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The Work-Related Stress of Teachers in the New Academic Normal

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has influenced daily life and is slowing down the global economy. Thousands of people have been affected by this pandemic, either sick or killed due to the spread of this disease. As a new infectious disease affecting humans for the first time, vaccines are not yet available. The focus is therefore on taking thorough precautions, such as grooming procedures, social distances and wearing a face mask and a face shield. Countries are prohibiting the gatherings of people to smash the exponential curve. This is also the justification for the introduction of the modular delivery of learning in the education field.

The results of the survey conducted by the Department of Education (DepEd) indicate that most parents prefer to have printed modules as a learning tool. Printed modules are prepared by the selected teacher-writers who possess the necessary qualities, interests and capabilities to perform the assigned work. Typically, DepEd-Central Office downloads softcopies at the regional level down to the school level. Besides the softcopies of the modules, the DepEd-Central Office also downloaded funds for the printing of the modules. The school division offices are also responsible for printing modules until such time as the budget is completely expended and liquidated.

The School Maintenance and Other Operational Expenses (MOOE) Fund is also used for printing modules, learning activity sheets and other supplementary learning materials planned by teachers for the benefit of learners. All schools provide supplies and printing materials for these learning materials, but the budget allocated for the whole school year is not adequate to cover the printing costs of these learning materials. With these school situations, teachers find it stressful during the implementation of modular distance learning. In fact, there are instances where teachers have almost quit teaching because of their situation in this pandemic.

Teachers recognize the causes of stress in their work. This include the preparation of modules, the delivery and retrieval of learning packets, tracking the work of learners and addressing the concerns of parents. It is noted that there are cases in which teachers misinterpret each other because of the modules. It is believed, therefore, that the number one stressors of teachers today is all about work-related activities.

In the preparation of modules, teachers are charged with printing modules. There are times where teachers conduct this task outside their daily schedule or extra work. As a result, they cannot find time to do another assigned job at home. Moreover, most of the time, they use their own money to fund printing supplies, as the school MOOE is not enough to cover teachers' expenses for the whole school year.

The distribution and retrieval of modules is often considered to be one of the work-related stress of teachers. During the first week of the delivery of the modules, almost 100 percent of parents received their children's modules. The problem is with the retrieval, since the parents are asking the teachers to extend the submission of the final outputs of the learners. The following week, it is reported that there are more parents who refuse to take the modules to school. As a result, teachers, with the support and assistance of barangay officials, are conducting home-to-home distribution and retrieval of modules. This behavior influences the minds of the teachers, since they are the ones paying their travel expenses. The introduction of the modular delivery of learning is also considered burden by the teachers.

Teachers are expected to track the work of the learners. In the modular learning delivery mode, teachers use mobile phones to reach their learners. They ask for the toughest part of the modules and immediately provide the learners with support and guidance. There are also times where they use the Facebook group chat to message the learners. Both correspondence and internet costs are incurred by the teachers themselves. This affects the teachers' personal and family budget. There are instances where they need to sacrifice their money in the performance of their duties and responsibilities at this time of the pandemic. Indeed, the supervision of the work of the learners is considered to be one of the work-related stress of the teachers.

One of the duties given to teachers is to answer the concerns of parents. Parents are very diverse with each other. The diversity of parents has a significant influence on the work-related stress of teachers. During parents' orientation, it is announced that they need to learn how to read back the information transmitted to them. It is noted that parents with the same interest have been asking the same questions for the whole week. In addition, there are occasions where they ask for an immediate response to their questions at any time of the day. These situations are often affected the teachers and they want to leave the chat room or the discussion. Addressing parents' concerns is also one of the factors that led to the work-related stress of teachers.

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Truly, teachers are the most stressful occupation in this time of pandemic, because of the many concerns they need to take part in.

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