We live in times where the weight of the educational role has a substantial impact on a teacher’s well-being. Research identifies that teachers report the highest level of occupational stress in Australia, the United Kingdom, and America (OECD, 2020). It is also true that currently, more than one in four teachers suffer from significant stress and emotional exhaustion after starting their careers and are expected to leave the profession within their first five years of teaching (Marshall, 2013; Milburn, 2011). This is a concerning trend as schools fight for consistency and improvement in educational outcomes for all students.
John Hattie (2013) also clearly identifies when teachers become burned out, or worn out, their student’s achievement outcomes suffer because they are more concerned with their personal survival. This is even more relevant today as we are in a COVID teaching world which has impacted teachers with heightened stress and anxiety.
So what can we do to support our teachers and help improve individual wellbeing? Research suggests that there are some excellent interventions available for teachers, three of the top suggestions are highlighted below.
- Prayer and Gratitude
One of the blessings of working in Adventist education is the ability to pray together, to pray for one another and express our gratitude each day. Sometimes this is something we take for granted. However, research supports the significant impact prayer and gratitude can have on reducing an individual’s stress levels, therefore increasing their happiness and overall well-being. Martin Seligman (2003) has done focused study in the field of positive psychology and gratitude and found that gratitude itself is one of the best ways to improve an individual’s happiness, positive outlook, and overall well-being. So it just proves that counting our blessings each day is good for us!
- Streamline Communication
Gone are the days of teachers being in the classroom from 9am-3pm. In today’s educational world teachers are contactable through a variety of avenues up to 24 hours a day. The world of COVID classrooms has also blurred the lines of teacher/student communication significantly as it has required teachers to be online for longer hours in their homes and using their own devices. This significantly impacts a teachers stress levels and well-being, as there is limited time for a teacher to ‘switch-off’, relax, and recoup. Therefore, one of the most important ways to increase a teacher’s well-being and help them reduce stress is to streamline what communication should look like. This may include a school plan with communication avenues outlined, times available for emails/phone calls, and an emphasis on no weekend communication.
Google strives to reduce stress and promote healthy well-being for their staff. One study they undertook called ‘Project Aristotle’ (2016) saw them implement ‘typical’ wellbeing interventions for staff that they believed would positively impact wellbeing. This includes massage rooms, free lunches, nap pods, haircuts, and even space to grow their own vegetables. Sadly, all of these interventions had little to no impact on staff well-being. However, through an unusual pathway, this study did highlight the significant impact connection had on staff well-being. Google has now spent significant time, energy, and money to ensure all staff have tools and opportunities to positively connect to others around them.
At the end of the day, the desire to feel connected to others is a basic human need and the more our school workplaces can foster this growth the more we can reduce stress and increase teacher well-being. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 ‘Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.’
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