TEACHERS’ PERCEPTIONS OF THE RECIPROCAL NATURE OF STRESS ON PRINCIPALS AND TEACHERS
ABSTRACT This phenomenological study concentrated on the problem of teacher stress in the K-12 educational community and its reciprocal relationship with principal stress. Research reveals that teaching is a stressful profession which can lead to teachers experiencing multiple negative outcomes including compromised job performance, burnout, decreased rapport with students, early retirement and absenteeism. High levels of stress have also been linked to the principal’s position leading to negative outcomes such as health issues, early retirement and burnout. The purpose of the study was to determine if principal stress is reciprocal in nature to teacher stress. The study endeavored to describe teachers’ perceptions of principal stressors. Furthermore, the study sought to illustrate the principal behaviors that lead to teachers’ perceptions that the principal is under stress and how teachers respond to those perceptions. The phenomenological study was conducted from the perspective of teachers and was conducted via one-on-one semi-structured interviews of 10 secondary public school teachers. The Crossover Theory was the theoretical framework for the study and was used to frame the description of the crossover of principal stress to teacher stress. The study revealed that principal stress is reciprocal with teacher stress. When teachers perceived that their principal was stressed, they too felt stress. Study participants identified need for school improvement, district/state monitoring, desire for cooperation and buy-in from parents and teachers as stressors for principals. Participants described how principals’ job performance changed, and principals also became more open with communication when they were experiencing stress. Participants responded to their perceptions of principal stress by becoming stressed and getting their job done. Recommendations for further research include using assistant principals as respondents, using teachers who are not in Title I schools or priority schools as respondents, using students as respondents and using the same principals described in the current study as respondents.