“Invest in our teachers, and our children will succeed.” ~ Barack Obama
Teaching is one of the world’s most important professions and also one of the most stressful. Educators can easily get overwhelmed and burn out, which is why we have an ongoing and worsening teacher shortage in the United States.
At Alludo, we believe in supporting and investing in teachers because we know the impact they can have on their students and on society at large. The school districts we have partnered with have made teacher retention a priority and we have made it a point to include microlearning activities and missions about teacher self-care and wellness in our professional development Content Catalog.
Because teachers’ happiness is essential, here are some tips to help you support teacher mental health and wellbeing with professional learning in your district.
How Does the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Teachers Compare to Other Professions?
Teachers may experience levels of stress and burnout comparable to what is experienced by healthcare workers and full-time caregivers. They care deeply about their students and may carry their worry with them even when they’re not at school.
To illustrate how deeply stress can impact teachers’ mental health and wellbeing, here are some statistics to consider:
75% of teachers say they experience stress related to their jobs. To give you an idea of how high that number is, only 40% of people in all other professions combined report feeling job-related stress.
Fully 27% of teachers say that they have experienced one or more symptoms of depression. The number of adults who say they have experienced depression is only 10% overall.
25% of all teachers said they were thinking of leaving the profession entirely.
Only 22% of teachers said they received emotional support from their districts and only 6% received counseling to help them cope with stress.
While some of these numbers may have been elevated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re part of a larger and ongoing issue related to teacher satisfaction and burnout. The teacher shortage in the United States is worsening every year and it’s essential for school districts to do what they can to support teachers.
What Stresses Do Teachers Have?
Stresses related to teaching can take many forms. Some may be obvious while others may require careful examination to be noticed.
There’s a public perception that teachers work fewer hours than other professionals but that’s because non-teachers see only the time that teachers spend in classrooms. According to a survey in EdWeek, most teachers work more than 40 hours per week and many put in more hours outside of the classroom than they do in the classroom.
Long hours can and do contribute to burnout, which can in turn lead to teachers leaving their jobs or even leaving the profession of teaching entirely.
Lack of Resources
Lack of resources can be a major issue for teachers, particularly in school districts where there isn’t a lot of money to pay for classroom supplies. As we noted above, emotional support is often unavailable.
When teachers feel obligated to spend their own money on supplies, it can create financial stress. A lack of support resources can cause or contribute to overwhelm and burnout.
Achieving a good work-life balance is a struggle for many professionals and teachers are no exception. When teachers spend time at home working and in many cases, worrying about their students, that balance may tip too far toward work.
The result can be that teachers’ personal lives and relationships suffer. We all need downtime and teachers may not get as much as they need.
Political issues can be stressful when they impact teachers’ work and lives. For example, legislation that cuts school budgets can have a negative impact on teachers as can attempts to make them change what they teach or how they teach it.
Political issues such as gun control (or the lack thereof) can impact teachers’ lives too, making school feel unsafe.
In addition to the ongoing teacher shortage, there’s also a shortage of substitute teachers. The shortage may make it difficult for teachers to take time off and force them into coming to work when they’re not feeling their best.
Substitutes play a vital role in any school district and teachers rely on having a qualified pool of substitutes to step in as needed.
Post-COVID Behavioral Challenges
The COVID-19 pandemic led to prolonged periods of distance learning that caused stress for teachers and their students. Many teachers have reported high levels of stress as they cope with behavioral changes when students return to the classroom.
Any behavioral issue can cause teachers to feel stress because they need to use their time, patience, and resources to address any issue that may disrupt their classroom time.
Personal safety is a priority for teachers in this unfortunate age of school shootings and lockdowns. In addition to big picture violence at schools, teachers may also need to cope with students who act out physically and put their personal safety at risk.
Teachers should feel safe in their classrooms and it is no surprise that when they don’t feel safe, their stress levels increase.
Why Is It Important for Teachers to Have Good Mental Health?
Teachers’ wellbeing is essential not just for their personal wellness, but for the good of their students, other teachers, and school districts. Here are some of the reasons that teachers’ mental health should be a priority:
Low Morale Can Lead to Low Productivity and Involvement. Teachers whose mental health isn’t being supported are likely to experience decreased morale around their jobs. Low morale can, in turn, contribute to low productivity and decreased involvement with students and with school culture.
Poor Mental Health Can Contribute to Teacher Turnover. Teacher turnover is at an all-time high and school districts everywhere are struggling to retain teachers. Support is a crucial component of teacher retention, so if school districts want to save money, they should prioritize teachers’ mental health.
School Culture and Students Depend on Teacher Support. When teachers’ mental health is a priority, school cultures thrive, and so do students. In the absence of adequate mental health support for teachers, students are likely to struggle.
As we noted above, only a small percentage of teachers report that their district provides counseling or emotional support.
How Can Teachers Take Care of Their Mental Wellbeing?
The key to improving teachers’ mental wellbeing and reducing stress is implementing an array of supports and resources. School districts must do their part, and of course, individual teachers must also prioritize self-care.
School Supports for Teachers’ Wellbeing
Here are some things that school districts can do to promote teachers’ wellbeing:
Creative supportive workspaces. School districts can help teachers support one another by making room for teachers to collaborate and can provide individual support to teachers with support plans and other resources.
Encourage mentorship.Mentoring relationships are important in any profession. More experienced teachers can partner with new teachers to provide them with support and guidance and experienced teachers may support one another in the same way.
Professional development around coping skills & wellness. Professional development plays an important role in teachers’ mental health and wellness as well as in preventing teacher turnover. Our Teacher Happiness Report revealed that next to mentoring relationships, having access to online asynchronous professional development was at the top of teachers’ wish lists when it came to support. Professional development can and should include activities related to self-care, wellness, classroom management, and coping skills.
Teacher Tools for Managing Wellbeing
In addition to administrative support, it’s a must for teachers to learn how to take care of themselves. Here are some examples:
Breathing techniques. Simple breathing techniques can help to increase mindfulness and reduce stress. For example, the box breath involves breathing in, holding your breath, breathing out, and holding your breath – each for a count of four.
Asking for help. Teachers should be made aware that they can ask for help when they need it. Asking is the first step, but school districts should be ready with guidance to create support plans.
Physical exercise/moving. There’s a connection between mental wellbeing and physical movement, so teachers should take advantage of breaks to move around and get some exercise, as well as exercising outside of school.
Resources. Teachers can help themselves by creating a toolbox of support resources that may include books, meditation and mindfulness apps, social media communities, videos, and more.
The ideal situation for teachers is one where they get professional development to help them create healthy boundaries, build self-care toolboxes, and work in a school district where counseling and emotional support are always available to them.
Alludo hosts a comprehensive professional development catalog that includes resources to help school districts help staff, and empower teachers to prioritize self-care.
School districts can increase teacher retention by partnering with Alludo, giving teachers access to learning around an array of topics related to teacher support and wellness. These include the following:
Our Social Emotional Learning & Wellness mission has 9 tracks, including activities to help teachers learn about prioritizing self-care, using SEL techniques in the classroom, and setting healthy boundaries with their students.
Give Teachers in Your District the Support They Need with Alludo
Teachers do their best and most meaningful work when they feel supported, both professionally and emotionally. While some of the work of maintaining mental health belongs to teachers, it’s essential for school districts to provide support where they can, including making professional development accessible, meaningful, and fun.
Want to reach up to 100% PD in your district? See how Alludo can help make it happen with our free professional development platform trial, including: