Date of Award

2003

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Degree Program

Educational Leadership with a Global Perspective

Department

College of Education

First Advisor

Carole Warshaw

Second Advisor

William Leary

Abstract

In 1999, the Florida State Legislature passed a statute that provided funding to all Florida school districts for recruitment and retention (Florida Department of Education, Teacher Exit Interview Information, 2000-01 [FDOETEII], 2001). This statute required all districts to document teacher attrition with exit interviews. In the two years that exit interviews have been conducted, 11 1 of the 655 teachers left the district voluntarily due to stress on the job, equating to 16.9% of the total number of voluntary separations (FDOEETEII, 200 1,2002).

When a teacher suffers from burnout they at first could develop increased feelings of emotional exhaustion and fatigue, develop negative attitudes towards their students, and evaluate themselves negatively, leading to a feeling of lack of personal accomplishment (Pierce & Molloy, 1990).

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario ([WSIBO], 1999) indicates stress can have an effect on one's health. In the case of workplace stress that occurs constantly over a long period, the body is unable to shut down its response to stress. Over time this condition can lead to: increased blood pressure, faster heartbeat, faster respiration, decrease in protein synthesis, digestion, immune and allergic response systems, increased cholesterol, localized inflammation, faster blood clotting, and increased stomach acids (WSIBO, 1999).

Thus, based on these findings, this study was conducted to assess why teachers are separating voluntarily from a school district in South Florida for stress on the job, based on the exit interview questionnaire. The study is qualitative in approach and pays particular attention to specific explanations of actual or perceived stress on the job. The described stress on the job is categorized into five separate levels of distance from the teacher (personal characteristics, professional skills, interpersonal relationships, educational system, and extra system). These levels are part of the Teacher Proximity Continuum developed by Camp and Heath-Camp (1990). To implement the study, a search was conducted of all former employees who left voluntarily due to stress on the job. Participants mailed back a questionnaire and a consent form. Participants completed a Teacher Stress Inventory for background information. The researcher interviewed the participants and looked for themes and patterns using Nvivo software.

The interviews were analyzed for patterns. The results of the study led to recommendations for the district to retain its teachers. If the district can keep the teachers it hires, the effects will be threefold. First, the district will meet the hiring needs based on projected student population growth. Second, student achievement will increase based on continuity in the classroom. Third, more district dollars can be spent directly in the classroom rather than on recruiting more teachers.

The most noticeable theme that emerged from the analysis of the data was a lack of administrative support positively affecting the stress that participants of each subgroup obtained. The participants felt the administration did not back them up with discipline issues in the classroom or disagreements with parents, and were insensitive to teacher concerns. Other themes that emerged were student discipline, parent and community support, and the abundance of paperwork.

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