Self-development journal

Reasons for choosing the topics on stress, harassment, time management and assertiveness

I have found that all the topics in this module are quite helpful to my professional development. They help me to recognise my weaknesses and teach me how to deal with my problems.

Four major areas: stress, harassment, time management and assertiveness are examined in this assignment because one of the unforgettable experience in my life was connected with those four areas when I was a teacher in a primary school.

An incident

I was a teacher teaching in a boys’ primary school. It was nearly the end of the term. I heard one of my primary four pupils make fun of me when we were in a science lesson. The topic was on the characteristics of monkeys. He said that I really looked like a monkey because I had four long limbs. I felt very unhappy. I told him that it was impolite to say this kind of thing. I then reported it to my headmistress. She said that I should hold an assembly with all the pupils in the school the next week. It would help to prevent the spreading of unpleasant jokes among pupils. At that moment I said no problem’. Actually, I really did not want to do the assembly since I had not finished my draft of the examination papers on the examination syllabus, and therefore I did not have enough time to prepare the assembly. I started to make complaints in the staff room. Unfortunately, one of my male colleagues said, I always think that women should stay at home and rear the children if they have complaints about the job.’ I was depressed. During that week, I neglected my appearance, I had no appetite and I could not sleep well at night.

Stress, harassment, no proper time management and lack of assertiveness

Up to that point, I had not considered these matters. After studying this module and reading the literature, I find that it was not only relations in that incident, but that I had always suffered from stress, harassment , lack of proper time management and not being assertive enough.

First of all, I suffered from stress. Rowland and Birkett in Coping with Stress’ have stated some typical symptoms for stress which help us to identify some of our own symptoms: frequent colds, feeling depressed, vacillating in decision making, being forgetful, being unreasonably negative, neglecting personal appearance, changing eating habits.(Lectures handout, 1996). Unfortunately, I had consistently ignored these symptoms when they occurred.

The childrens misbehaviour, the heavy workload and social expectations are the major areas causing me stress. The misbehaviour of the pupils was the central factor causing stress. As Kyriacou (1989) has stated, one of the essential sources of stress facing teachers is pupil indiscipline’ (p.31). Pupils’ poor attitudes towards school and teacher have been identified as an important aspect of stress. Jack Dunham (1984) also claimed that he had been concerned with:

a number of stress situations which teachers have identified in their

work with children who are disruptive; it also considers childrens

negative attitudes to school, work and staff which are increasingly

being reported by teachers as heavy stress’ (p.33).

This indicates that disruptive behaviour of pupils is an important source of stress. Disruptive behaviour which he explains as a wide range of behaviour problems, including pupils who refuse to co-operate, do little or no work in class, and the child who is openly aggressive towards other children and teachers (Dunham, 1984, p.33). The stress that I identified in my work came from the pupils who used bad language to me, did not pay attention in class and refused to accept the teachers authority.

The heavy workload in school, another essential factor causing stress, also needs to be considered. Taking up pastoral duties immediately brought me a heavy workload. This may have increased my stress. For instance, I had a feeling of having too much to do at school. As Dunham (1984) has pointed out, a great deal of time can be spent pursuing pastoral matters which tends to detract from ones teaching (p.55). The teacher can be frustrated when there is a heavy workload.

It is necessary to examine another aspect of workload. Dunham (1984) has also pointed out that:

the problem is not only that teacher may not be able to complete

all the tasks they are given or set for themselves. It is also, importantly,

a question of not being able to achieve a level of performance in

important aspects of their work which would bring good, warm feelings

as a job well done’ (p.54).

Teachers wish to give their best performance in all the jobs allocated to them by the headteacher. Heavy workload is a source of stress for teachers. I was annoyed when the headmistress told me to hold an assembly for the whole school the next week, not because I did not think that I could finish the job but because I wanted to do the best I could. This made me feel uncomfortable.

