The Importance and Impact of Teacher Well-Being
At the heart of every school are the teachers.
It is a researched-based fact that taking time to build teacher resilience can directly impact the performance of students and teachers alike.
This article showcases three academic pieces that when presented together represent a strong, research-based statement about the impact of teacher well-being on the success of students and schools.
Oberle, E., & Schonert-Reichl, K. A. (2016). Stress contagion in the classroom? The link between classroom teacher burnout and morning cortisol in elementary school students. Social Science & Medicine, 159, 30-37.
The first study demonstrates a link between teacher well-being and student stress. Specifically, occupational teacher stresses resulting in a rise in student cortisol levels -often called the stress hormone. The study was done by testing teacher burnout levels using an established inventory and then collecting and measuring student cortisol levels these tests clearly laid out a correlation between teacher and student stress.
This totally makes sense. If you have a classroom where teachers are stressed out, it’s not a big jump to see how this could result in stressed-out students. Occupational stressors on teachers are numerous, coming from intense schedules, lack of autonomy limited bathroom and lunch times, mounting responsibilities and accountability. Teachers worry about their students, struggle to connect with parents and attempt to balance interpersonal matters, all well-being expected to maintain the sunny disposition of the ideal teacher.
Sometimes this balancing act can be overwhelming.
This study is significant because it demonstrates that teacher stress can equal student stress and that the well-being of teachers impacts the well-being of students.
Briner, R., & Dewberry, C. (2007). Staff well-being is key to school success. London: Worklife Support Ltd/Hamilton House.
The second study which was conducted with 24,100 elementary and secondary staff found that classroom teachers well-being was associated with a range of measures of pupil performance. This was evident even after controlling out other related factors – which in non-research speak boils down to:
stressed teachers can negatively impact student achievement and teachers who enjoy their jobs can positively impact student achievement.
This is pretty powerful when you think about it a minute. Teachers well-being directly impacts student performance. Teachers who are stressed often are either a bit high-strung or a bit too lax depending on which way their survival skill swing, sort of a teacher version of fight-or-flight. In either scenario, you can understand how this could translate to student performance. A student isn’t going to thrive in an environment in which the teachers aren’t thriving. They aren’t going to be motivated to push themselves or become excited about learning when their teacher is neither motivated or excited either.
Roffey, S. s. (2012). Pupil wellbeing – Teacher wellbeing: Two sides of the same coin?. Educational & Child Psychology, 29(4), 8-17.
The third and final study describes the importance of promoting teacher well-being through consistent professional development. It demonstrates the need for strong teacher resilience training due to the impact of teacher well-being on the school’s ability to meet the needs of diverse populations. It goes on to postulate that an investment in teacher well-being will equate to reduced numbers of students that require external and internal supports and interventions in both social and behavioral areas.
Again, this makes total sense. A school full of disengaged, stressed teachers is not going to become the foundation for a welcoming and supportive learning experience.
This is important because it really is a call to action.
If we really are behind our students and want them to succeed, we also have to be behind teachers and support their well-being by building resilience.
So there you have it, three studies which separately speak to the challenging and demanding educational landscape that teachers navigate each day, but together they state a need, a research-based argument for the strengthening of teacher resiliency.
Teachers are the critical, pivotal force in providing students the safe and caring learning experiences that encourage them to feel happy and successful.
Teacher well-being goes beyond attrition rates. Teacher well-being impacts students’ and schools’ ability to be successful. If you weren’t convinced before that teachers are the heart of the school you should be now.
It is the core belief of Joy in Teaching that it is necessary to give back to the teachers and not in fragmented initiatives but in real tools and support. It is time to strengthen resiliency, invest in retention, and #savetheteachers.
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