distress at the timetabledecision, she then had to cope with individualreactions among the teachers in the department. Shestated "my department gets after me every day".Though she has an understanding of budgetconstraints and other difficulties from anadministrative perspective, she no longer felt55supported by the principals.Patti is the youngest teacher interviewed, and has6 years teaching experience. Her timetable was fullwith no preparation time scheduled inside school hours.The combined family income was highest for Patti whichis significant in that financial necessity is notlikely to be a motivational factor for remaining inteaching.Patti described herself, with regard to thestressful situation, as being in a "dilemma" and wasnot sure how to deal with this sense of being caught ina political "battle". Some of the stress she talkedabout was to do with her role in the situation and thelack of clarity regarding what decisions to make.Trying to sort out the political game, who haspower, and how to get what you need was stressful inteaching. Moreover, she felt the classes themselveswere affected, but that within the classroom the"stress is more of challenge". She also stated thatpeople are discouraged from taking leadership rolesbecause the issues used to be about students and thecurriculum, and now it's about politics.Charles Charles began by talking about a particular56student who had been "a real pain for the whole year".What Charles described as most stressful was theparent's complaint that he and vice-principal werepicking on the student. Charles did not feel that theprincipal, in turn, supported him in the incident.Charles' self-rating as a teacher was the lowest(average) of all participants. He teaches one gradelevel only, and has one of the highest preparationtimes outside school hours (30 hours). He is the onlyparticipant to state that he would not choose teachingagain.The anger and resentment Charles described wasdirected at the system that appeared to perpetuate alack of action regarding difficult students.He described stress as coming from constantlyhaving to "defend" and "protect" yourself from negativefeedback. He felt that he was given no power and nosupport to take action with students, and consequentlythe students "run the school".He talked about not having time for the "goodkids" and spending all your time "with a few jerks".When meetings are called with regard to a disciplineissue he described being the only one "who laid it onthe line", who documented the behavior with times and57dates. He felt anger at the attitude of "always tryingto be positive" and "never taking a stand".Charles commented frequently on the pressures of aheavy workload with very little time in the evenings orweekends to socialize, which for him lead to isolation.He talked about the "unrealistic expectations" onteachers to be parents and educators, and that there istremendous personal cost involved in the professionwith very few rewards. He stated that the effects ofstress leak into his home life even in the summer.EdEd's experience of stress was very current asimmediately prior to the interview he had received aphone call informing him of a meeting that afternoonbetween him and the principal and some members of theschool board. He initially felt confused and thenangry because he had not been informed by the principalof the meeting. The meeting was to be about some dayshe had missed during the year that had a pattern ofbeing on the same day of the week.During the interview Ed related severalexperiences of stress that he believed were similar.Ed did not focus on the classroom when he spoke aboutstress. He related a variety of situations where he58had had conflict with the principal regarding his owndecisions about how his time is used; "If they [theadministration) would just leave me alone when I thinkI know what's happening". He spoke about taking a dayon occassion to take his son to the doctor. He alsoreferred to wanting to leave the school at lunchtime torelax and that meant missing what he saw as the veryoccasional irrelevant meeting.He felt there was no "support and understanding"if there was a conflict with a student that alsoinvolved the parent. He talked in terms of putting inmany hours in extra curricular activities, butexperienced no rewards, incentives, or encouragement to"keep going and...striving to do better".Ed had one of the highest number of days absentduring the year (15). He also taught the youngeststudents ranging from grade 8 to grade 10 whereas mostother participants taught a greater percentage ofsenior classes.SallySally is not a head teacher but is in charge ofdeveloping a new program within a school. She spokeabout her experience of stress as ongoing and directlyrelated to the amount of work and the frustrations59involved in getting a program off the ground. She alsoteachers the greatest grade range of students (grade 8to 12) and does 30 plus hours of preparation outsideschool time. The school is a core area urban schoolwith a low immigrant population.Sally spoke of feelings of "frustration", "anger",and "unfairness" in relation to the lack of co-operation in supporting the program. She talked interms of "manipulations" and "underhandedness" on thepart of a couple of other teachers who seemed to thinkthe program was in direct competition with theirprogram. Sally did not agree with this assessment andfelt that the result of this attitude was that "theprogram was a lot harder to initiate this year than itreally needed to be." A part of this included dealingwith parents' biases in a "parent-oriented district."The second predominant aspect of her descriptionof stress was an internal sense of wanting to besuccessful. Sally was not on permanent contract andstated "if we have a whole happy faction, then theprogram will continue and then, hopefully, I will alsohave another job for this time next year". Her workduring the year would "pave the way for the future,"establish her "credibility" and give her a chance to60"prove" herself. She also said, "There's always thatunderlying fear that, you know, I'll trip up andsomething will happen."The amount of work that initiating a programinvolved also meant added pressure for Sally. Shedescribed herself as a "middleman" who must manage andco-ordinate a variety of things and people to get theprogram going, in addition to the regular teaching.She stated, "You have to be able to control it all",even though she recognized that you can not "makepeople come on board." She said frequently that themost important thing was "to do your best."Sally is an experienced teacher but was new tothis particular division.Description of the Themes Eight themes were found to be significant andcommon to most participants. Each theme is identifiedin terms of the partipant's experience of that theme.The categorizations overlap and intertwine with eachother and yet have distinctive enough features to allowthe themes to be isolated and discussed (see Figure 1).There is, for example, overlap between the twomajor themes of conflict and power. It is virtuallyimpossible to ignore the concept of power in a61discussion of conflict. However, as each theme isdiscussed I define the terms in order to provide ameaningful distinction for the purpose of becoming morespecific with regard to the meaning of the experiencefor the individuals.Eight themes and two sub-themes have been isolatedduring the analysis. The two major themes 'conflict'and 'power' I have identified as major themes becausethey occur with great frequency throughout thetranscripts of all eight participants. The otherthemes are as significant but occur with less frequencyin any given transcript. The exception to this is thetheme of 'anger and frustration', which is highlysignificant for all individuals. This is an importantmajor theme, but it is more difficult to conveyverbally without the non-verbal information (e.g.,intonation). In addition, the intensity with whichindividuals spoke when referring to feelings of angerindicated that this emotion was highly significant forall participants, regardless of the number of timesfeelings of anger or frustration were directlymentioned. Figure 1 illustrates the interrelationshipsof the themes. The larger triangles indicate themeswhich were dominant because of frequency. The smaller62triangles indicate a closer connection to one maintheme over another, however, the dotted lines show thatno theme is completely independent from the others. Thethemes are as follows:1. The experience of conflict.Subtheme: The experience of inner conflict.2. The experience of power.Subtheme: The experience of control.3. The experience of anger and frustration.4. The experience of autonomy.5. The experience of role conflict.6. The experience of efficacy.7. The experience of support.8. The experience of workload pressure.Each of these themes has different content foreach of the participants though some commonalities wereobserved and are discussed. Beyond the specificcontent the themes appear to have similar meanings insome cases and the appraisal process has commonalitiesthat are discussed later.63Figure I. Common Themes645'//-AutonomySupport/Conflict\v"InnerAnger &\ FrustrationPower \^Control&/Efficacy^PressureThe Experience of ConflictConflict was an issue for all the teachersinterviewed. For some it was the main focus of theirstress and for others it was part of several otherthemes (e.g., Power, Autonomy). However, it isdifficult to completely separate conflict from issuessuch as power or autonomy because autonomy is often anaspect of the content of the conflict and/or a dynamicWorkloadwithin the conflictual interaction.The interaction of the various themes may in factbe what makes the experience so threatening, and thus astressor. Conflict in every case was related to othercommon themes. However, as the participants talkedabout conflict there were relational aspects and futureimplications that appeared to be more specific to astruggle with people. The "battles", the feelings ofanger, frustration, disappointment, fear, and sometimeshurt were related to the human interaction relativelyindependently of the content of the conflict. It isfor this reason that conflict very clearly is an issueto be considered as an integral part of the stressevents.From the most simple perspective, conflict can bedefined as "the perceived opposition of needs, valuesor perceptions " (Holloway & Burdine, 1991).Interpersonal conflict has been defined by Wilmot andWilmot (cited in Galvin and Brommel, 1986) morespecifically as "an expressed struggle between at leasttwo independent parties, who perceive incompatiblegoals, scarce rewards, and interference from the otherparty in achieving their goals". These definitions arecompatible with the ways in which the participants65talked about conflict.For the eight teachers, conflict was referred toas "confrontations, "battles", being "caught in themiddle", and "power struggles." Primarily, theconflicts were with students or school basedadministrators. One or two incidents involved parentsin addition to school personnel. The ongoing nature ofthe issue was mentioned frequently, as well as theimpact on the particular relationships in the future.The following excerpts illustrate this theme.Lynn: ...It's who's going to's not abattle of wits or anything.... determination, Iguess, whether I'm going to stick to my guns andmake that decision....they're (difficult students)constantly kind of at you and at you and at youwhile you're trying to do your job, there's allthese things happening. You know, he's wearingyou down, and in this case, one here, one thereand one there...quite often it's easier to, ratherthan make a firm decision and say, "okay, that'sit, out", it's easier to stay away...I don't likeconfrontations to begin with, so to stay away threaten and move them to differentplaces in the room...but you don't actually make66that final decision to say "out". I regret now.I should have done that ages ago.As department heads, Patti and Fred had to makedecisions regarding teaching assignments (courses) andteaching loads within difficult constraints given themby their respective administrators.Fred: ...There's going to be the pressure ofdealing with the people (teachers) who are veryvociferous and protesting the load they've beengiven. They will protest to me and although Ihave a good working relationship with thedepartment, I want to keep it that way, and I'mafraid the position we've been put in this yearmakes that very difficult.... dealing with peoplewho are unhappy with what they have to do doesn'tmake for a pleasant working environment.Patti: ...I'm in a dilemma because what do I do?Do I go above his (the principal's) head and go tothe Ministry of Education? Well, it probablywon't do me any good because he'll turn around andsay, well we can't do it, and he'll fight all theway through the other direction. So, you're67caught.....but sometimes I'll also be upset too, when Ido take an action that I have had to get reallyaggressive on. 'Cause I like to have goodrelations with people, so sometimes, let's say, Isort of blow up at the principal 'cause we'refriends too. I leave and there's more stress forme about the fact we had this interaction, eventhough I see it as being necessary to me. I stillsort of mull over, how can I make sure thisdoesn't affect the next sort of discussion we'regoing to have. It's part of all of those kind ofinteractions that I have right now in terms ofthose more politically related teacherthings....and personal relationships too,because you know I think that my job entailshaving to deal with those people, sometimes youhave to do things that they may perceive as beinghurtful and...I don't particularly like doingthat. And so, therefore, I think that's whatbothers me more sometimes after an interactionthat somebody else has perceived as being angry,while I wanted them to understand my point ofview....and I do try the next day to make sure68that somehow we have a conversation or somethingthat lets them know that this is not, should notaffect our personal viewpoints and...discussionswe can have.Ed described a conflict with his principal thatinvolved a meeting for which Ed had had no warning.The meeting involved several school officials who wereinquiring into a pattern of absences that Ed had overthe year.Ed...I think I'm in shock, I've been back-stabbed,(by the principal) because, if in fact, thismeeting's gonna take place today at 1:30, whysomeone (i.e., in the administration) doesn't havethe decency and the courtesy, just to give me anindication, to inform me so that at least I'd beset for it in a way, not that I have any majorwork to do now, 'cause I've the CTApresident who's informed me about this, but if hehadn't called up, I'd have gone out.Subtheme: Inner ConflictThe majority of teachers also experienced innerconflict, although not all did. What was clear withregard to all teachers is that in one way or another69the conflicts interferred with them doing what theybelieved they were there to do. For some this meantestablishing quality programs and for others this meantperforming the role of a teacher within the classroomwithout interference from administration and/ordisruptive students. For Lynn the conflict was betweenvaluing and wanting to do her best for each student andyet disliking and wanting to be rid of a particularstudent.Lynn: ...I guess I could say at this point that Idon't really like this kid. So there's somefeeling of dislike. I feel disappointed in myself'cause I feel as a teacher you should'renot to choose favorites, which is hard to dosometimes.... at the same time you've got to keepyour own biases and personal feelings out and tryto give the kid the best shot, which at this pointis pretty hard to're supposed to treateach student as an individual and do your best forthat student and you can't do your best by kickinghim out.Joe speaks as a department head about his conflictbetween valuing high quality education and making70decisions accordingly and wanting to consider theindividual needs of teachers. He values giving peopleanother chance.Joe: ...It's an inconsistency in some of thearguments that I present. But it's a part of methat I felt good about...the humanism is clashingwith the better educational decision. There's noquestion in my mind that you sacrifice a human'shealth for a sound teacher, for a better teacherin the classroom....that's not part of me....I'mthe arguer for the best survives, you know, you'vegot to cut it and if you're not then you go, butthen I contradicted myself ...two of me isfighting inside. You see, the free form businesskid who was raised in a family where you eithersurvive or you get out, is fighting the humanisticone that says we owe people more than just that.Fred has difficulty with the political processbecause it both allows him to fight for what he thinksis important and does so in a way which conflicts withhis values. Also, the process is part of a system andit's difficult for him to be upfront about his personalbeliefs when he represents the system.71Fred: ...well it's going to mean receiving phonecalls from parents complaining--why is thisperson teaching...I anticipate that we willreceive many phone calls about his competence (theteacher to be hired) and his ability toteach (this subject). And so, I'm going to haveto explain why this has happened. I'm going tohave to explain a particular procedure and systemin which I don't really believe. I'm going tohave to try and justify it and I don't like havingto do that....I'm manipulating the system to tryto retain the best people in the department, andI'm not sure whether that's entirely ethical. Onthe one hand I think it is, because I thinkretaining the best people is what's good for theyoung people. On the other hand, I'm being alittle dishonest in not teaching, in notrequesting that I teach what I really want toteach and retaining those courses. So, Isometimes wonder whether that is really right todo, to play those kinds of doesn't fitmy world-view. It's [i.e., the political game]not primarily what I'm interested in. I'm reallyinterested in new ideas, new approaches, things72that will help make teaching easier for teachersand more interesting and worthwhile for youngpeople.Inner conflict contributes to the individual'sdifficulty in the decision-making process. Theambiguity and/or sense of being caught between one'sown values contributed to feelings of self-doubt aboutcarrying out a particular role. Feelings offrustration were experienced when one aspect of theconflict seemed like the real work, and the otherseemed like a distraction or interference (albeit onewhich could not be ignored or trivialized).The Experience of AutonomyIn analysing autonomy there is clearly somerelationship to power and control. Specificallyautonomy refers to self-governing (Webster's Ninth NewCollegiate Dictionary, 1985). For these teachersseveral areas where they could not self-determineprograms, timetables, or implement ideas were a sourceof frustration. This was particularly true for thehead teachers who as a group seemed more concerned withissues related to quality in education and a vision fortheir area of study. In addition to these concerns,were issues dealing with discipline, and school73politics that were influenced by cut-backs in funding,or by parental pressure. Some of the frustrationexpressed had to do with being on the front lines.They had to deal with the consequences of decisionswithout necessarily agreeing with those decisions, oreven being able to influence the outcome. Forteachers, as professionals, this appeared to beparticularly difficult because the lack of autonomymade it difficult to do their job in ways that werecongruent with their professional values andexpectations.For a few teachers the theme of autonomy alsorelated to non-educational areas. A concern regardingrewards was raised by several of the teachers. Manywho had taken initiative in academic or extra-curricular areas expressed primarily frustration withthe lack of personal or professional outcomes. Oneindividual compared teaching to business, and that inbusiness one is rewarded for effort and quality. Inteaching, effort and vision are often frustrated bylack of freedom rather than rewarded. Several teachersexpressed these views.The following quotations contain both educationaland non-educational examples. Joe wants to initiate74new programs and implement new ideas but is limited bypublic opinion (parental pressure) and differingphilosophies and priorities among administrators andother teachers.Joe: ...He [another teacher] has had 4 lettersfrom parents asking him to get back to basics.The principal called him in and asked him to writea letter to explain to them when they get back tothe real meat and he would actually agree thathe's gonna cut back on this [experientiallearning]. Well, you don't think that raises yourfire , '  you're not in control; you are in controland you're not. You can't say, "Well, if youdon't like the way I'm running this, go somewhereelse." There's a big part of me is like that,too...[stress relates to having to] compromise allthe time in what you believe should be done...Iguess the stress is, no power. That's one thing.Not power that I'm a king but power that you havea vision and you can't implement it because allthese things are in the way. That's stressful.And, clearly, that's probably what it is...I don'twant to retire out of this job keeping the statusquo. I want to try something different. I want75to do some, the quality school stuff that we'relearning now, reading about, where we take somerisks...Yeah, I wanna run faster and I can't andI'm not gonna be able to because we're gettingnear the end [retirement]. I have four or fiveyears. I'll do something different, but I'mfinding that there's not enough space for me to doa lot of things that I wanna do. That's reallystressful...Freedom is important, equallyimportant. Like to free me up with time andresources.Patti: what happens is that a number ofteachers in my situation that get excited about aparticular change in their particular curriculumthat says--this must become part of the schoolcurriculum and they won it in the same kind ofbattles like the counselling department isstarting the same kind of battles with thelearning for living, you're sortof sitting there--well, how do we get excitedabout anything new if we can't actually, becauseof all the other constraints, get it put intoplace!76Charles: ...Yeah, and I made up the thing[timetable] so that everybody gets two preps...[acolleague] says, "You'll never get this by [theprincipal]." I said, "I know..."Ed: ...the only real stress and pressure, as Isay, comes when I'm dealing with outside theclassroom, even, and in the school, so I'm gettingback to the administration, so if I was to...Isuppose I could say this--if I was to go alongwith everything that they expect of me, then therereally wouldn't be any problem, per se, I mean, Idon't think there's any problem, but I wouldperhaps cut down on some of these days that I havetaken off, that maybe weren't really all thatimportant or essential...If I make them happy,then do I make myself unhappy. And I guess youhave to throw that around a bit and say should Ibe making others happy or trying to make sure thatI'm secure, feeling good, and looking out for #1.And, I must admit, in the first few years ofteaching it was looking out for them...Neverlooked out for myself.77The Experience of Role Conflict There were three main aspects to the experience ofrole conflict. Only five of the eight teachers talkedabout role conflict directly. Within these five, thehead teachers again found different meaning in theexperience. For them role conflict related primarilyto seeing themselves as teachers rather thanadministrators or politicians. They all spoke aboutthe role of head teacher in political terms andadministrative terms. It was difficult to viewthemselves as administrators because they did not havethe authority of an administrative position but wereexpected to implement decisions and had to cope withthe consequences. For some individuals the conflictrelated to the position, for others it related to aview of self that conflicted with an administrativetype role. For some of the other teachers the roleconflict related to seeing themselves as teachers and"not a policeman" or as a "parent". For these teachersthe role conflict was most prevelent in connection withdiscipline issues that "interfered with" or"interrupted" teaching activities.Lynn: ...And it's the way with the class ingeneral and it's because of these, basically it's78because of these three people that cause that,that you have to be on top of them all the time,which makes it pretty tough to try and getsomething across when you have to have thatfeeling. You can't be yourself at all. It's oneof those classes. Constantly on guard.Constantly be a policeman rather than ateacher...You can't be yourself; you can't enjoyteaching and you have to constantly quiet themdown and that's frustrating...they're constantlykind of at you and at you and at you while you'retrying to do your job...Fred: ...That's not what I want to focus on [thepolitical aspect]. I'd rather focus on theteaching and the young people because that'sstressful enough...I think that's a big concernbecause there are certain political skillsrequired of leadership positions in the school andthose who have the most skill at being able topersuade and manipulate others tend to get themost for their department. And because this isnot an area in which I've ever been interested,really, I'm not a politician, I sometimes have79doubts whether I really have the ability to dothat...I'm not a person who pursues leadershippositions. It's just that I was kind of corralledinto this job [department head] and I'm determinedto make the best of it while I'm doing it...Iprobably haven't been as effective or nearly asenthusiastic, in the classroom over the last weekas I could have been because I've had these otherthings on my plate to deal with...It distracts,it's distracting. It takes a lot of energy and ittakes time...There are some types of stress likeclassroom stresses which...a lot of classroomstresses are a challenge and they're enjoyable andthey can be coped with and they can be made fun.But because I'm not a politician, these kinds ofstresses that I've been talking about are not fun.They're just not fun at all for me. And so thatdetracts, I guess, from the quality of life.Patti: ...To me, I mean that battle's already beendone if the Ministry of Education has said thatthis is important for the kids to learn, I don'tfeel I should have to go to parents and say thatthis is to be learned and it's not being80done....And now I think he's [the principal] beingfrustrated by the people above him. So now it'slike almost learning a whole ateacher, learning what power your principal hasand what power he doesn't have. And when do you,you know, go to the next person up. Like when doyou learn what will work? And I think most of thestress in teaching, for me, is in politics. Andso, therefore, it can be more's gotnothing to do with teaching. In a sense, it's apolitical game.Charles: ...There's no friggin' way the schoolsystem is going to change the society we live in.And the school's just, as far as I'm concerned,bringing this--any teacher will tell you--rightnow we're a holding tank until they're 17.'Cause, you know, we got kids on probation, youknow, seeing the cops. I had one kid used to taketwo hour lunch breaks and he did 32 Break andEnters. Checked my daily register with the daysand they all matched up, when he took a 2 hourlunch he was breaking into somebody's house.Incredible!81...Well, I just think that society has to take adifferent look, 'cause what they're doing isgiving to the school system and teachers, they'regiving us the role of trying to solve all thesociety's problems and we have problems that wecan't solve here but we're expected to. So, whatyou do instead of having some way of solving it,you just tolerate it.The Experience of Anger and FrustrationThe emotional response of anger and frustrationwas common to all teachers as they spoke about stress.A few mentioned hurt, disappointment, worry, fear, anddisillusionment as well, however, frustration waspredominant.The emotions were accompanied by cognitionsinterpreting events as "unfair", "underhanded" or whichwere "undermining" some aspect of their work. Therewas an element of not knowing what would happen at thetime with regard to particular interactions, and in thefuture related to uncertain outcomes. It is quitelikely that in some cases, the anger masked otherfeelings related to the implications for the future.This will be discussed more fully with reference tospecific accounts.82In terms of an emotional impact, many teachersdescribed sleeplessness as a response to the concerns.One teacher had an ulcer and several referred to notbeing able to "let the issue go." For some this meantit affected their home life in terms of irritabilityand energy, for others it referred primarily to changedattitudes at work. There was clear indication thatmany of the frustrating situations were interpreted asunnecessary, or could be avoided. There was also asense of incredulity with regard to certain incidents,meaning people felt angry because they just could notbelieve other individuals or "the system" was behavingin the manner they described.Fraser: ...Well