Teaching Profession

Catching Stress From Students

By Francesca Duffy — December 22, 2011 1 min read
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In her blog, Teachers At Risk, special education teacher Elona Hartjes claims to have picked up “second-hand stress” from her students. She recently went on medical leave for “significant stress,” which she says was derived from observing her students’ negative attitudes, their unwillingness to take responsibility for their own learning, and the lack of respect they show her and other students.

Hartjes, who emphasizes that she loves working with teens, writes:

When I see the negative expressions and negative body language of students in class, in the hallways, and in the cafeteria, my mirror neurons fire automatically to create and transfer the students stress, their negative moods and their negative mental states to me so I mirror their emotional and mental state.

Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported on a study concluding essentially the reverse—that students in classrooms with frustrated teachers tend to become stressed.

Hmm ... what do you think? The chicken or the egg?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.