The public expecting too much from teachers is a further factor leading to stress. Freedman (1988) has stated that:

Education is an institution which holds that questioning and debating,

risk and error develop ones thinking ability. But learning situations

are structured to lead to one right answer, and both teachers and

students are evaluated in ways that emphasise only quantifiable

results (p.136).

This implies that the parents and school committee members only consider the academic results of the pupils and not other achievements of the pupils. Thus, the teachers are under attack if they fail to enable children to reach the grade level goals. It is claimed that teachers are responsible for the pupils’ bad results. The principal and school board members then use the same type of evaluation to evaluate the teachers. The teachers are often evaluated by the headteacher without any notice. Whilst this may push teachers to do their best, it is also a source of stress for them.

After reading the literature, I understand that I was also suffering from harassment which came from my male colleague and my pupil. Cunnison (1989) has stated that a great many mens jokes referred to the domestic role of women, running monotonously along the line the womans place is in the home’ (p.155). They carry the message that women belong to the home. This does not appear to be a control on sexuality, in fact, it acts as a control over women at work (Cunnison, 1989, p.155). My male colleague believed that women were not suitable to work in the office. It would be better for them to stay at home and work in the kitchen.

Similarly, it is another kind of harassment when my male pupil commented that I looked like a monkey. Hadjifotiou (1983) has stated that sexual remarks and jokes are commonplace at work:

But personal remarks about parts of the body, particularly legs,

breasts and hair, along with whistles and catcalls, all serve to remind

women that they are judged by their looks rather than their work (p.14).

When males make fun of the female body, particularly the legs , this is harassment. He also emphasises that verbal harassment reinforces the position of men as higher than the women (Hadjifotion, 1983, p.14). Although my pupil was very young, he already thought that men were superior than women.

At that moment, I did not realise I had been a victim of harassment. I only felt unhappy, but able to cope with it because I did not consider it a serious problem even though if it was unacceptable, inappropriate and distasteful. I did not know how to respond. I laughed off the comment of my male colleague, but reported the pupils remarks to the headmistress as a case of indiscipline.

Women coping with harassment commonly feel annoyed when it happens to them. As Addison et al (1988) have mentioned, women became annoyed with themselves because they think it is a weakness in themselves letting males put them in that position (p.178). Most women, like me, who are sexually harassed would feel that it was their own fault letting males put them down.

In addition, I have a problem in managing time. Garratt (1989) has mentioned that:

I dont have the time may be an excuse that comes readily to the tongue

but next time you heard yourself saying it, stop for a moment and consider

the truth of that statement. Do you really not have enough time or are you

saying it out of habit? (p.11).

Lack of time is an excuse. Having a problem in managing time is the fact. I do not always have the time because I do not use time aright. After watching the video An unorganised manager’ in class, I smiled because my situation was the same as the one in the video. I have always found there is a lack of time and I seldom meet the deadline. For example, in that incident, I had not finished the draft of the examination paper. I hoped I would have more time to do it. However, another job, which was appointed by the headmistress, took priority. At that moment, I was irrational, felt guilty and thought that it was the end of the world.

Moreover, the fact that I was not assertive was a weakness. I am a passive type of person. Day et al (1983) have assumed that there are three kinds of person: aggressive, assertive and passive. I find that I have most of the symptoms of the passive type of person, such as: doesnt know or cant say what s/he wants; excessive politeness; easily manipulated; sees anger as a punishable offence; what the authorities say goes (pp.73-80). This means that I do not know how to reject a request, say something against the authorities, or say no’. In the particular circumstances, my headmistress asked me to hold an assembly, and I promised to do so, although I did not want to do it.

Cultural difference is significant. Only two extreme types of person: humble and aggressive, are normally found in the east. We are taught to be the former. The definition of humble’ is similar to that of the passive type of person. Equally, we are not encouraged to be aggressive. Thus, I was not aware that there was an assertive type of person, only aggressive and passive, beforehand.