this is the heart of stress, Iguess, is how you interpret this. At this stage Ihave to say that I was...I was kind of angry...Iwas kind of annoyed, and I must admit I did notexpect it [a particular conflictual situation]from him [the principal] in the way it wasdelivered.Lynn: ...Um, 'Jack' continued to talk and Isaid, "That's enough. No more talking. Read."And he burst out laughing in his usual way, turned83around to [the other boy], and continued ontalking. And I said, in a very loud and sternvoice, "That is it. Get out. I've had it. Outof here." In which case he looked at me and said,"No, I'll read." And I said, "It's too late.Out. I've had it. You are finished. You are notin this classroom again this year." I blew. Icould feel my face flush and my heart beat and thewhole thing. The surge...It [the ulcer] startedagain. And that' know. Everything, too, Ikeep saying, relax, relax, because as soon as youget really uptight it builds up.Fred: ...But probably the most frustrating thingis the anger that the system takes precedence overthe young people and the quality of instruction...I get tired, I get cranky, I am irritable, and Ilose a sense of fun. Often that happens this timeof year with a lot of teachers and you canovercome it fairly quickly but this year, with theextra decisions having to be made, it makes itthat much more difficult. And so you begin towonder--wow, is there such a thing as fun outthere? How do I find it again? When can I start84enjoying life again?Charles expresses generalized anger with thesystem with regard to dealing with behaviorallychallenging students.Charles: ...Well, it ticks me off. You go home atnight and you work and put stuff together and youhope it's gonna be good and interesting, and thenyou get 3 or 4, there's quite a few of them now...Igot, had 3 grade 9 classes, too, where one wasloaded with turkeys and it didn't matter what youdid, they didn't give a damn. But, you see, theaverage kid in that room, or the bright kid in thatroom, their percent's lower when I comparepercents, I mean, average with the other classes,there's a big difference...Take it to thesuperintendent or assistant superintendent, thenthe superintendent, and to get a kid kicked out ofschool, he virtually has to commit murder. Youknow, I mean really...if you got a kid that'stotally just driving the class, and all theteachers in the school nuts, you might get him out.You know, the system sucks.85Ed: ...It took me about 40 minutes after I got thisphone call; I just sat there and all my thoughtswere, like, "Why me?" or, "How come it happens?"and "Do I deserve it?" or "Is it maybe somebodytrying to set me up for something?". And thosekind of thoughts go through your head, and I guessthey might be natural and normal thoughts--I'm notsure. But, after I, even talking about it now, yousort of come back down to earth a little bit andsay, "Well, okay this is happening, in lifeyou're going to run into these kinds of things, andyou learn to deal with it". Obviously you have tolearn how to deal with it; if you don't, thenyou're in real trouble, if you keep on buildingthese emotions and feelings up and I guess you getyourself into a lot of, you know, more crap thanyou deserve...As far as the phone call? Um, it wasanger. It was a lot of that. And, surprise wasthe first, I suppose. Because I thought maybe itwas ...a joke.The Experience of EfficacyThe experience of efficacy was primarily twofold.Most of the teachers expressed a general belief intheir competency, many believing they were very86effective teachers. The majority also talked in termsof being perfectionists, a need "to do it right", to"be good", "to make the right decisions." For somethis related to making interesting lessons and for someof the head teachers it was primarily wanting to be agood leader, and make good decisions. For a fewteachers both in relationship to head teaching dutiesand teaching duties, feeling inadequate and self-doubtwere related to stressful situations that had negativeoutcomes, or which they feared may have negativeoutcomes. All teachers expressed high expectations ofthemselves, and by inference felt pressure to eitherlive up to an established reputation, or to live up totheir own expectations of self. Several teachers madecomments about their backgrounds in relationship toperfectionism and the need to "do it right." Most ofthe teachers described themselves as workaholics,always trying to get the work done well or better.For some of the teachers, stress related to theirown unmet expectations regarding being a hard workingteacher and a corresponding lack of rewardingexperiences.Lynn: ...Obviously I believe in this course. I'mup there teaching it and trying to do my best for87the kids and you don't get that back and so youtend know, you only take that for so longbefore you start feeling it yourself...At thispoint I'd given up. Kind of a hopeless feelingthat I can't reach this kid...So, because of whatyou feel like you're, I guess, in a wayinadequate. You start feeling that way that youcan't master this problem...So I feel that I'vefailed that class and feel that I've made amistake and I should have been stronger and moredecisive earlier.Joe: ...I don't stew about it. But I'm aworkaholic. I'm handcuffed to that computer now.I'm constantly trying to make the stuff [classroommaterial] better, to the annoyance of mywife...Probably because of my own background, Igotta be the best at what I do. It's important tome to be really good at what I'm doing. And howdo you get there? By finding new ways to do it.So, the stress is if I don't then I'm gonna slipand, but I suppose that narrows your field ofother interests...a lot of pressure was put on me[as head of the department] to solve the problem88[regarding teacher surplus declarations]. "That'swhat you're good at. Solve it. We know you will,won't you." And knowing that it's almost animpossible task. I mean, it's difficult. But... most of the time I do, and youdon't want to not do it. You don't want to notresolve it...But people begin to expect things.Fred: ...I guess there's always the feeling thatif I don't succeed maybe I'm not as good adepartment head as I'd like to be. And that'scause for some anxiety, some sleeplessness, andsome restless nights...I think maybe it's partlybeing a first child, too. First children, Ithink, like to be winners, they like to do thingsright. And when you're put in a situation whereyou can't be guaranteed of doing what is right, nomatter what you do, a lot of people will thinkit's wrong, and I will think it's wrong too...Iguess a partial fear in that is if I don't makethe right decisions, I'm not perceived to havemade the right decisions, then I may lose somecredibility in other areas--areas which are ofmore concern to me.89Charles: ...Preparations, you always want to dosomething good. And then when you come in, youcome in and it doesn't seem have sixindividuals who don't care and who screw around,and you start to doubt yourself. You know, am Idoing the best job? Should I have done thisdifferently? Should I have prepared somehowdifferently? And then some kid says, "Oh, this isboring", you know. Well, it bothers you...Youstart to doubt yourself.Sally: ...It [the pressure to teach when ill]would be the inner need to prove to myself and toprove to others that, yeah, she can do it, she'sgood...I am a perfectionist...I don't go home andworry at all. No, I just go home and try and comeup with the best lesson plan possible that I knowwill facilitate and maximize a kid's learning.The Experience of Power Power is a broad concept. Cromwell and Olson(cited in Galvin & Brommel, 1986, p. 124) define poweras "a system property" which is "the ability(potential or actual) of an individual(s) to change the90behavior of other members in a social system".McDonald (cited in Galvin & Brommel, 1986) talked aboutpower in terms of family systems. He spoke of powerdomains: (a) power bases, (b) power processes, and (c)power outcomes. Power bases are essentially that whichincrease one's "chances to exert control in a specificsituation" (p. 125, Galvin & Brommel, 1986). McDonaldidentified five power bases: (a) normative definitions(authority), (b) economic, (c) affective, (d) personal,and (e) cognitive. In this model, power processesrefers to control attempts such as influence,persuasion, and assertiveness. The power outcome iscontrol, the actual decision making, implementation,and defining of social realities (Galvin & Brommel).In labelling a theme as power, I am referring topower bases, primarily power by authority orreputation. Control is a subtheme in which I refer topower processes and outcomes as conceptualized above.The experience of powerlessness for the teachersvaried in terms of the content. In each case however,the teacher was blocked in attaining a goal, whether itwas implementing an idea, making a decision, orinfluencing a process. Also, in each case, the teacherexperienced authority by position or rank on the part91of another as impeding his or her ability to carry outor influence a situation. In one case the teacherstated feeling like a victim of another's power, whileanother felt "undermined" by individuals in a parallelposition. A couple of teachers talked about theirexperience as powerlessness in their position as ateacher, that the students and parents had more powerto influence decisions than they did. The third aspectof the experience was a mixture of feeling powerlessand yet also having some degree of power. Teachers whosaw themselves as having a good reputation (i.e., werevoted in as head teacher or had positive feedback fromthe parents in the community) appeared more confidentthat they could influence the situation, yet at thesame time seemed to fear that their reputation could belost and that others in power could unfairly influencethat reputation.Fraser: ...If you're not aware of it, there's beena whole change in the administrator's, no longercalled administrative offices, no longer belong tothe same union as teachers, and teachers now havea lot more power...I think teachers now have got atremendous lot more power. Not in the situationthat I did [where the principal removed Fraser92from a position of leadership]. I did not havemore power because he [the principal] had therank. I have been somebody that's done myhomework. I had looked at his contract, and Ihave access mainly through lawyers that Iassociate with in this club, I knew exactly...hehad the right to do this to me. The thing is, Icould not believe that a person who truly had theschool's best wishes at, supposedly, his firstinterest, would do such a thing to undermine aprogram....I was very conscious that a lot ofdamage can be done to your character by somethinglike that. I've always been conscious ofit...'Cause how do you counteract a rumourthat's not true!Joe: ...So, as department heads, we're dealingwith a communication problem and no control, nopower. I have no power. I can't say "you go"[regarding staffing changes]. "You stay". All Ican do is clarify or raise the level ofconsciousness about what the problem is and thenhope that a decision is going to be made...Andknowing that it's almost an impossible task [to93solve the problem]. I mean, it's difficult...Youdon't want to not resolve it. And the lesscontrol you have the more weak ground you're onbecause you have no control, no power.Patti: ...But I think overall that's the biggeststress right now....we've developed [thedepartment] over the last two to three years andnow we feel like they're [the administration]pushing us against the wall. And I knoweverybody's got constraints right now but wereally feel we're being hit by a sort of, welljust do it anyway, kind of attitude and most ofthe things we do are extra-curricular. I'vealways been trusting and it's not that I don'ttrust the administration now...I'd alwayshad success in going to the prinicipal and Iusually got some kind of action or some kind ofresult.Ed: was over a week ago that they hadplanned this kind of a meeting! [The principal]has never spoken to me about it. That's why Ifeel like I've been shafted, is that he should94have, at least, given me an inkling that they'reout to question you and you're supposed to be atthis meeting, and he hasn't got the audacity tosay anything.Sally: ...I'm not gonna beat my head up againstthe wall with two teachers that potentially appearto be trying to undermine the program. Theirphilosphy is different than the philosophy of [ourprogram] and if they aren't flexible enough and ifthey aren't open-minded enough to see thepotential of a new program, well, maybe that's totheir loss and, unfortunately, that would be tothe loss of some of the kids.Subtheme: The Experience of Control. The subtheme ofcontrol again differs in terms of content, but hascommonalities in terms of persuasion, assertiveness,the actual decision making, and outcome. Severalteachers referred to the difficulties in decisionmaking, either in finding a good decision particularlyrelated to staffing or timetabling issues, or insticking to and following through on a decisionparticularly as it related to discipline issues. Manyof the teachers spoke in terms of wanting to be "in95control" of one's self or one's position and expressedeither not feeling that way at all, or felt most oftheir energy went to maintaining their influence andresulting outcomes.Fraser: ...Well, yeah, but don't forget, there'sthe story unfolding here and I've got the cards onhim [the principal] too. And, unfortunately,maybe that's, maybe that's another thing. I cansay I was concerned about it [the interaction withthe principal and being taken from a leadershipposition] but I didn't lose sleep over it, but Icertainly did not want to end up a loser in thesituation and the way to do that, I guess, isthrough a calculative approach...And to this day,I'm sure he is very uneasy with the fact that, asyou're probably well aware, the chairman of theboard and myself have discussed at length hisperformance.Lynn: ...I've been thinking about it during theweek because that isn't the only incident thatI've had where I've found myself with lesscontrol...