Teacher Wellbeing Basics
What is Teacher Wellbeing?
Most definitions of wellbeing could be summed up as feeling good and functioning well. But if we are to take into consideration the many aspects of wellbeing, we are referring to more than just physical health.
For instance, psychological wellbeing is concerned with concepts like a sense of purpose in life and positive relationships with others. Subjective wellbeing on the other hand, involves concepts like life satisfaction and the occurrence of feelings of happiness more frequently than negative emotions.
For teachers, it could translate for example to feeling good at their workplace, feeling like they matter, like they are making a difference, and/or experiencing positive emotions in everyday life – not only as a teacher but also as a person, mother, spouse, family member, etc.
Why is it important?
The importance of teacher wellbeing comes from the fact that teachers usually have a very important role in our teenagers’ academic and personal growth. Oftentimes, while trying to keep up with the requirements of the curriculum and the stress of everyday life, teachers can become overwhelmed.
As part of a school that promotes and values wellbeing, teachers should always have access to resources for nurturing their wellbeing. And, they should also get support at any point necessary.
It is important not only for the person who gets the support, but also for the rest of the teachers, staff, and students. They can observe and follow the examples that the school sets in their way of prioritizing wellbeing.
It’s equally crucial to examine the impact on students. In one study, for example, researchers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands interviewed 143 new teachers over the course of a year.
Teachers with higher levels of stress at the start of the year used fewer effective teaching strategies throughout the year, such as clear instruction, effective classroom management, and creating a safe and stimulating classroom environment for their students, than teachers with lower initial stress levels.
Who can support teacher wellbeing?
They say that change always comes from within. The best place to start with teacher wellbeing is obviously at the school they are teaching at. We will list some school staff that can have an impact on teacher wellbeing as well as external people and groups.
It is important to keep in mind that not all teachers have the same personal lives and some might find socializing easier than others – however, resources and solutions should be available to everyone.
That being said, some people or entities that can support teacher wellbeing are:
- School Administrators – They can promote policies and practices that support work-life balance, provide resources for professional development, and foster a culture of appreciation and recognition.
- Colleagues – Collaborative relationships among teachers can create a sense of camaraderie, allowing them to share experiences, offer advice, and provide emotional support.
- Education Support Staff – School support staff, such as counsellors, social workers, and psychologists, can offer specialized assistance to teachers. They can provide guidance on managing stress, coping with difficult situations, and accessing mental health resources. These professionals can also create a safe space for teachers to discuss their concerns and seek support when needed.
- Teacher Unions and Associations – They can negotiate fair working conditions, promote policies that support teacher wellbeing, and provide resources and guidance on various aspects of teaching.
- Families and Friends – Loved ones can provide emotional support, lend a listening ear, and offer a sense of balance outside of the school environment. They can also help teachers maintain a healthy work-life balance by encouraging self-care and leisure activities.
Teacher Mental Health Statistics
Teacher stress and burnout are global concerns. According to the 2018 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), which involved 48 countries and economies, around 34% of teachers reported experiencing high levels of stress at work, while 10% reported feeling burnout.
Achieving a healthy work-life balance is also a challenge for teachers worldwide. In the TALIS survey mentioned earlier, 77% of teachers reported that their job demands sometimes interfere with their personal lives, affecting their ability to relax and engage in non-work activities.
Compared to other careers, teachers seem to face higher rates of mental health challenges as well. Studies have found that teachers in various countries reported higher levels of depression and anxiety symptoms compared to the general population.
While there seem to be many risks associated with the job of being a teacher, the end result is just as rewarding and important. And that is why teachers should get all the necessary support as well as good working conditions, in order to thrive and be successful leaders that inspire our future generations.
Elements of Teacher Wellbeing
Hugh Clench, an expert on wellbeing from OLT International, says there are numerous elements of wellbeing that we should take into account when considering any potential difficulties teachers may be encountering, which include:
- Cognitive wellbeing – How we process information to succeed in our daily lives and work and to acquire knowledge and understanding
- Emotional wellbeing – Self-awareness and emotional regulation, reflected in how well we cope with life’s challenges
- Social wellbeing – The establishment of positive social relationships and the ability to empathise with others
- Physical wellbeing – Feeling physically healthy, safe and secure in our environment
- Spiritual wellbeing – Our sense of meaning and purpose in life which may be related to culture, religion or community
When thinking about offering support for teachers’ mental health, we should consider all of these elements. Regular check-ups should be held with the teacher board and staff that include free discussions, feedback sessions, polls, etc.
Only by involving our teachers in the decision-making process and by listening to their requirements can we make sure that we are actually nurturing and contributing to their wellbeing.
Supporting the wellbeing of teachers
Apart from meetings and assemblies, schools should also be equipped with personnel and resources to validate the wellbeing of their teachers.
