Looking after your teachers’ wellbeing is one of the most important things you can do as a school leader. The success of your school is dependent on the quality of instruction delivered by your teachers to your students; their wellbeing is crucial to ensuring that their teaching skills are effective and of a high quality.
Impact of stress on teachers
Poor teacher wellbeing is closely linked to stress at work - research shows that 46% of teachers report high levels of daily stress, which affects their health, quality of life, and teaching performance, and costs U.S. schools billions of dollars each year.
If teachers are experiencing high levels of stress, their ability to control a classroom and provide a thought-provoking and challenging lesson to students is minimized. The effects of stress impact anyone’s ability to perform to the best of their ability, yet when a teacher's role is to help others achieve their best, the consequences of stress at work are higher.
Symptoms of stress include but are not limited to:
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
Ways to counteract stress:
- Regular physical activity
- Keeping time for yourself and hobbies
- Relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga
- Spending time with friends and family
- Taking time off or a holiday
There are tactics teachers can undertake to combat stress, however if these aren’t undertaken and teachers are continually being exposed to repeated high levels of stress, this can lead to sick days and prolonged periods of time off work in a bid to recover.
Impact of sickness on learning
Teacher absence has greater consequences than just affecting student progression as an actual cost is attributed to sick teachers who are either off work or quit from a result of their health pressures. The cost of substitute teachers is at $4 billion annually, or about 1% of total K-12 spending, an expense many schools can ill afford when budget constraints are a constant concern.
The implications on teaching and learning incurred by substitute teachers are also costly - these teachers lack personal relationships with students and as a result don’t know the best ways to approach teaching. As well as this, they rarely have the time to get to know their students and when they are called in for last-minute cover, they aren’t as equipped to deliver the lesson and deliver less challenging work.
What can be done?
Fortunately, poor teacher wellbeing can be reduced and there are practices that can be implemented to improve existing poor wellbeing. Conducting staff surveys with regard to wellbeing will help to paint a picture of the general feeling of the staff body and provide you with ideas on how you can improve their happiness and in turn promote a positive school culture. Furthermore, providing your staff with clear guidelines on how they can practice good wellbeing, and communicating to them what to do when they are struggling will assist in emphasizing the importance of wellbeing.
The costs attributed to poor teacher wellbeing are huge - it impacts your budget, other members of staff, as well as your students. Implementing initiatives that focus on improving your school's culture and staff happiness will help to improve teacher wellbeing and as a result, you’ll be able to reduce your spend on supply teachers, recruitment costs and your students’ academic progression won’t be compromised.