(the next class the student walks inand) just brazenly walked across in front of me96and took a seat, or tried to take a seat.Immediately it put my back up...There's a certainamount of anger there, definitely. Anger with himand determination on my part that I'm not lettingthis kid, you know, do any more disruption andrule--tell me what to do and rule...Like he couldwear me down. Which is what he's done most of theyear. He's worn me down. Yeah, that's true. Youget the feeling that, you know, you really have tostay on top because otherwise they overpoweryou...Um, well, there have been lots of times,with the class, that I don't feel I'm in control.That I've lost control a number of times. And get that control back you have tothreaten and that control means you've lostpower....His attitude, like, you've got no rightto do this, and defying the role and power that Ido have. I mean, it is mine, certainly not thekids. And I do have a right. I have a right tosay who's going to stay in the classroom and whatyou do while you're in it. And he defied that anumber of times. Um, other than that, when youlose control, you lose your power and also therespect of the students, which is really97important. I mean, if you lose it too oftenyou're not going to get it back.Charles: ...Well, I mean, at least in sport [asopposed to teaching] you got a chance to geteven...If somebody gives you a cheap shot, younail him good, fair and square, and he'll knowwhat happened...Yeah, the whole school had beenputting up with this [the misbehavior of aparticular student] all year. And in the end, whyshould we [school personnel in general] be kissinghis butt? We should just have told him to takeoff. Nobody ever takes a stand...sometimes getfour or five stuck in one room and they're a realpain. And you can't turn your back...everyday,block A, you're gonna see that same group. Andyou're thinking, Oh, Jesus, what are they gonna dotoday?Sally: ...Yeah, you have to be able to control itall, somehow. It's control, I suppose. Not thatI want to be a control freak, but to some extent alot rests--I feel a lot rests on my shoulders--and there's other teachers involved as well. It's98not all my responsibility, but I have to do myshare...I have danced all my life and I have foundthat that is the best stress release possible, isto do some sort of physical exercise, and that ishow I manage to control what's going on inside ofme...What do I like? I like to be able to controlthings that are going on in the classroom becauseI think that optimizes learning and I think someof that stems from being organized myself.The Experience of SupportThere were two main components to the experienceof support. Both involved an issue of trust and wasspoken of as such by a few of the teachers. Allteachers referred to support in some significant wayeither because it was a positive experience with theimplication that it made work less stressful, or in anegative way with the implication that the lack ofsupport referred to as, "understanding", "backup","encouragement", "trust", as examples, increased theexperience of stress. For many of the teacherscollegial support was described in terms of greatvalue. The stressful aspect concerned the lack ofsupport from administration or in some cases from otherteachers. Some head teachers expressed fear that99existing support within a department might be lost ifthe situations they were describing as stressful werenot resolved satisfactorily.Fraser: ...I discussed it [the incident with theprincipal] with people on staff. I'm quite...Ihave good working relationships with people, andthey were stunned, because he [the principal] hadeven announced at staff meetings that I'ddeveloped this program, trying, I guess, to strokeme, which I don't particularly need. But I mustsay I think I've done an excellent job. And theywere stunned that this would occur....I didn't discuss it with parents, what hadoccurred, but I discussed it with colleagues....We're talking about was hurtful.Lynn: ...I didn't think the counsellor wascompletely behind me...he [the counsellor] agreeswith me about Jack's behavior. He made somecomment that he probably shouldn't even be at thisschool, he was only supposed to be here for ashort while and go back to his own school, orsomething. Um, so he agreed with me but didn't doanything. Like, didn't find alternatives, you100know, something for this boy to do...a couple ofcounsellors we have do that and the others don't.I don't usually get much satisfaction in thatrespect.Joe: ...And you run into situations where it's sobad in his department [a colleague who is head ofa different department in the same school] that hesays, "I'm gonna get the hell out of here and I'mgoing down to the alternative school." And Idon't want to lose him because he's such apowerhouse and now there's some more stress. So Italked to him and said, "We gotta stay here andmake this better." I worry a lot about losingpeople because they're it. Well, there's othergood people but if we start losing those peopleand I lose more partners.Patti: ...It's like, we've [the department] beengetting a lot of support and now the whole bottomhas dropped right out of it. And the excuse isthere's no money and no teachers and everythingbut I think they have a feeling that we've beenvery flexible and easy to get along with so101therefore we can take it and will take it and Ithink they're actually quite surprised.Ed: ...Just pick on me when, okay, `hell', I said`hell' in class; if I said it again and you'vetold me once not to say 'hell' and it slips out,go ahead, come back to me and say "You said`hell'." Let the mother know that this guy isn'tsome kind of a jerk that likes to swear every fewminutes. So, just support. A bit more supportand understanding, that's all...Especially, as Isay, talking it over. This really helps too. Imust admit, if you can find somebody you can tell.And I have. There are some pretty nice guys onstaff and I've already told them...As I say, Itrust them and if you do have some people likethat that you can trust you can say things and youknow it's not going to be all over the place.Sally: ...I think it [the program] needs to have acouple of good solid years of developing andexpanding and getting the word out that it's agood program and it will also help if it'sembraced by the staff itself.102The Experience of Workload Pressure Once again the specific content of the stories wasnot precisely the same. For the head teachers theissues were generally about the extra time put in formeetings and solving difficulties, for many of theclassroom teachers it was extra-curricular activitiesthat added to an already heavy load. Many spoke aboutcutbacks and the impact on preparation time and onadded curriculum demands within smaller class timeallotments. Many of the teachers referred to spendinglarge amounts of time preparing lessons, trying to makethem better. Some references were made to theexperience of lack of reward after continued effort.The lack of reward in some cases was the lack ofstudent enthusiasm and in other cases it was lack ofreward from the administration (in the form of support,and encouragement) or from the system (feeling on theoutside after years of time invested in extra-curricular activities or knowing that no matter howhard you work the financial rewards are the same as forthose who don't work as hard).Fred: ...In some schools, and at one time, therewas some time compensation for department headpositions but the recent budgetary constraints103over the past few years, that's gone by the waylargely in schools. In order to maintain classsizes at levels bargained for by the unions,administrators have to keep all teachers working.In fact, our spare ratio has been reduced. At ourschool we had a 20% spare ratio up until this lastyear and now we're cut back to 15% and next yearwe'll be down to 12 1/2%.Patti: ...I still try to do it [planning anddoing creative things with less preparation timeallotted]... but I may not do it in four subjectareas anymore. So, I may pick one course and thatyear you're wanting to do something neat with thatcourse and the other ones are going to be onautopilot, like from what I've done before.Because before, I mean, you used to just try anddo it every year with everything...I try to dealwith a lot of issues I never used to deal with.You know, their [students'] own personal issues.Kids are very much more open about family breakupand things like that. So you spend more time inthe classroom itself dealing with some of thepersonal problems because they're brought out by104some of the things we do in the school system.And some of that's positive because the kids aregetting help but it also, it is very difficultsometimes to cover things in school, that we usedto be able to cover, 'cause you just don't havethat ability to keep moving on. You seem to havea lot of interruptions, a lot of delays with kids,if you're going to be flexible enough toaccommodate those problems they're having.Charles: ...Well, you're usually so tired onFriday night you don't want to do anything and Ithink the stress carries over, outside. I know itdoes, for me. And then you're tiredFriday night and you get snarly 'cause you gotlots of work and timelines to meet...After awhileyou start to lose contact with friends...So yougotta find a way somehow...that's why you see alot of these marriage breakups. Spent too muchtime on the job, and on the job at home. Youdon't get enough, you don't socializeenough...But if you do less then you feellike, you start having sort of a guilt complex.You start getting worried that you haven't put105enough time into it.Sally: ...There are so many aspect to teaching.It's not just one job of teaching. You've got awhole host of other commitments--differentmeetings, coaching, peer group sessions, you nameit, and you've got parent-teacher interviews.It's not just a case of going into the classroom,opening the book, "Today we're going to do...thisis your homework. Goodbye, see you next day" and"You're going to have a quiz" type of thing. Imean, if that's all it was that would bewonderful.The eight significant themes I have identified arethemes common to the majority and in most cases allparticipants. The theme of Role Conflict was the onlytheme not present for all participants. Fraser, Ed,and Sally did not identify this theme in theiraccounts. The identified common themes provide a basisfor further research regarding stress related to theteaching profession. I will discuss these resultsfurther in the discussion.106Appraisals The second purpose of the study was to examine thedata in light of Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) appraisaltheory, with particular attention to the individualdifferences related to threat appraisals.I examined each interview separately in this partof the analysis because the focus of this study is onthe appraisal that individuals make of the experienceof stress. It was difficult to identify central commonthemes and limit them to three or four for eachparticipant, so I selected, somewhat randomly, commonthemes occurring in each interview to illustrate theappraisals that I found. I have tried to choose themost frequently occurring common themes though oftenseveral themes interact in the recounting of theexperience. If there were additional personal themesthat stood out as significant I included them in theillustrations. I have not focused on the common themeof Anger and Frustration because they were includedthroughout the other themes and are discussed as theemotional component to the cognitive process.Fraser Fraser described an incident with his principal inwhich Fraser was temporarily removed from a leadership107position that he had held for four years. Indescribing the incident and his view of it, hefrequently used terms like "outstanding" and "aboveaverage" to describe both the project and his valueswith regard to how he the experienced the project. Inthe initial encounter, Fraser saw the principal asattempting to "provoke and argument" by making "falseaccusations." Fraser felt angry at the time.The common theme of Power was most predominant inthis interview. Fraser viewed the situation as "themost unprofessional meeting [he had] ever had in [his]life. He saw the "false accusation" as "constructing areason" in order for the principal to make personalgains:I said I was getting angry. I was feelingthat...this was kind of inexcusable. I certainlydid not appreciate the approach he used. I couldhave accepted it if he had come right out withit...But to try this kind of unprofessional,immature way to provoke an argument to get me toget my back up to the point that I was gonna blowsomething...that's not my style...It kind ofundermined the level that I'd put this program come out of this feeling that you've been108victimized.This series of quotations illustrates appraisalsof harm and loss. Initially he lost the position ofleadership. This particular loss had implications forhim in a variety of ways. He felt "victimized" andthat the treatment was "unprovoked" and "unfair." Thisposes a threat to his sense of justice and fair playparticularly as the action "undermined the level that[he] had put this program up to."He discussed the incident with staff and decided"there was no way [he] was going to be a back-up man tohim" and he took action by writing a letter, discussingwith colleagues and consulting with lawyer friends.These direct coping strategies were employed inresponse to an appraisal of threat (related to thecommon theme of Power) as illustrated in the followingquote:I did want to do this to protect myself because Ihad the feeling that if he was going to dosomething to me once, there was a chance that hewas going to somehow run down my character, myprofessionalism. I was worried at this point thatif he did not commit his reasons to paper, later Iwas going to stand to pay a heavier price and109there can be some nasty things done to people'scareer that I had certainly not deserved orearned. Innuendo in this profession is as bad asthe act.Fraser was quite concerned about his reputation:"I was very conscious that a lot of damage can be doneto your character by something like that. I've alwaysbeen conscious of it. I have a boarding schoolbackground..." He attributed his "sensitivity" to thisissue to earlier life experiences that may have servedto increase some fear around this issue. A part ofthis involved a lack of control: "'cause how do youcounteract a rumour that's not true?" The threat ofnot being able to do anything about the situation once"a rumour" had started seemed to him, to leave him withno coping options.The theme of Conflict is woven throughout theaccount with definite implications for Fraser's actionsand feelings about the relationship. Fraser did notremain passive in the situation: "I certainly did notwant to end up a loser in the situation and the way todo that, I guess, is through a calculative approach."He was referring here to writing letters andapproaching individuals informally who were in110positions of greater power than the principal. At somepoint he was "reinstated as leader" though he statedstill being "disappointed in the way he (the principal)handled it."Fraser talked in terms of the principal dumping onhim, and attempting "to undermine something [he] feltwas valuable." He added that the effect of