Stress doubles for Houston-area teachers - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Stress doubles for Houston-area teachers

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Anxiety, frustration and uncertainty: emotions any parent would want excluded from their kid's public school classroom.

Yet a University of Houston sociologist has found teachers in this community are almost twice as stressed as they were a decade ago, causing many to flee the profession.

"They can't count on the parents for support.  The parents don't send their kids to school ready to learn and yet there is an accountability system that says teachers and their careers depend on student test score results," said Gary Dworkin, author of "Teacher Burnout in America's Public Schools".

Dworkin said the focus on testing has become so overwhelming, it's smothered passion for education and severely compromised teacher morale.

"A lot of the teaching that goes on in school is essentially 'drill and kill' as it's called.  They go over and over and over and over the material," said Dworkin.  "Teachers don't often trust the kids to be able to do the kind of job that will save their job."

It's a "job" many teachers now view as having lost much of its security.  The emphasis on test performance, combined with state budget cuts, has left many worried they're just one semester away from unemployment.

"This has been a horrible decade for teachers," said Gayle Fallon, long-time leader of the Houston Federation of Teachers.  "About 1,600 teachers left HISD last year.  Some of the best teachers I have known for a long time went home; people I thought were going to die in the classroom."

Dworkin, whose been studying Houston educators for nearly four decades, believes widespread teacher stress is the most visible symptom of what he calls a "hierarchy of mistrust."

"The public and the corporate world don't trust the schools.  The state education agencies don't trust the districts that don't trust the principals who don't trust the teachers who don't trust the students and they also don't trust the parents," said Dworkin who believes teacher performance should be measured with extensive classroom observation as well as test results.

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