Elementary principals' and female teachers' perspectives regarding principals who provide positive support during episodes of teacher stress
Mathews, Deborah Jaudon
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The research answered the question “What principal support behaviors are occurring related to episodes of stress, and what do these support behaviors mean to teachers?” One principal and 3 to 4 teachers from 5 elementary schools participated in initial interviews, which were analyzed qualitatively using field notes and interview transcriptions. In follow-up interviews, each participant had the opportunity to clarify and to respond to new questions generated from a comparative analysis of the first round of interviews. In this way, the original data were verified, clarified, and extended. Data on stress support by principals for teachers were grouped into 2 themes: protecting and caring. Protecting by the principal (shielding a teacher from harm or helping a teacher when presented with harm) included four categories: (a) insulating, (b) connecting, (c) relieving, and (d) representing. Caring by the principal (focusing on the individual or showing that the individual was valued) included four categories: (e) positioning, (f) listening, (g) giving, and (h) personalizing. Both themes related to the core theme of principal stress support. Sixty-five distinct supportive principal behaviors were documented from the perspectives of both principals and teachers. The findings suggested that female elementary teachers do expect protecting support, but not caring support. However, caring principal support behaviors had twice the meaning for teachers as protecting principal support behaviors. Principals and teachers reported that the principal could probably do more to help if the stress originated from inside the work environment (IWE), but that it was also appropriate for the principal to be supportive when the stress originated from outside the work environment (OWE). Findings indicated that 2 definitions should be expanded: principal support and teacher stress. Principal support should not only address teacher instruction, but also teacher stress. Although addressing stress for the group of teachers by the principal was helpful, addressing stress for the individual teacher was also indicated. Teacher stress should no longer be viewed as only the work stress of being a teacher, but also should include the episodic stress with IWE or OWE origins that individual teachers experience on the job.