To tackle stress and harassment; better time management and being assertive

In the following paragraphs, I will discuss how the module and literature help me to face the problems that have been mentioned above. I will exercise these skills henceforth.

Having a school support system to handle disruptive students and relaxing are the two major aspects necessary to deal with my stress.

A school support system needs to be considered to reduce my stress. Tuttemann & Punch (1992) have conducted a research and have elicited the feelings of some teachers. They have concluded, If they feel that their tasks of helping students academically and handling disruptive students are being facilitated by a support school system they are less likely to be stressed’ (p.181). It is helpful to develop a school support system. The teacher can transfer the pupils who have disruptive behaviour to the support team since all the workers in the support team are trained to handle pupil misbehaviour. In fact, achieving this state of affairs may not be easy because of the administration of the school. I would still recommend my headmistress to run a support system in my school.

Relaxing is significant to reduce stress for me. Dunham (1984) has worked out two minutes relaxation skills which can be employed when a short rest is needed. He advises:

Breathe evenly and calmly. Think about relaxing your body.

Think about draining from your feet, legs, body, arms, neck

and shoulders. Notice the tension draining from your body (p.126).

This would help me to ease my stress. Davis et al also believe that when we relax our pupils, hearing, blood pressure, heart beat, respiration and circulation return to normal and our muscles relax (Lecturers handout, 1996). Relaxation is good for our health. When I come across stress, I can use these skills in the staffroom to relax myself. This is convenient because I do not need any equipment.

From now on, I will take action to protect myself from harassment. Playing along and educating the pupils are the two most important ways to avoid harassment for me.

As Cunnison (1989) has mentioned, women can respond to the males harassment by returning jokes. Playing along’ and Counter-joke’ are two ways of returning jokes. He emphasised that they both require a quick wit and ability not to take offence. Both refuse to acknowledge the serious idea behind the joke. The womans response may not directly challenge the gender element of the joke but neutralise it by introducing a professional diversion (p.164). If the harasser says some gender jokes to me, replicating his behaviour is not the best response. If I want to stop the harassment, I must change our subject of discussion. Thus, if, my male colleague tells me to go back to the kitchen, I can suggest to him that he should do his work very carefully in order to avoid making any mistakes.

On the other hand, I could not reply with jokes to my pupils. Therefore, another way to tackle harassment is suggested by Hadjifotiou (1983). He has pointed out that education is needed at workplace:

Effective action aimed at tackling sexual harassment at work depends

on trade-union activists and members being aware of the issues.

While producing a leaflet or holding a meeting are important first

steps, these initiative should be taken in conjunction with an

education programme (p.87).

This idea can be brought in to the curriculum at school. Educating the pupils at schools on the concept of sexism and sexual harassment is important. It would help them to have a clear understanding on those items and would change their masculine or feminine bias to objective attitudes and behaviour. Some activities could be carried out such as dividing groups according to sex and comparing the responses of male and female students after the discussion (Hadjifotiou, 1983, p.88). Although, it is very unusual to examine these feeling openly in our custom, it is still worth to try.

Planning, establishing priorities and learning how to deal with interruptions are three major aspects to manage time effectively.

Planning is one time management technique. As Everard & Morris (1990) have claimed:

Having learned from the past, the important thing is the continuous

control of present and future, and for this we need to build into our

body routine some basic administrative discipline, i.e.,

1. an action diary,

2. a daily action sheet,

3. project planning (p.125).

I will, in future, keep a year planner to write down the dates by which things have to be done and to record the total project plan. I shall then be able to assess the progress of my work. For instance, the due day to hand in the draft of the examination papers would be written down. The planner will need to be reviewed daily, otherwise it will be useless.

