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Tag Archives: teachers and PTSD

Five jobs—includes teachers—that come with the threat of regret

Taylor Dupuy writing for Monster.com listed five jobs that are likely to leave people disappointed. Number three on the list was Secondary School Teachers—my job for twenty-seven of the thirty years I was in the classroom.

Regret also means: anguish; annoyance; bitterness; disappointment; discomfort, dissatisfaction; etc.  All emotions I felt one or more times during my thirty years in the classroom.

Dupuy says: “would-be teachers often don’t fully understand what the job involves until after they have started.”

Teachers starting out—often naïve idealists who think they’re going to make a big difference—have no idea of the paperwork required of an educator “as well as the unending parent interventions and the reluctance of students to do the work. [They don’t] realize the politics of working in a secondary school system.”

The challenges teachers face is daunting: “The education profession is often marred by a lack of resources, dwindling support, and modest salaries … teachers must simultaneously parent and counsel all while navigating the stressful terrain often found in the bureaucracy of school districts.”

This risky environment may also explain why teachers have a high risk of PTSD. “The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder estimates 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women twice as likely as men to have PTSD.”

Due to the reality of what happens in the public school classroom, teachers are at a higher risk of PTSD. Joel Hood (Chicago Tribune/MCT) reported: “teachers may be more susceptible than most, … particularly those in tough, urban schools where violence is commonplace … (and) many teachers who suffer from PTSD see their careers significantly altered.”

The American Society for Ethics in Education says, “post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) appears to impact a significant number of teachers in our schools.”

How many teachers might suffer from PTSD? Teresa McIntyre, a psychology research professor at the University of Houston says, “Teachers don’t have one or two traumatic events; it’s a chronic daily stress that accumulates over days and months and years. It’s pretty equivalent in other high-risk occupations.”

In a pilot study conducted of 50 teachers in four Houston-area middle schools, Ms. McIntyre found as many as one in three teachers in the Houston district were “significantly stressed,” with symptoms ranging from concentration problems, fatigue and sleep problems.

If one in three teachers have PTSD symptoms, that means 33% compared to the national average of 7.8%. How does this compare to combat veterans? The findings from the NVVR Study (National Vietnam Veterans’ Readjustment Study) commissioned by the government in the 1980s initially found that for “Vietnam theater veterans” 15% of men had PTSD at the time of the study and 30% of men had PTSD at some point in their life … [and] at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or Depression. (Veterans and PTSD)

A National Survey of Violence Against Teachers reported: “Teacher victimization was examined across all teachers surveyed (see Table 1). Results indicate that approximately half (50.9%; n = 2,410) of all teachers surveyed reported at least one form of victimization within the current or previous year. Nearly half of all teachers experienced at least one harassment offense, followed by over one-third experiencing property offenses, and over one-quarter reporting physical attacks. Moreover, 1 in 5 teachers reported being victimized at least once within all three offense domains.”

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to kill Americans.

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“Half Nelson” teaches a truth about K-12 education in the US

What causes a dedicated and charismatic teacher to become addicted to crack cocaine—to become burned out and a victim of drugs and/or PTSD?

The answer is not broken schools, teacher unions, or incompetent teachers, but a dysfunctional culture and society demanding through laws and legislation that teachers fix the problem or be accused of failure.

While critics of public education often play the political game by blaming teacher unions and so-called incompetent teachers (even though there are no reputable studies or evidence to prove these alleged claims), few seem to care about what Forbes reported in High Teacher Turnover Rates are a Big Problem for America’s Public Schools.

In March 2011, Forbes reported, “NCTAF’s findings are a clear indication that America’s teacher dropout problem is spiraling out of control. Teacher attrition has grown by 50 percent over the past fifteen years. The national teacher turnover rate has risen to 16.8 percent.  In urban schools it is over 20 percent, and, in some schools and districts, the teacher dropout rate is actually higher than the student dropout rate.”

Forbes says, “Teachers cite lack of planning time, workload, and lack of influence over school policy among other reasons for their decision to leave the profession or transfer schools.”

 

And if you think Charter Schools are any better, you may be surprised to discover what The Washington Post reported, “Teacher turnover, which tends to be alarmingly high in lower-income schools and districts, has been identified as a major impediment to improvements in student achievement.”

The Washington Post said, “The authors (of a study) find that the odds of charter teachers exiting are still 33 percent higher than those of regular public school teachers. There is an even larger difference in secondary schools, where charter teachers are almost four times more likely to leave.”

Half Nelson reveals a primary reason so many teachers quit even if they have the so-called job protection of tenure (a report from the public schools of North Caroline says about a third that quit annually have that so-called precious tenure critics complain of).

Why would someone with such an easy, kick-back job with labor union protection quit?

Dan Dunne (played by Ryan Gosling) is a young, urban, middle school, inner-city history teacher taking drugs to make it through the nights and weekends but during the weekdays he is a popular teacher—the kind that  students see as a role model.

I identified with this movie. For thirty years, I taught in public schools surrounded by barrios infested by teen street gangs that had been around for generations. I witnessed drive by shootings from my classroom doorway, riots between gangs, grieved with my students when kids were shot down in the streets never to return to school, and a year didn’t go by that some gang banger that was also a student in one of my classes didn’t threaten me by asking what I would do if a gang jumped me.

Half Nelson brings us closer to that world and reveals another reason why so many teachers quit and never return to the classroom.

If you want to discover the truth about many of America’s schools and why teachers and possibly many students drop out, I suggest you watch this movie that the odds say you haven’t seen.

If the average ticket price of a movie in 2006 was $6.55, and Half Nelson earned $2.7 million in North America, that means less than 500 thousand people saw the film and there are more than 314 million Americans that did not see it.

Maybe most Americans do not want to know the truth, because many parents would have to accept the blame for illiterate and/or failing students. Parenting is a serious job—not a game.

Discover a film with a clear political agenda against teacher unions

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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The Annual Autumn Teacher Blues – Part 3/3

All the negative media and criticism of “ignorant idiots” that public school teachers in the U.S. and their unions are failing America’s children doesn’t explain why the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), reported that between 19% and 23% of American adults performed at the top levels for each of the three literacy scales: document literacy, prose literacy and quantitative (number) literacy.

Sweden is the only country that scored higher.

Countries that have participated in the IALS are Canada, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, United States, Australia, Belgium, Great Britain, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Chili, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungry, Italy, Norway, and Slovenia.

The IALS is an international comparative study designed to provide participating countries, including the United States, with information about the skills of their adult populations. The IALS measured the literacy and numeracy skills of a nationally representative sample from each participating country. Source: NCES.ed.gov

As I was writing about the IALS, I thought if this survey had been widely reported in the media as much as the 2009 PISA test results were, the media and critics of U.S. public schools would look for statistics from this survey that were negative and report the glass half empty and never mention the glass is more than half full.

From Retaining Teachers.com, we learn how tough it is in America’s public schools from the teacher turnover rate.

The same stress that causes PTSD in teachers that stay in education may also drive qualified teachers away.

Ingersoll (1999, 2001, 2002a) proposed the schoolteacher hiring and quitting cycle is a revolving door.

Ingersoll (2001) analyzed national data and concluded the teacher shortages in public schools is not because of teacher retirement but a revolving door in which almost half the new teachers leave within five years, while another study (Barbour – 2006) found that shortages of well-prepared teachers in public schools exist because 22% of new teachers leave within five years.

However, another study found that 28% of teachers that left self-reported they would return if school conditions improved (Futernick, 2007)

Return to The Annual Autumn Teacher Blues – Part 2 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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