Whether we are talking about access to counselling sessions, self-development literature, or training programs, teachers should feel like they are in a constant state of development. Or, at least that they have the resources and time to keep investing in themselves.
Because burnout is one of the most common results of consistent stress, we thought we’d provide some coping tactics that can help our teachers manage moments of burnout and high stress.
Burnout coping strategies
While most of us experience stress at some point in our lives, burnout is the outcome of ongoing work stress.
Some of the main signs to look out for, when trying to identify burnout are: being easily emotionally unstable and lacking enthusiasm or motivation to be a teacher, being emotionally retreating from coworkers, students, friends, and family, finding it difficult to complete routine or basic chores (for example, creating a lesson plan), emotionlessness or flatness, or even sleeping difficulties and performance concerns.
If we want to stir away from burnout or cope with burnout, these are some things that we can do:
- Self-care and being kind to ourselves – It can be as simple as creating a good sleeping routine, eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, or engaging in activities like meditation, journaling or meeting up with friends.
- Work-life balance – For example, make it clear to your students and their families that you’ll only respond to emails during work hours and within a 24- to 48-hour timeframe unless the matter is urgent. You could also give yourself a set time to stop working outside school hours each night and stick to it. Remember, it’s okay to say ‘no’.
- Seek out connections – Seeking connections with the people you work with can help protect you against stress and burnout. Given how common burnout is, it’s likely that some of them will have had similar experiences. Taking time to build teacher–student relationships can also help to boost your wellbeing.
- Seek formal support – If you need extra help, it’s important to seek assistance early. Chatting with your local GP or health service is a good first step. If your school has an EAP, you can also make use of the range of external and internal mental health support it provides.
Apart from burnout, everyone should exercise self-care tips to maintain a healthy and satisfactory life.
Self-care includes everything that might contribute to our actual health but it does not stop there. When we’re talking about self-care we can also be referring to our spiritual self – for example, doing things that boost our confidence and happiness levels.
Some tips for maintaining our self-care are:
Getting regular exercise. Just 30 minutes of walking every day can help boost your mood and improve your health. Small amounts of exercise add up, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t do 30 minutes at one time.
Eating healthy, regular meals and staying hydrated. A balanced diet and plenty of water can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. Also, it is helpful to limit caffeinated beverages such as soft drinks or coffee.
Making sleep a priority. Stick to a schedule, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
Trying a relaxing activity. Explore relaxation or wellness programs or apps, which may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy activities you enjoy such as journaling.
Practising gratitude. Remind yourself daily of the things you are grateful for. Be specific. Write them down at night, or replay them in your mind.
Impact of Teacher Wellbeing on Student Achievement
As we mentioned earlier, Teacher Wellbeing can have a negative or positive impact on students and their academic achievements.
For example, in a case study organised by a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia, more than 400 elementary school students in various classrooms were monitored for their stress hormone levels.
They discovered that students with higher morning cortisol levels had teachers who reported higher levels of exhaustion. That indicates that classroom tensions may be “contagious”.
After all, it is important to keep in mind that teacher wellbeing goes hand in hand with their students’ wellbeing. By nurturing and cultivating a school environment where wellbeing is a priority, we are actually ensuring a better academic future for our teenagers.
Does your school promote teacher wellbeing?
Some useful resources about wellbeing, mental health, anxiety, etc. for teachers:
Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? by Dr Julie Smith
How To Grow Through What You Go Through by Jodie Cariss and Chance Marshall
How To Build A Healthy Brain by Kimberley Wilson
Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
How Perfectionism Holds New Teachers Back
Defending a Teacher’s Right to Disconnect
How Burned Out Are You? A Scale For Teachers
Some surveys to find out what kind of self-care strategies might help you:
Workplace and professional self-care
Teacher Wellbeing FAQ
Why is teacher wellness important?
Teacher wellness is important because it enhances the quality of education in the classroom, promotes a positive learning environment, and supports teacher-student relationships.
Why is it important for teachers to have good mental health?
Good mental health for teachers is crucial as it improves job satisfaction, and effectiveness in the classroom, and positively influences interactions with students.
How does teacher well-being impact students?
Teacher well-being directly impacts students by creating a positive and engaging learning environment, or in cases where the teacher is stressed, this can be passed on to the students and can have a negative impact on their academic performance.
How do you build a sense of wellbeing for educators?
Building a sense of well-being for educators involves promoting work-life balance, providing support systems and resources, fostering positive professional relationships, and recognizing and appreciating teachers’ contributions.
How do you take care of yourself as a teacher?
Teachers can take care of themselves by practising self-care routines, setting boundaries between work and personal life, seeking support from colleagues and mentors, and engaging in activities that promote relaxation and well-being.
What affects teacher wellbeing?
Teacher wellbeing can be affected by factors such as workload demands, lack of support and resources, inadequate work-life balance, administrative pressures, and limited professional growth opportunities.