Establishing priorities is also one of the time management techniques. Garratt (1988) has proposed that we should identify jobs in two categories: active and reactive tasks. The former deals with the tasks we must do to achieve the objectives of the job, while the latter deals with those tasks which are routine bits and pieces which turn up every day and have to be dealt with to keep things ticking over (p.46). This means that I must finish the most important tasks first. In addition, Donnelly (1990) also believes that prioritising time is essential, This is where you have to be realistic and professional in setting priorities of works’ (p.95). I can show my professionalism in teaching by setting work priorities. In the future, I will complete projects relating to the pupils’ education first and then working on my draft of the examinations papers because educating pupils is my main target.

Learning how to deal with interruptions is a principal to solve the problem of poor time management. Wood (1991) has explained that if we have been disturbed we are likely to lose our train of thought and it can take quite some time to settle down again (p.29). I should therefore try to ignore all disruptions while I am working. Also, he has suggested some tips to minimise interruptions, one of which is:

Identify the times when you want to work on high priority tasks which

require careful thought and attention to detail. Designate a quiet period

and resolve to get those task completed during that time (Wood, 1991, p.29).

To do this, I must finish my tasks as soon as possible within the period of time that have set for myself. For instance, when working on my draft of the examination paper, I should try to see it through to its completion. My time then would not be wasted.

Learning how to say no’ and knowing my own rights are the two important theories concerned in being an assertive person.

If I want to be an assertive woman, I must practise saying no’ (Dickson, 1982, p.47); this is one of the techniques in being an assertive person. Notwithstanding, I find that sometimes it is difficult to make a refusal because saying no’ directly is considered rude and aggressive. However, Dickson (1982) has explained: when you say no’ , you are refusing the request, not rejecting the person’ (p.47). Refusal does not mean rejection. I shall therefore not then hesitate to tell people what I cannot achieve.

Moreover, I must accept that I have rights to assert my needs, wants and feelings with other people. Lindenfield (1986) has listed 12 assertive rights which cover some of the most important Basic Human Rights. One of them is: The right to have an opinion, feelings and emotions and to express them appropriately’ (p.36). I have the right to let people know how I feel. From now on, I will tell my headmistress if necessary that I am not prepared to hold an assembly in the coming week because I need some more information on the topic. However, I would not abuse my rights which contribute the other feel that I am an aggressive type of person.

In conclusion, I know some of my weakness, like suffering from stress and harassment, not knowing how to use time properly and not being assertive enough. From now on, I will try to manage myself better by coping with stress, taking action to avoid harassment, controlling own time and being as assertive woman.

References:

Addison, B. & Al-khalifa, E. (1988), Its all good clean fun’, Educational Management Administration, Vol. 16, No 13, pp. 173-185.

Cunnison, S. (1989), Gender joking in the staffroom’, Acker, S., Teacher, Gender & Career, London: The Falmer Press.

Day, C. (1993), Leadership and Curriculum in the Primary School: The role of senior and middle management, London: Paul Chapman Publishing Ltd.

Dickson, A. (1982), A woman in your own right, London: Quartet Books Limited.

Donnelly, J. (1990), Middle Managers in Schools and College: A handbook for heads of department, London: Kogan Page Ltd.

Dunham, J. (1984), Stress in Teaching, Kent: Croom Helm Ltd.

Everard, B & Morris, G. (1990), Effective School Management, London: Paul Chapman Publishing Ltd.

Freeman, S. (1989), Teacher burnout’ and institutional stress’, Ozga, J.,

School work: Approaches to the labour process of teaching, England: Open University Education Enterprise Limited.

Garratt, S. (1988), Manage Your Time, London: Fontana.

Hadjifotiou, N. (1983), Women and Harassment at Work, London: Pluto Press Limited.

Kyriacou, C. (1989), The nature and prevalence of teacher stress’, Cole, M. & Walker, S., Teaching and Stress, Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Lindenfield, G. (1986), Assert Yourself, London: Thorson.

Wood, D. I., (1991), Your Time Management in Teaching, London: Iain D. Wood & New Education Press Ltd.