theconfrontation (the theme of Conflict) and theprincipal's misuse of power were what he found sostressful. With regard to the working relationshipthere was also both loss and threat. Fraser statedthat "it permanently alters your washow I was treated [and] it's loss of respect on my partto him...I would treat my relationship with him with agood deal more caution..."He also lost trust in the principal: "I thinkdistrust is a word you use when it's, as Aristotlestated once, what is it, you lose your soul it takes alifetime to recover." This relates to the Conflicttheme.What was directly relevant was the importance andamount of investment Fraser had in the project over anumber of years: "..this [project] had become such abig part of my life and something that...I developed111and suddenly, all of a sudden, I was just yanked fromit."Clearly the surprise and unpredictability of thissituation was also significant and could be interpretedas a threat appraisal relating to trust in theindividual and the working relationship.Lynn Lynn's stressful experience occurred in thecontext of the classroom. She described one particularincident though it is significant to note that it is arepeated incident that occurred with frequency in thisparticular class.The common themes in her story were Efficacy,Workload Pressure, and the subtheme of Control. Theincident was about being "interrupted numerous times"by a particular student who had all year long been "aproblem." This student challenged Lynn's authority inthe classroom (i.e., the theme of Control) and inaddition to being disruptive, accomplished very littleacademically. Emotionally Lynn became angry and toldthe student to leave the classroom (note: there wereonly a few days left in the school year): "You are notin this classroom again this year. I blew." Thefollowing quotations illustrate Lynn's initial112cognitive reaction to the event: [The angry reaction]"shows my lack of patience 'cause I'm not usually likethat...I had reached the limit with this. It's a badsign when it happens first thing Monday morning...youshould be able to handle that kind of thing". Thisshows Lynn's sense that she ought to have been able todeal with the situation in a different manner with theimplied meaning that she is somehow at fault (whichrelates to the themes of Efficacy and Control).Lynn continued to describe her reaction by saying"It's not the only incident that I've had where I'vefound myself with less control...It's probably acombination of things. In addition, it was clear thatshe believed the cumulative effect of dealing with thisdifficult student was significant: "I've put up withthis kid all year long". At various points in theinterview she makes reference to being "worn down" andhow they (difficult students) keep "at you and at you"and "You really have to stay on top because otherwisethey overpower you." It seems clear that fear wasrelated to loss of control in the future and a sense offatigue in the effort required to keep this fromhappening.The meaning of these statements is in the belief113that the student is "bad" and that the teacher isineffective at coping with the situation.^Theappraisal that she is losing "control" in thissituation is a statement indicating both loss andthreat of further loss of control. Further in thetranscript, Lynn makes more statements that clarify andadd to the meaning of the experience.^She describes alack of respect that could be viewed as a loss ofreward for her efforts:They [these particular students] don't put anyeffort and they don't care. That's where you getthis respect thing. If someone doesn't care aboutwhat you're doing and they don't try themselves,then they're not respecting your point of view oryour values...Obviously I believe in this course.I'm up there teaching it and trying to do my bestfor the kids and you don't get that back...youonly take that for so long before you startfeeling it yourself...feeling frustration that youcan't reach this kid...Anger at that attitude thathe's portraying and giving off. At this point I'dreally given up. Kind of a hopeless feeling thatI can't reach this kid.Lynn also described "disappointment [in herself]"114and feelings of inadequacy: "So, you feel like you'rein a way inadequate. You start feeling that way; thatyou can't master this problem". The main appraisal forLynn was feelings of inadequacy related to decisionmaking: "So I feel that I've failed that class and feelthat I've made a mistake and I should have beenstronger and more decisive earlier, and I won't do thatagain. Although it's hard to say. I mean, you goalong, go along, and you know, then it's too late."Even at this point it is still difficult for Lynnto be decisive as we see the doubt creeping in towardthe end of her statement. What is important for Lynnis to be able to motivate students to behave andprogress academically. The difficult students threatenher ability to motivate (relating to the theme ofEfficacy) and keep control. It appears to be adefensive reaction to blame the student as in manyplaces in the transcript she refers to her inadequaciesand a sense of helplessness in dealing with thesituation. The threat to her ability to solve theproblem and stay in control is a predominant appraisal.JoeThe interview with Joe took place in the springwhen one of the departmental issues to be dealt with,115as a head teacher, was the issue of teachers beingdeclared surplus.^This experience lead to hiscommenting on other aspects of the system that he findsstressful.Themes I analysed for appraisals were Conflict,Power, Autonomy, and Efficacy. As a leader who dealswith decision making and problem solving within hisdepartment, Joe found it stressful to deal withconflict: "I had to go to this one teacher and confronther on what she'd said about what I did...andconfrontation is never easy...She's a loose cannon.She can be really abrasive which produces a lot ofstress...nobody wants to be fighting all the time."Although Joe makes several statements that indicatethat he is fairly confident in his problem-solvingabilities, he indicated that it took effort to cope andwas not a pleasant experience. He also indicated thatsuch encounters affected the future: "So now we've gotto live through the next two weeks," implying that therelationship was strained. In its most simpleinterpretation the working relationship is threatened.This is illustrated in the following comment that wasmade in reference to another conflictual interaction"Now, Monday, I'm going to have to ask him to co-116operate and help me design a curriculum. So I couldhave opted to say nothing." So for Joe, dealing withconflict has the potential to interfere with a co-operative relationship.Joe is quite secure in his role as leader andoften spoke of it positively, as a challenge. Heappears confident in having the confidence of both hisdepartment and the administration. At the same timewhen the confrontations occurred regarding declaring ateacher surplus he said: "the extra stress there isthat everybody knows you're having trouble so you,you're wondering about what your own image is as aleader...people begin to expect things. You know, youdo one and then the next comes up and they expect youto do that one too. And then the third one and thenthe fourth one". Even though Joe has positive feelingsabout his leadership role, there co-exists a threat tobeing able to live up to his image.Inner conflict was one of the main sources ofstress for Joe. He talked about "two of me fightinginside" that threatened his ability to make "toughdecisions," which he saw as being necessary to hisrole.Two other themes were important for his ability to117make tough decisions: not having the authoritynecessary to influence departmental decisions (thisrelates to the theme of Power), and having a visionthat is continually frustrated (which relates toAutonomy). He states; "You're in control and you'renot...I guess the stress is no power...that you have avision and you can't implement it because all thesethings are in the way...[you have to] compromise allthe time in what you believe should be done."Joe expressed fear that people who share hisideals for education may get discouraged and leave: "ifwe start losing people I lose more partners". Part ofthis is the hope that by working together, Joe couldimplement educational ideas proposed by WilliamGlasser. Joe is frustrated by the constraints withinthe system: "I'm finding that there's not enough spacefor me to do a lot of things I wanna do....Freedom free me up with time and resources."This aspect of Joe's stress, though not directlyrelated to the incident of declaring a teacher surplus,did relate to the same political process and did relateindirectly as any changes in staffing effect thequality of education. Joe was quite clear that currenttrends in this respect have a negative effect.118Joe spoke about positive feelings related to the"challenges" of being a head teacher (which relates tothe theme of Efficacy). He found aspects of itrewarding and had not lost a sense of optimism or hopeof having a positive effect on the educational system.In addition, Joe identified some losses with regard torelationships and confrontations, although there was noindication that this would be a permanent loss. Thepredominant appraisal was one of threat where Joefeared not being able to achieve his ideals and fearednot being able to solve the problems.FredFred's situation is quite similar to that ofJoe's. He was angry and frustrated because he wouldhave a teacher in his department whom he considered"unqualified". Fred's main interest was in the qualityof education. Themes analysed from this transcriptwere Conflict, Role Conflict, and Efficacy.Common themes of Conflict and Efficacy show boththe negative affect and cognitive appraisal process.The experience included his having to deal with "theanguish of the young woman" who would likely bedeclared surplus and the "frustration of other staffmembers." He also anticipated the "frustration the119parents were going to feel." Fred indicated that "Thequality of the instruction [was] going to be inferiorand that reflects on the department as a whole. Itreflects on me as department head." Fred clearly feltthere would be a negative effect on him or, in terms ofappraisal a threat to his sense of competency, as aleader. He had argued to keep the teacher he felt wasbest qualified and stated: "I guess I feel that if Ican't keep her, then in some way I've failed." He feltthe burden "to make the right decision" even though heknew his influence was limited: "And no matter whatdecision is made, there will be many people unhappywith it....First children, I think, like to bewinners....And then when you're put in a situationwhere you can't be guaranteed of doing what is right,no matter what you do a lot of people will think it'swrong, and I will think it's wrong too." Fred has astrong need to "be right", which was threatened.Fred stated his fear quite clearly: "I guess apartial fear is that if I don't make the rightdecisions, or I'm not perceived to have made the rightdecisions, then I may lose some credibility in otherareas--areas which are of more concern to me." This isclearly a threat for Fred. In trying to solve the120problem there was also loss in that he gave up hisfavorite course in order to "juggle the timetable...tokeep a teacher we want." Other losses for Fred includehis sense of fun during this tense time and he saw anegative impact on his sleep patterns and familyinteractions with the "extra hours" and "energy"required to deal with the difficulties.Another appraisal of threat related to hispersonal integrity and sense of self as "ethical".Fred described inner conflict between his desire to"manipulate" the system for the best results and thatprocess feeling "a little hiddden". He stated "itmakes you question whether your image, the image I haveof myself, is really inaccurate."Finally, he had concerns around conflicts and "thepressure of dealing with the people who are veryvociferous and protesting the load (i.e., teachingassignment) they've been given." This too can be seenas an appraisal of threat as it is a fear related tothe future and his desire for good workingrelationships: "I have a good working relationship withthe department, I want to keep it that way, and I'mafraid the position we've been put in this year makesthat very difficult." Once again as he has only121"partial control" in his position as head teacher hefeels somewhat "powerless" in the problem-solvingprocess.The common theme of Role Conflict was quitesignificant for Fred. The energy and time spentsolving political problems meant a loss of time andenergy spent actually teaching: "I'd rather focus onthe teaching of the young people because that'sstressful enough." He also indicates that these lossesmay continue in the future: "So, we'll have to fightthat battle too (another potential grievance). And onand on it goes." He also mentions a negative impact onhis home life in that he feels anxious, exhausted and"has restless nights." This experience takes availableenergy from his personal life and is a loss. Part ofthe frustration seems to be the thought that energy andtime for what he prioritizes at work and at home islost to less meaningful activity for him.Fred comments on the experienced differencebetween his role as head teacher and classroom teacher:"A lot of classroom stresses are a challenge andthey're enjoyable and they can be coped with and theycan be made fun," which indicates a challengeappraisal.