teacher stress

Teacher stress could cost your schools more than you think

Study on highly-stressed teachers reveals the detrimental impact this mindset has on students

Teachers need the right support to deliver high-quality instruction, and a new study finds that teachers who do not have access to the proper resources have higher job-related stress that negatively impacts student achievement.

High levels of job-related stress affect 93 percent of teachers, and classrooms with highly stressed teachers usually have the poorest student outcomes, including lower grades and frequent behavior problems.

The findings come from team of University of Missouri researchers. “It’s no secret that teaching is a stressful profession,” says Keith Herman, a professor in the university’s College of Education.

“However, when stress interferes with personal and emotional well-being at such a severe level, the relationships teachers have with students are likely to suffer, much like any relationship would in a high stress environment.”

Aside from training and general competence, teacher stress and coping is another factor influencing successful behavior interventions and classroom management. Herman analyzed teacher profiles by level of stress, level of coping ability, and the level of burnout the teacher felt. Teachers with low levels of stress and high coping ability appeared few and far between.

“It’s troubling that only 7 percent of teachers experience low stress and feel they are getting the support they need to adequately cope with the stressors of their job,” Herman adds. “Even more concerning is that these patterns of teacher stress are related to students’ success in school, both academically and behaviorally. For example, classrooms with highly stressed teachers have more instances of disruptive behaviors and lower levels of prosocial behaviors.”

In light of the detrimental impact teacher stress has on student learning, the research team outlined some strategies to support highly-stressed teachers:

1. Teachers should have access to screening processes to identify a need for increased support to avoid more stress and burnout.

2. Build initiatives and programs that promote mental health practices and overall health, which can greatly benefit teachers.

Herman also emphasizes that focusing on individual coping strategies is just a start to fighting the broader social contexts that influence teacher stress.

“We as a society need to consider methods that create nurturing school environments not just for students, but for the adults who work there,” he says. “This could mean finding ways for administrators, peers, and parents to have positive interactions with teachers, giving teachers the time and training to perform their jobs, and creating social networks of support so that teachers do not feel isolated.”

The study was published in the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions. Co-authors include Wendy M. Reinke, professor in the MU College of Education, and Jal’et Hickmon-Rosa, a doctoral student in the MU school psychology program.

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Laura Ascione

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