Why Teacher Mental Health and Well-Being are Critical for Success
By: Richard Porter
With a new school year in full swing, one thing’s for sure: This coming academic cycle will be anything but “business as usual.”
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over. Educators are struggling to balance these changing health regulations with hybrid classes, online classes, in-school classes, masks and social distancing policies. These new challenges are in addition to common teacher stressors such as behavioral challenges for younger kids, inadequate resources, large workloads and… well, isn’t that enough? Throw in several global crises and it’s not at all surprising that teacher mental health and well-being are at stake and the burnout rate among teachers is high.
The pandemic has lowered teacher morale and contributed to increased burnout
According to a Gallup poll, teaching is one of the most stressful occupations in the U.S., tied with being a nurse. RAND Corporation researchers found that between May and October 2020, the number of teachers who indicated that burnout was a major concern jumped to 57% in just one quarter. And the number of teachers likely to leave their jobs continues to rise. Of course, teacher mental health is inherently important for the sake of the educators themselves. But schools — and local communities — risk a loss of ROI. Educational organizations that don’t address teacher mental health will lose productivity and involvement due to low morale — as well as the financial costs associated with high turnover for employees.
More significantly, cultural capital is in peril. The lives and minds of students depend on quality education. Teachers act as social influencers and are conductors of knowledge. If they can’t do their job properly, then communities will inevitably suffer from a compromised educational system. The negative effects of teacher burnout are substantial — it’s time to prioritize teacher mental health and well-being for the success of teachers, students and the school community.
Too many educational institutions are missing the mark on teacher mental health and well-being
Teachers, like workers across a variety of sectors, just aren’t getting the support they need. According to a recent Forrester survey, 83% of workers report that senior leaders in the workplace say that employee mental health is important to their business. Yet only 23% of surveyed employees feel their mental health factors into workplace decision-making. With scarce mental health resources and the young mental health crisis, many teachers play a critical role in supporting student mental health while juggling their own personal concerns.
Luckily, mental health is becoming more recognized by employers. Companies are becoming aware of rising rates of depression and anxiety among their ranks and want to take action to help their own. With many teachers feeling hopeless and drained, it’s up to leadership to support well-being and mental health success.
How to promote teacher mental health success with well-being
The past school year has been atypically hard for teachers, and the relief of a “normal” workplace environment seems to be far away. Abnormal times require better tools to address new problems. It’s crucial for teachers and schools to not only acknowledge, but respond to and support the stress that comes with the job. The best way to address teacher burnout and a loss of ROI is to actively engage in teacher well-being at every point during the academic year — and provide employee mental health benefits that make real improvements.
A comprehensive approach focused on social and emotional health, resilience, safety and creating a positive school environment can help give teachers the support they need. A solution that connects employees directly to care providers and mental health services, offers well-being resources and provides activities that empower employees to put their well-being first can encourage teacher well-being and ultimately impact the success of the students, community and educational institution.
Here are a few ways to support teacher mental health and well-being:
Set reasonable expectations. Know the boundaries and time restraints of educators. Respect their capacities.
Create a support system. Parents and volunteers can help fill in the gaps in teacher workloads.
Provide health education resources. Make sure that educators have access to help if and when they need it.
Make time for self-care. Check in with teachers. Are they making time for themselves in the evenings and on weekends?
Focus on motivation. Working toward a larger, reasonable goal is a good way to boost morale.
Let’s take better care of teachers this year so that everyone in the community can benefit. Find out how Limeade Well-Being can help.
Learn about the business impact of emotional wellness in the workplace, and get 6 strategies to improve mental health at work.
About the author
Richard Porter is a freelance writer based in Seattle. His work has appeared in the Microsoft blog, ROVA Magazine, and ParentMap, among other publications. More of his writing can be found at porterwordsmith.com.