^He is clear that this is not the case for122the political stresses.PattiPatti, also a head teacher, recently experienceddealing with her principal about a compulsory coursefor her department that had not been scheduled into thetimetable. Common themes of Power, Support, RoleConflict, and Autonomy were identified.Primarily two areas related to the themes of Powerand Conflict can be interpreted as having an appraisalof threat. The first is a threat to her sense offairness. She describes feeling angry "because Ithought they'd [the administration] considered it [thecourse] and then just written it off ...and our wholedepartment has been involved in a lot of newinitiatives in the school". It is implied here andelsewhere in her transcript that Patti perceived thedepartment as hardworking and enthusiastic and thenwere given "a slap to say, well, we [theadministration] don't have time to think about youguys." She adds: "I think they have a feeling thatwe've been very flexible and easy to get along with sotherefore we can take it and will take it..."The second threat was to her sense of support fromthe administration. She felt "frustration" about the123role of the administration: "It's like we've beengetting a lot of support and now the whole bottom hasdropped right out of it."There was some loss of faith or confidence in theadministration though Patti understood that theconstraints were not under their immediate or completecontrol: "I've always been very trusting and it's notthat I don't trust the administration now but...theyare probably not the last level of concern. BecauseI'd always had success in going to the principal and Iusually got some kind of action or some kind ofresult."Related to themes of Support and Power was thethreat to her goals and a loss of enjoyment: "How do weget excited about anything new if we can't actually,because of constraints, get it put in place." Therewas also a threat to her sense of integrity: "This justgoes on forever and forever, that we just pretend thesekids have these things [i.e., course content]. And youknow as far as I'm concerned that's lying." This alsoconcerns her because of the implications for thequality of her department.Also significant is the long-term implication thather vision for education is threatened: "So to me124that's what we should be looking at--what kids aredoing and what they seem to have lacked in theireducation here" (which relates to the theme ofAutonomy). It is frustrating to her to have to dealwith the political issues: "I don't see [this]improving my teaching" it feels "unproductive" to her.She adds that: "I don't feel I should have to go toparents and say that this is to be learned and it's notbeing done." This indicates a conflict in role and theresulting frustration. Of not being able to proceedwith what she clearly communicates as a vision orhigher value in providing quality education for thestudents. It is a blocked goal.The final appraisal of threat was related torelationships and conflict: "I think that's whatbothers me more sometimes after an interaction thatsomebody else has perceived [me] as being angry, whileI wanted them to understand my point of view...I doworry about the things and I do try the next day tomake sure that somehow we have a conversation orsomething that lets them know that this...should notaffect...discussions we can have."Charles In the beginning of the interview Charles made125reference to a recent parent teacher interview andinteractions with the principal around a disciplineissue with a particular student. Charles, in additionto the description of the experience made frequentgeneralized comments about "the system", which bothverbally and non-verbally (intonation, facialexpressions, gestures) indicated a great deal of angerand resentment. I use both types of comments toillustrate appraisals of threat and loss. I found nochallenge appraisals in this transcript.One of the main themes for Charles, which was alsoa common theme (Support), was lack of support from hisprincipal. He makes several statements that indicatethat he views the lack of support in this particularexperience, and in general, as a significant problem.The following quotations illustrate this and indicatesthat his security is threatened: "If you get anyproblems, you're on your own with this administrationwe've got here....the principal doesn't give a shitabout anyone else....Like everybody seems to be scared,wanting to cover their ass, and everybody wants toprotect themselves--I want to protect myself too....He[the principal] doesn't like to get in arguments orfights and he's totally concerned with protecting126himself....he won't back anybody up....He's looking outfor himself."For Charles it appears that there is a sense ofbelonging that has been lost. Several common themesare involved. In addition to Support, are WorkloadPressure and the subtheme Control. He spoke aboutformer times when he was involved extensively in extra-curricular activities and the coaching of good kids andhad a supportive principal. Now he says he feels as ifhe is not "in anymore". He also stated: "they put thisguilt trip on you that everybody should be coaching.But after you've done it for 20 years, you should beable to say...why should I continue doing it?" Itseems that there is accumulated resentment aboutfeeling used by the system and then when support isneeded it's not offered. This could be interpreted asa threat to his sense of what is fair in terms ofjustice (related to Support) and reward. To furtherthis idea, when Charles speaks about the difficultstudents he says: "They can do anything they want butyou can't touch them." It seems both unfair andthreatens his sense of control. At one point he states"kids run this place...nobody ever takes a stand."There was also an appraisal of threat related to127the theme of Efficacy: " want to do somethinggood [i.e., course preparations]. And then when...youhave six individuals who don't care and who screwaround, and you start to doubt yourself. You know, amI doing the best job....It's tough to make it good allthe time. It's tough to make it average all the time."Toward the end of the interview he stated a lossin his personal life related to Workload Pressure:"you're usually so tired on Friday night you don't wantto do anything I think the stress carries over,outside....After awhile you start to lose contact withfriends."Charles, unlike the other participants talkedabout a degree of impact on his personal life thatexceeded that which was stated by other participants.I did not find significant differences in themes,though the meanings or appraisals were differentnotably in the threat to security or what he stated asa need to protect oneself. I believe that it wasbeyond the scope of the interview to identify themultiple layers of meaning and relationship to theenvironment that lead to this more generalizedrecounting of the experience of stress.128EdImmediately before the interview, Ed received aphone call that upset him, partly because it wasinforming him of a meeting he ought to have known aboutearlier, and partly because of the nature of themeeting.Because of the recency of the event there wasrelatively little reappraisal and most likely anaccurate representation of the initial appraisal. Edexpressed anger and frustration, particularly aroundcommon themes of Autonomy, Support, and Conflict.Regarding the meeting Ed said: "He's [i.e., theprincipal] never spoken to me about it. That's why Ifeel shafted, is that he should have, at least, givenme an inkling that they're out to question you andyou're supposed to be at this meeting, and he hasn'tgot the audacity to say anything."The conflict was about some days where Ed wasabsent from school where there was an apparent pattern.Ed went on to talk about all the extra time he'd put incoaching and as the issue was about a pattern ofabsences, it indicated quite clearly that he felt hedid not deserve what he perceived was to be areprimand. His initial thoughts were: "Why me," or"How come it happens?" and "Do I deserve it?" or "Is it129maybe somebody trying to set me up for something?"This is certainly an appraisal of threat, threat to hissense of well-being and fairness.Ed has lost belief in rewards in the system. Herefers to this as lack of support: "...every once inawhile you just need somebody to reassureyou.... Encouragement, incentive to keep going andmotivate them [i.e., students] to keep striving to dobetter. But when you don't get that you just feel,I'll do my minimum and get the heck out."Later, and related to the theme of Autonomy andPower, he said: "If I was to go along with everythingthat they expect of me, then there really wouldn't beany problem...If I make them happy, then do I makemyself unhappy.... should I be making others happy ortrying to make sure that I'm secure, feeling good, andlooking out for #1."It seems that Ed believes his autonomy is directlythreatened. For example: "he [the principal] shouldn'treally be dictating this kind of stuff to me" and "Ifthey [the administration] would just leave me alonewhen I think I know what's happening." Who makes therules, and why, recurs as a personal theme, but whatappears more significant is the threat to Ed's desire130for freedom and autonomy, as well as resentment whenauthority figures reprimand him.There was also in this particular incident athreat to Ed's image as he explains how others mightperceive the meeting: "I could be labelled as one thatjust takes off [and] doesn't explain why." He had somefear about the impact the meeting would have on hisreputation if other teachers saw the individualsinvolved meeting with him.There was also a loss of trust: "I think I'm inshock, I've been back-stabbed, because, if in fact,this meetings's gonna take place today...why doesn'tsomeone have the decency, the courtesy, just to give mean indication, to inform me." It's interesting to notethat in this interview, aside from the stated conflict,there are differences in attitude toward responsibilitybetween Ed and his administration. Ed interpreted thisevent as his being picked on and being unsupported.Sally For Sally "competition within the system", thatis, between two separate school programs, was making itmuch harder "to initiate" her program "than it reallyneeded to be." Students had recently dropped out ofher program in favor of the other one, and Sally talked131about the stress involved during the past two weeksthat was related to getting the program off the ground.At this point in her experience Sally does notarticulate any evidence of appraisals of loss. Shedoes indicate several appraisals of challenge andthreat.The predominant common themes in Sally'sexperience are Efficacy, Control, and Work LoadPressure. Although Sally is an experienced teacher,she was new to the division and was hired to initiate anew program. This added a dimension to Sally'sexperience of efficacy in that she felt a need to proveherself. This is illustrated in the followingquotations: "It would be that inner need to prove tomyself and to prove to others that...she can do it,she's good." She also mentioned "responsibility" and"accountability" several times that was tied to bothworkload pressure and efficacy: "You have to beaccountable for what you're doing....I go home and I domore work....I'm a perfectionist."As Sally recounted her experience it was clear sheboth enjoyed the work and felt pressured by it. Anappraisal of threat is illustrated by the followingstatement: "I feel that if I work hard and prepare hard132and organize hard I will do a good job. There's alwaysthat underlying fear that...I'll trip up." What is atstake for her is her future related to job security andher high expectations of herself: "The expectations formyself are high because of my future and...that'sstressful....My personality and my makeup [is] doing agood job."Workload pressure was also a key theme. Sallybelieved this was increased because of the extraefforts required to begin a program: "I put 30 plushours [extra preparation work] could probablystress the plus at this point because this time nextyear, when the program's running again, I won't haveall that other stuff to do. So it's the stress of anew program that's got to be developed as well aseveryday activities of teaching in the classroom."This directly relates to the experience she wasdescribing of competition within the system: "It makesme angry because I have seen a lot of, I think,underhandedness....It's totally unfair....So basicallywithin the last two weeks we've been trying to get morestudents in. We now, having been in the program amonth, it's set. We haven't gained or lost any otherstudents but there's still a frustration. It's been a133lot harder to initiate this year than it really neededto be." So the sense of unfairness and increaseddifficulty that "didn't need to be there" was asignificant irritant for Sally. It indicates a senseof wasted energy for no significant gain. Thecontinued stress and intensity of the work is indicatedby the following excerpts: "And it's ongoing, I mean,this will continue all year. It's not just a two-weekstress.... it's gonna be a two-year stress....It's maybea little all-consuming right now, so it appears I haveto be a workaholic.... again, it goes back to lendingcredibility and trying to develop the program andhaving to have something that's sucessful in the end."However, in addition to these appraisals was anappraisal of challenge: "I tend to be more an optimistthan a pessimist. I feel if one does a good job thenthe payoff will be there in the end....I thrive onstress because by knowing that it needs to be done,jobs need to be done, you make sure that it's done....Imean, I'm working hard but I'm having a good time."There are rewards for her: "The work that I've done iscoming to fruition" which she measures by the students'responses to her work.The Essential Structure of Teacher Stress 134The experience of stress as described by theseteachers began with a disturbing event or thought. Attimes the two occurred in close proximity. Theemotional response in all cases was frustration and/oranger. Though there may have been other emotions thesewere by far the most predominant for everyone in thestudy. As the experience was described it became clearthat the event or thought that began the account waspreceded by a series of similar events and thoughts,which were in one way or another related to thedescribed current experience or came as a completeshock by going completely against previous expectationsand experiences.It was common to all participants that theexperience of stress fit within a series of similarexperiences that became increasingly difficult totolerate. Everyone expressed a degree of fatigue atthe ongoing nature of the event (I use event becauseeven if the thoughts were stressful, they were relatedto specific events in every case).Although not verbalized sufficiently to beidentified as themes, part of the descriptions involvedtwo key elements that may more appropriately relate tostructure. All, except for one of the participants,135expressed varying degrees of increasing futility witheach encounter. Not all had lost hope, but allexpressed a belief or feeling that the energy used inthe stressful encounters was in some way wasted becauseit was used to attempt to gain ground that should neverhave been lost. It was as if there was an expectationthat certain kinds of things should not happen andtherefore were more frustrating to deal with.The second element that correlated with the degreeof stress each individual experienced was the beliefthat eventually he or she could effect change. What isnot clear from this study is how, or if, the number ofstressful interractions affect these beliefs. It isclear that those who described more positive feelingsalso expressed more belief in an eventual positiveoutcome. Those who had lost belief in a positiveoutcome expressed only negative feelings and thoughtsduring