- In the face of mounting testing pressures, rapidly changing reform efforts and student circumstances over which teachers feel little control, more than half of teachers consider their jobs to be highly stressful, which is affecting teacher absenteeism rates, retention and student achievement, according to The Hechinger Report.
- There is a growing trend to address teachers' mental health through stress-reduction and resiliency-building exercises. These include yoga and programs such as those offered by the Center for Resilience, Breathe for Change and mindfulness training offered through Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education. However, these efforts are mere triage and only offer short-term solutions, some experts say.
- Education leaders can offer longer-term solutions that address root issues by providing mentoring support in schools rather than bringing in outside experts, rolling out new initiatives in a more teacher-centered way, and involving teachers in discussions about what works best for students.
Teaching has always been a stressful career, but the problem seems to be increasing in a culture where teaching is constantly being judged by data points. Teachers face pressure from administrators, teachers, and the community. At the same time, they are dealing with student circumstances and behaviors that complicate their ability to teach as effectively as they would like.
This stress can be “contagious” in a sense, and can impact student learning. Stressed teachers are more likely to be chronically absent and, ultimately, to leave the classroom altogether. Since student achievement and teacher recruitment and retention are among the top concerns for school administrators, it makes sense that caring for teachers and finding ways to reduce their stress levels should be a top priority.
Frustration at the lack of flexibility in the classroom can contribute to stress for teachers. School leaders that allow teachers to have a greater voice in decisions and who listen to their concerns can help teachers feel a greater sense of control of their environment They may also glean some valuable insights along the way that can offer solutions for the entire school. Principals can address teacher wellness through more social-emotional learning for adults, incorporating mindfulness strategies and helping teachers build resiliency. Mentoring programs for teachers can also help establish a system of peer support.
But principals also need to build relationships with teachers themselves to create a sense of trust and more open and honest lines of communication. Good teachers are hard to find and losing them to stress is not a good option. Finding ways to solve the issues that are causing them stress and helping them deal with the inevitable pressures along the way is well worth the effort in the long run.