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Many kids today experience lots of stress due to things in their home environment like poor child-parent relationships, absent parents, emotionally unavailable parents, alcoholism, drug addiction, lack of extended family support and/or  poverty.  Students will often transfer the stress they experience at home due to these factors onto their teachers at school to create another kind of stress- student-teacher stress. Needless to say,  student-teacher stress affects a student’s learning negatively.

Kids deal with student-teacher stress in different ways.  Sometimes they act out; sometimes they withdraw. They do this “in an unconscious effort to make sure other students and the teacher experience the stress with (them) “. (Gurian, p37 )  I guess it’s a case of misery loves company- poor kids.

When I think about the classes I’ve taught over the years,it seems to me that usually boys act out and become more aggressive when stressed while girls usually become more passive and withdrawn. I say usually because of course we all can all think of boys who have become more passive in response to stress and girls who have become aggressive.

When we’re trying help kids who are at-risk because of the behavior they manifest, we try to find out what’s going on at home. I’ve called parents lots of times to ask if anything is going on at home that might affect a student.  Often, there is. Teachers can’t solve the problems that cause stress for students at home other than to suggest appropriate counseling, but we can help with the stress at school.

How can we do this?  Teachers can build positive relationships with students. We can be good roles models or mentors. I’ve written here before about how just one positive relationship with a teacher or any adult for that matter can make the world of difference for a student, not only while he is in that teachers’ classroom but beyond it as well into his adult life.

I really do try to help my students. I’d like to think that the stress balls I provide for them to  squeeze while their working ( I try not to notice my students bouncing them off everything in sight) help my students  deal with their stress.  I’d like to think that when I ask students to take the attendance to the office or to deliver something to another teacher I’m helping them deal with their stress.  I’d like to think that having activities that allow my students to move around the room helps them deal with stress. But, I really think the only way to get rid of the emotional stress completely is to get rid of the problems completely and most likely that’s not going to happen. So, I guess I can only really comfort the walking wounded and hope the relief they get is enough to allow them to earn enough credits to graduate and go on to a better life- at least, that’s the way I see it.

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6 Responses to “Students project their emotional stress onto teachers and the outcome is not condusive to learning.”

  1. Tracy Rosen on November 29th, 2008 8:08 am

    Kids deal with student-teacher stress in different ways. Sometimes they act out; sometimes they withdraw. They do this “in an unconscious effort to make sure other students and the teacher experience the stress with (them) “. (Gurian, p37 )

    I’m going to look for this reference. I’d like to see the research that goes along with Gurian’s statement.

    I experience stress in the classroom somewhat differently. Stress is vibrant in my classroom of majority girls. It is noisy, rife with opposition and clatter.

    I agree with you, it is definitely quieter when I reach out and connect with my students. When I provide them with a safe way to cope with the stress – whether it be by letting them take a break through trips to the office or longer breaks via extended reading periods in a separate space or music in the background while writing journals. Whatever works.

  2. Jeffrey Wolfsberg on November 29th, 2008 4:14 pm

    I’m an Addiction Prevention Specialist working in private practice. I work in what many would consider elite schools – all private. I provide workshops on addiction to students, parents, and educators. In this world of affluence, many students are under enormous pressure to succeed. I remind teachers that we may be the most loving, connected, and appropriate adult in student’s lives. When we live up to that responsibility, we can help teens navigate their way through the tough waters of adolescence.



  3. Elona Hartjes on November 29th, 2008 4:21 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your insight on this topic. I too believe that teachers “may be the most loving, connected, and appropriate adult in students’ lives”. That’s such a huge responsibility. It really is humbling, at least for me.

  4. ann on December 18th, 2008 5:54 am

    Thanks for the great tips.

  5. Marie Drahorad on May 9th, 2011 4:10 am

    As a parent of a learning disordered child, the emotional stress on the child from the standpoint of a child trying to keep up with unrealistic expectations of teachers does takes its toll.

    As a parent I have a loving and open relationship with my daughter. I find this article damaging and one sided where it portrays emotional stress a child experiences stemming not from the school but from the child’s home life.

    Although this may be true in some cases, it is also important for you to write articles where you can suggest to teachers who lack understanding and tact how their senseless words affect a child with a disability.

    I have had more of that in my journies through the public school system than helpful teachers that make a difference in my child’s life.

  6. Elona Hartjes on May 9th, 2011 5:29 am

    I hear what you are saying, but let me tell you I have been writing this blog for almost five years now and have written many articles encouraging teachers to set positive classroom climates that respect students, and I plan to continue to do this. I’m not into parent bashing. I believe teachers and parents need to work together for the benefit of kids. After all, it’s all about the kids.

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