the interview.For many of the participants the event theydescribed precipitated issues that were stillunresolved at the time of the interview. It istherefore impossible to describe an ending to theevent, and this is intrinisic to the structure ofstress. It is precisely because it is unfinished and136ongoing that the participants described the experienceas stressful. This means that the consequences for theindividuals are as yet unknown. This element, anaspect of the unknown, projects the experience and itsimplications into the future. It was difficult forparticipants to decide on what to do to manage thestress when some aspect of it remained somewhatunpredictable.SummaryHaving identified eight common themes andconfirmed the existence of threat appraisals (and lossappraisals) for all participants, as well as havingdescribed the essential structure of the experience ofstress, it becomes clearer that there is a complexinteractional process between the environment andindividuals. It is possible to identify common themesthat point to the distinct possibility that theexistence of these commonalities interact in some waywhich, if experienced in isolation, may not have thesame meaning for individuals. It is perhaps thiscombination that is particularly stressful.It is also clear that although there arecommonalities, both thematically and in theenvironment, individuals react to the same themes, but137weight each theme differently. In addition they mayplace more significance on certain aspects of oneparticular theme over, but not in exclusion, ofanother.Finally, contrary to previous research, no genderdifferences were observed. The Common themes did notreveal any patterns pointing to gender differences.For example, no themes were more dominant for onegender then the other.Only three women were interviewed, one of whom wasa department head, so it is possible that the samplesize was too small to reflect gender differences.Also, the degree of stress was not measured which is anarea where differences could be found (Laughlin, 1984).In addition, if what is at stake were to be explored inmore detail, the meaning may be different for men andwomen. However, it is consistent with Lazarus andFolkman's (1984) theory that the appraisal process iscommon to everyone.138DiscussionThe purpose of this study was to investigate theexperience of stress in high school teachers. Iidentified the common themes experienced by eightsecondary teachers and the individual appraisals,specifically appraisals of threat and what was atstake.Although each story was unique in content, eightthemes emerged that occurred in all stories. Conflict,one of the two major themes, had a subtheme of InnerConflict, and a related theme, Role Conflict. Theother major theme, Power, had a subtheme of Control,and a related theme, Autonomy. The other themes didnot occur independently of those already mentioned, butwere conceptually distinct. These themes were:Support, Efficacy, Anger and Frustration, and WorkloadPressure.The second part of the study was related to theappraisal process and the identification of threatappraisals. These appraisals were identified from thethemes of each of the participants. Appraisals ofthreat were related to the eight common themes and twosubthemes.Themes and Appraisals 139I analysed the data for common themes as theyoccurred in individual stories. Through this process Ialso identified significant information that could beused to describe possible threat appraisals. What wasat stake for each of the individuals was clarified tosome extent from this information.It was evident from the data that appraisals ofthreat did exist and that they existed in combinationwith appraisals of loss. This was true for allparticipants.I observed that the impact of what was at stake(e.g., feelings of adequacy related to job performance--Efficacy) was magnified when appraisals of threatoccurred simultaneously for more than one theme.Although it was possible to separate data into narrowlydefined themes, it would be erroneous to assume thatthe experience of stress is not affected by thepresence and/or interaction of threat appraisals forseveral themes. Also, it is important to keep in mindthat loss appraisals occurred and that threatappraisals alone do not account for all of the negativeaffect. Lazarus and Folkman (1984) point out that anyappraisal can occur simultaneously with another (loss,threat, or challenge) and that "even when a harm/loss140has occurred, it is always fused with threat becauseevery loss is also pregnant with negative implicationsfor the future" (pp. 32-33).It was impossible, therefore, to completelyisolate particular themes and the accompanyingappraisals as being more significant than others. Forexample, the theme of Conflict can involve issuesrelating to aspects of all the other themes. One mightthen view this as a central theme except that, althoughcommon to all participants, it is not a dominant themefor all (either in terms of frequency or intensity).The theme of Power, or the theme of Autonomy stood outfor some individuals moreso than Conflict. There weresome similarities in dominant themes for departmentheads, although there were individual differences forthis group also. Whereas all themes were significantfor all participants, no one theme emerged as dominantfor all individuals. For example, Department Headsgenerally had a view of the larger political picture,however this view did not appear to reduce negativeaffect (particularly frustration), but was associatedwith fewer blaming statements.The complex interaction of themes and appraisalsmay function as a primary factor in the degree of141negative affect experienced, which when considered fromanother angle also implies a complex interactiveprocess between the person and the environment.Though there was no objective measure ofappraisals, I observed that those teachers who alsoidentified challenge appraisals had not lost hope andwere still energized by some aspect of the work. Hopemay be a key factor in health (Jevne & Zingle, 1992).Those who did not identify challenge appraisalsappeared more discouraged and their anger appeared tobe more stagnant rather than a possible motivationalforce.Further Theoretical Considerations From the perspective of Lazarus and Folkman's(1984) theory, all participants identified antecedentsand triggers. There was a very specific eventdescribed in every case, although the impact of thetrigger related to previous experiences of the sametype (involving either the same situation, and/or thesame individuals). The antecedent was identifiable interms of the description given by the participant ofwhat they often referred to as context. In a couple ofcases the context was the polar opposite of thestressful event and the stressful experience came as a142shock. In addition to contextual descriptions,participants also articulated cognitions that indicatedincreasing levels of frustration with ongoing stressfulcircumstances. The consequences of each event werearticulated as fears of loss, or negative consequences(appraised threats), or losses to them that wererelated to the eight common themes.It would be possible to recategorize the contentof the themes into what Lazarus and Folkman (1984)define as resources. If one viewed the findings fromthis perspective, the predominant threats related topsychological resources and competencies. Only in twocases was a significant threat to physical resourcesidentified, though several participants mentioned somedegree of fatigue. This too, was apparently a resultof a combination of things (amount of work, end of theyear, sleep disturbances) rather than a consequence ofany one event or related to one particular appraisal.Ancillary Findings With regard to the initial expectations, nopatterns or participant comments were found to besignificant (either by frequency or intensity) in fourareas. First, there were no evident gender relatedpatterns or differences. Second, there were no main143references by participants to past influences (e.g.,family of origin) other than the immediate schoolcontext or stories related to the immediate context.However, a few individuals made brief comments relatingto family of origin influences on current beliefs andvalues. This ought not be discounted in furtherinvestigations. Third, workload was indeed found to besignificant and a common theme to all participants. Itwas not as significant as I expected however, and didnot appear as a major theme. Fourth, one individualindicated the presence of stress related illness(ulcer). A few mentioned sleep disturbances that theyattributed to work stress.Limitations of the StudyThe qualitative and phenomenological nature ofthis study has allowed threat appraisals to emerge fromthe data without leading the participant to think interms of what was at stake. Lazarus and Folkman's(1984) theory states that a threat appraisal isassociated with negative affect. It is this negativefeeling state that people most frequently associatewith stress or what might be viewed as distress.It was therefore imperative to the study thatteachers be articulate and able to communicate their144thoughts and feelings about their experiences.Although there were individual differences in theclarity of articulation, all eight participants wereable to both answer the questions with clarity, and totake time to reflect and add to their responses as theinterview progressed. While I am satisfied thatresponses were articulate and did reflect theindividual's understanding of the events, the study bydesign is limited to what the participants were ableand willing to reveal. It is not within the scope ofthis study therefore to analyse the threat appraisalsand what was at stake to any great depth. The mainpurpose of the study was to determine the existence ofsuch appraisals and was limited to this task. What wasat stake was likely to be much more complex than whatwas indicated by the broad description in thestatements relating to themes. The study allows for aninitial identification of what was at stake, but it islimited by design in identifying what is at stake inany detail. In fact, the initial identification ofwhat is at stake does not explore the meaning of whatis threatened which would give significant informationto really understand what is at stake.The study was not designed to tap the interactive145process that has emerged as possibly quite significant.In addition, there was no measure of the degree ofstress or intensity of threat experienced which canonly be speculated from observation.A second area of limitation relates to the timeof year at which the teachers were interviewed. It wasevident from the transcripts that there was acumulative effect of the events described that beganearlier in the year and that continued throughout theyear. Although this is clear, there is nothing in thedesign of the study, nor did more than a few commentsemerge that indicated that the end of the school yearcould be experienced differently from other periods oftime independent of the circumstances described.Certainly the content of some political issues wasspecific to the time of year (i.e., teachers beingdeclared surplus). The study was limited to what theteachers thought at the time of the interview althoughthe second interview was put in place to minimizeomissions and confirm the importance of what was statedinitially.More specific quantitative questions could go intomore detail with themes and the appraisals,particularly with what was at stake. However, this146qualitative method has allowed the existence of threatappraisals to be confirmed and emerge in connectionwith the eight common themes. In addition thismethodology has allowed the interwoven nature of commonthemes to be seen that would not have emerged withanother design. This is particularly significant whenthe threat appraisals were found to coincide with thethemes.Significance of the StudyThe significance of this study is primarily in theincreased knowledge about the experience of stress ofteachers in the high school workplace. By studyingteacher stress, and confirming the existence of threatappraisals, this study has increased our understandingof both environmental stressors, and individualmeanings that are directly relevant to work stress inhigh school teachers.Implications for research. Although it isimpossible to generalize to the teacher population, andeight participants are very few, this study illustratesLazarus and Folkman's (1984) theory, and points to someadditional areas for study.The eight common themes indicate key areas ofconcern that with further study could clarify the147parameters within which individual teachers appraiseexperiences as stressful. Although the content of thethemes does not cover all possible experiences, thethemes would be relevent to a great variety of work-related situations. In addition, the informationgathered in the form of themes gives a place forspecific environmental concerns to be addressed. Forexample, the political situations that various teachersencountered were significant beyond the individualexperience for all eight of these teachers. It isimportant to keep in mind that this study confirms thatenvironmental particulars (e.g., interpersonalconflict, lack of support, lack of autonomy) continueto be pinpointed as stressors.The second aspect of the study also confirmsindividual differences with respect to the experienceof stress. In this study the individual differencesare not measured in terms of personality differences asin some other literature (e.g., Harris et al., 1985)but in light of the meaning that individuals make of asituation. This is a cognitive process that is likelyto be influenced by a combination of factors (values,beliefs, previous experience, personality traits). Theconfirmation of the existence of threat appraisals (and148individual differences) is a highly significant factorto consider in the future development of the treatmentof work stress issues. This study has indicated thatcommon themes do exist but that individuals differed inwhich themes were dominant in their experience, andtherefore differed in meaning for them in theexperience of stress. Future study of the meaning ofthe appraisals would contribute to understanding theprocess.In addition to appraisals of threat, allparticipants indicated loss appraisals and someindicated challenge appraisals. Further study withregard to the level of stress for individuals withseveral appraisal types is indicated, particularly aschallenge appraisals were associated with positiveaffect.The last area meriting additional study was theinteraction of themes and appraisals and the impact ofthat on individuals in terms of the degree of stress(i.e., negative affect, and