Publish at February 10 2020 Updated June 07 2022

The nervous limits of teachers

No need to go to the end of his patience to make students understand his limitations, and also his administration.

The search for efficiency, a cardinal virtue of management, amplified by ever more efficient technological and administrative systems, is leading us toward a reordering of relationships. Teachers may bear the brunt of this, but they can also benefit if they guide the changes...

Increasing pressure

On the side of administrations, new practices allow for monitoring of attendance, success, discipline, etc. through near real-time tracking, and on the side of teachers, technologies allow for close tracking of students. From there, students and their parents expect personalized attention and frequent reporting.

Thus, teachers are under pressure from both their administration, students and often their parents. This is not without human consequences as, in virtually every country, rates of burnout and career abandonment by teachers are at record highs. 

On the administrative side

Professor/student ratio

In this context of performance and productivity, the easiest way to reduce pressure is obviously to decrease the number of students per teacher. An increase in demands necessarily leads to an increase in pressure that must be compensated for, at the risk of burnout, if the number of students per teacher does not decrease.

Control = satisfaction

In an excellent report, Senator Brigitte Gonthier-Maurin wrote:

"It is then absolutely necessary to give teachers the power to act on their profession by recognizing him or her as " an expert in his or her profession ".

Therefore, the idea is to go " backwards from the tendency to provide turnkey guides of formatted and stereotyped good practices, the purpose of which seems to be the standardization of teaching practices in order to facilitate control rather than the improvement of their didactic effectiveness "
This principle of control over one's own time and actions is a characteristic that is closely associated with the feeling of competence and satisfaction. In an anti-burn out strategy, this aspect comes first.

Other attitudinal changes at the administrative level are effective and necessary: that a teacher feels the collaboration and support of his or her administration decreases his or her sense of isolation. That the administration encourages teacher collaboration, provides technological and human support, and publicly recognizes the merits of teachers all contribute to lessening the perceived pressure on teachers and engenders confidence, trust, and calm.

So much for systemic actions.

A teacher who sets clear boundaries

Students want to be considered, so be it. The teacher has a right to that too, which is why it is to the teacher's advantage to set clear boundaries and stick to them,  Students will also know where they stand and not develop undue expectations.

Andréa Eidinger, a university teacher in British Columbia, Canada, offers some excellent tips for setting boundaries in dealing with students.

  • Defining time slots for emails
  • Letting the dust settle. Don't respond or accept feedback until a certain amount of time has passed.
  • Respect that one's time is valuable
  • Establish distance - The teacher is not a social worker, doctor, financial counselor, or anything else. He or she refers to the right people and services.
  • Clearly articulate expectations
  • Circumscribe your workday or week
  • Cultivate your personal life
  • Utilize your support network

These points are detailed in this article: Tips for setting emotional boundaries as a teacher

By setting boundaries early on, providing a clear framework and practical references, the teacher protects himself or herself from arbitrariness and accusations of favoritism. Most importantly, he draws the boundaries for his emotional health.

A teacher exercising control over his or her educational environment

Technologies are destabilizing, disruptive, formidable and surprising. The teacher is often not very prepared for them, but even so, he can exercise some control over the use of these technologies to his advantage. 

For example, to get his students to understand what he sees from the front when 2/3 of his class have their eyes glued to their laptops, one teacher turned a camera towards his students and projected to their eyes what it is.  The effect was radical.

Better yet, he has set rules about the use of computers in the classroom, which his students appreciate.  He exercises control over his educational environment.

If the technologies bother the teacher, he can go from "Allowed unless otherwise requested" to "Banned unless otherwise requested" and this then gives him some control over his environment, control that moves from Facebook, TikTok or Instagram to him.

The intentions of the technology companies are different from the pedagogical intentions. Exercising control limits its disruptive effects on teachers' emotional health.

Valuing Teachers: Four Easy Pieces

The teaching profession at the heart of an emancipatory ambition

Tips for Setting Emotional Boundaries as a Teacher

Concrete strategies to help you effectively support your students.

Is there such a thing as " teacher malaise " ?
Asma Benhenda

For professors and students alike, control over one's own time more important than time itself...

Listening, typing, responding, commenting, noting, writing, joking, researching, and doing it all at once. Efficient, right? No.

Competent but depressed: what's going on?
Exercising one's skills to the fullest is the completion of education: you start in school.

See more articles by this author


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