or stress-related diseases)experienced.Implications for intervention. If the findings ofthis study are confirmed by further research, it wouldhave an impact on psychoeducational programs and149counselling interventions. Both environmental factorsand individual differences must be addressed. Programsthat emphasize one in exclusion to the other would beineffective at best, and possibly detrimental. Lazarusand Folkman (1984) emphasize that coping efforts willby effective when there is a match between theappraisal of resources and the demands of the event (p.186). It is therefore incumbant upon counsellors toassist individuals to realistically assess theenvironment and their resources, and to develop copingoptions which fit both.Workshops that help individuals identify andunderstand common stressors and that increasecommunication among teachers related to the experienceof stress would be helpful in alleviating feelings ofisolation and self-doubt that increase when people viewthe difficulty as related only to personal competency.As Lazarus and Folkman (1984) point out in theirtheory, coping options can be emotion-focused. Oneessential aspect of counselling in all contexts, andstress is no exception, is to assist individuals toidentify feelings and learn to cope more effectivelywith feelings of anger and frustration. In the processit would be important to evaluate the role of the150environment and whether or not change is possible onthat level.Theory states that the level of threat "influencesthe extent to which available resources can be used forcoping" (p.167). Given that feelings of frustrationand anger were so common as to constitute a theme, itwould be necessary to include a method to analyse thelevel of threat and the intensity of emotion in furtherstudies.Implications for teacher education. The otherarea of concern the study raises is with regard toteacher education. One of the issues raised related toa lack of leadership skills which teachers need in thepolitical arena (and most likely in other areas also)but that do not obviously relate to the classroom.Skills (such as conflict resolution) would however, berelated to this and to classroom discipline issues. Inaddition to skill related education, the teachers inthe study all experienced some degree of self-doubt,anger, and fear related to competency and controlduring times of stress. Feelings of being out ofcontrol or powerless need to be evaluated soindividuals can decide what to do rather than blamethemselves (or others). An important aspect of this is151understanding the political processes related toeducation. If the frustrations related to "the system"it is imperative that teachers have a perspective thatincludes a sense of personal competency in relating tothe larger system even when the role of teacher limitsthe ability to influence the political processes.Teacher education programs rarely address issues suchas these in a formalized way. It would be important toteach teachers to be able to realistically evaluatethemselves with regard to these concerns, and to knowhow to use their own and other resources whendifficulties arise rather than to continue inisolation, perhaps not knowing that other teachersexperience similar feelings and thoughts. I recommendthat teacher education programs include qualityeducation about stress and coping that would includeaddressing the areas mentioned above as well as ways toidentify signs of stress, and specific copingtechniques and options.ConclusionThe purpose of this phenomenological study was toexplore teachers' experiences of stress and to evaluatethe data to support the existence of threat appraisalsaccording to Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) stress152theory.The study has supported the existence of threatappraisals and indicated that what was at stakerelated, in the case of these participants, to eightcommon themes and two subthemes. 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Education, 106, 72-77.Tesch, R. (1990). Qualitative research: Analysis typesand software tools. Bristol, PA: Falmer Press.Trusty, F., & Sergiovanni, T. (1966). Perceived needdeficiencies of teachers and administrators: Aproposal for restructuring teacher roles.Educational Administration Quarterly, 2(3), 168-180.158Appendix ATime allowed: 30-60 minutes for each interviewGuiding Question: What does it mean when a teacher sayshe/she is stressed in terms of the appraisal processand what is at stake?Interview FormatFirst InterviewExplain rationale for study and answer any questionsabout what is involved and expected. Have participantsign consent form before proceeding.IntroductionI'd like you to think about 2 or 3 experiencesthat you consider stressful, which have occurred atwork in the last week or two. The experience does nothave to be a crisis, but one which distressed you insome way, possibly because you felt badly or because ittook effort to cope with it. Think about theexperience and how you felt, thought, and behaved. Youmay have felt differently at the beginning, in themiddle, and at the end.Could you describe one experience now, and tell meas if you were telling a story with a beginning and amiddle and an end. Include as much detail as possible,especially as it relates to how you thought, felt, and159behaved at the time.During the interview, while the participant wastelling the story, the following types of questionswere asked in order to discover the meaning of theexperience as perceived by the participant, emphasiswas placed on tracking the participant:It seems that^was important to you.What did that mean to you when^?Tell me more about how you felt/what youthought/what you did.When^happened, and you felt^ , how does160that affect you, or what does that mean for you?When you feel^ , what thoughts go through yourhead?How do you feel about feeling^?After each story, the following questions wereasked:1. You have identified this experience as stressful.Is there anything else that you think is important thatwould help me understand what stress was like for youin this experience?2. Could you explain how or if other factors in yourlife influenced this experience in terms of feelingstressed? What happened before the experience?3. What happened after the experience? What is yourperspective on this experience now?At this point I asked the participant to addanything that he/she thought was relevant, but whichhad not necessarily been asked about. This ended theinterview and the tape recorder was switched off. Toclose the interview I thanked the participant and askedwhat doing the interview had been like for him/her withthe intent to acknowledge the importance of theindividual in the process of research.At this point I briefly described my process oftranscribing and analysing the interview for themes,and we arranged a meeting for the second interview.Second InterviewI presented the participant with a written summaryof what I understood from the interview. I askedhim/her to read it and asked for clarification onpoints that I identified as unclear or incomplete. Ithen asked the participant to comment on what I foundin order to clarify, expand or change my understandingof themes in the interview that he/she saw asinadequately described or represented.The complete transcript was available to theparticipant to refer to if he/she so chose, to assist161the clarification process.When I completed the process of analysing theinformation from all participants, I contacted theparticipants, if they so desired, and provided themwith the results of the entire study.162Appendix BBackground Information1. School PopulationA. (a) rural (b) core area urban (c) suburbanB. (a) multi-cultural (^% born in Canada)(b) one dominant immigrant cultural groupplease identify the group^%2. Size of School(a) 500 or less (b) 500-1,000 (c) 1,000+3. Grades currently taught. Circle all that areapplicable^(a) 10 (b) 11 (c) 124. Average class size (a) 1-15 (b) 16-25 (c) 26-35(d) >355. School allotted preparation hours per week^ /preparation hours outside school time^ .6. Years of teaching experience^.7. Please indicate your age^.8. Education level (a) teaching certificate(b) B.A./B.S. (c) B.Ed. (d) M.A./M.Ed.(e) Other9. Marital Statusliving at home10. Family income Number of Children16311. Which one of the following applies to you?(a) Born in Canada (b) Immigrant(c) Other: please specify nationality^12. How many days were you absent, in the past yearfor health reasons?Did these absenses occur at one time or were theyspread throughout the year?^13. How would you rate your over-all teachingeffectiveness compared with your own goals as ateacher?(a) poor (b) average (c) good (d) excellent14. Knowing what you know now, would you still chooseteaching as a profession? Yes No15. At this point do you plan to remain in the teachingprofession? No As far as I know Maybe Yes164Appendix CLetter of InformationTeaching, as you are aware, is a stressfuloccupation. In an attempt to study the teachingenvironment and stress, it is important to understandpersonal experience as well as what is stressful in theenvironment.This study will look in depth at personalexperiences of stressful situations at work in aneffort to understand how the environment affectsindividuals. The information will be based on aninterview with one researcher and a short follow-upmeeting to confirm that the information has beenunderstood correctly.Information received will be regarded asconfidential, and anonymous. No names of individualsor schools will be used in conversations, publications,or other tapes or documents. Only the researcher doingthe interview will have identifying knowledge.The information gathered will be analysed and theresults will be published in a Masters thesis andpossibly journal articles that are available to thepublic. This information will take the form of themesand processes that emerge as significant from several165interviews with various individuals. It is posssiblethat quotations from the interview will be used toillustrate a point, but no identifying information willbe used.The purpose of what is published is not to tellpersonal stories, but rather to identify significantaspects of the experience of stress so that moreeffective information, workshops, and assistance can bemade available for people in the teaching profession.Should you decide to participate in this research,you will be given an opportunity to ask questions inorder to be absolutely clear about all expectations andrequirements before we begin the interview. You will beasked to sign an agreement that states theresponsibilites of the researcher to you and what isrequired from a participant.Finally, it is the aim of this type of research toexplore areas that are as yet not fully understood. Itis my hope and expectation that the time you would taketo participate would be of benefit to you. Also, ofcourse you would be contributing to a body of researchthat ultimately will help many others who find teachinga stressful profession.166Appendix DConsent FormI agree as a research participant to beinterviewed regarding issues of work stress. I haveread the introductory letter and agree to be open aboutwhat I understand of my experience. I understand thatparticipation is voluntary and I can withdraw at anytime.I agree to commit to 2 meetings, an initialinterview and one follow-up meeting. I am willing tocommit to 2 hours (roughly one hour per meeting).I am aware that the first interview will askquestions about my experience, and in the second I willbe given an opportunity to clarify the researcher'sunderstanding of the initial interview so that itaccurately reflects my experience. If at anytime Iwish to discontinue participation and/or feel unable todiscuss relevant information, I will inform theresearcher and have the right to withdraw withoutpenalty.I agree to have quotations used in publicationprovided that no information is used to connect theinformation with my identity. I understand that I maykeep a copy of this agreement for my files.167Participant SignatureResearcher SignatureDate168School PopulationA. LocationFraser: suburban^Lynn:^core area urbanJoe:^suburban Fred:^suburbanPatti:^suburban^Charles: suburbanEd:^suburban Sally:^core area urbanB. Ethnic Makeup of StudentsFraser: 90% born in CanadaJoe:^75% b. in CanadaPatti: dominant EnglishCanadianEd:^80% b. in CanadaLynn:^60% East Indian& ChineseFred:^80% b. in CanadaCharles: 85% b. inCanadaSally:^95% b. in CanadaSize of SchoolAppendix EBackground Information of the ParticipantsFraser: 1,000+^ Lynn:^1,000+Joe:^1,000+ Fred:^1,000+Patti: 1,000+^ Charles: 500-1,000Ed:^500+ Sally:^500-1,000169Grades Currently TaughtFraser: 12 Lynn: 9-12Joe: 11 & 12 Fred: 10-12Patti: 10-12 Charles: 10Ed: 8-10 Sally: 8-12Average Class SizeFraser: 26-35 Lynn: 16-25Joe: 26-35 Fred: 26-35Patti: 16-25 Charles: 26-35Ed: 26-35 Sally: 26-35Preparation Hours per Week (in school/outside school)Fraser: total 3^Lynn:^6-8/10-12Joe:^10/21 Fred:^4/15-20Patti: 0/15^ Charles: 4/30Ed:^4/8 Sally:^3/30+170Years of Teaching ExperienceFraser: 22^ Lynn:^10Joe:^24 Fred:^23Patti: 6^ Charles: 24Ed:^12 Sally:^10AgeFraser: 49^ Lynn:^46Joe:^55 Fred:^50Patti: 33^ Charles: 48Ed:^36 Sally:^36EducationFraser: Ed.D Lynn: B.H.Ec.Joe: M.Ed. Fred: B.Ed.Patti: B.Ed., Special Cert. Charles: B.Ed.Ed: B.Ed. Sally: B.Sc., Ed.Cert.171Marital Status and Children at HomeFraser: Divorced/1 Lynn: Married/2Joe: Married/2 Fred: Married/3Patti: Married/1 Charles: Married/0Ed: Married/4 Sally: Divorced/0Family IncomeFraser: 60,000+ Lynn: 110,000Joe: 85,000 Fred: 54,000Patti: 300,000 Charles: 51,500Ed: 53,000 Sally: no commentprimary earnerNationality/StatusFraser: Immigrant^Lynn:^b. in CanadaJoe:^b. in Canada^Fred:^b. in CanadaPatti: b. in Canada Charles:^b. in CanadaEd.^b. in Canada^Sally:^b. in Canada172Days Absent in the Past YearFraser: 3 (spread out)^Lynn:^15 (spread out)Joe:^4 (spread out)^Fred:^1Patti: 5 (2 occasions)^Charles: 0Ed:^15 (spread out)^Sally:^0Self-Rating for Overall Teaching Effectiveness(Poor, Average, Good, Excellent)Fraser: good-excellent^Lynn:^goodJoe:^excellent^Fred:^good-excellentPatti: excellent Charles: averageEd:^excellent^Sally:^excellentAnswer to: Would you still choose teaching?Fraser: yes^ Lynn:^yesJoe:^yes Fred:^yesPatti: yes^ Charles: noEd:^yes Sally:^yes173Answer to: Will you remain in teaching?Fraser: yes Lynn: yesJoe: yes Fred: yesPatti: yes Charles: yesEd: yes Sally: yesAdditional Significant Information^Fraser: classroom teacher^Lynn:^classroom teacherJoe:^classroom teacher^Fred:^classroom teacher& department head & department headPatti: classroom teacher^Charles: classroom teacher& department headEd:^classroom teacher^Sally:^classroom teacher174


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