By Jessica Robinson
Teachers all over the globe battle immense stress from the virtue of their job roles. Also, sometimes they are under constant pressure because of students’ behavior. Furthermore, the pandemic has exposed teachers to far more stress as they need to manage virtual classrooms. Needless to say, managing a physical classroom can be much easier than coordinating remote learning. To add, from guiding students through technical glitches to settling disruptive student behaviors, online learning can bring mental fatigue. But despite the complex learning challenges of virtual classrooms, teachers are ensuring the continuity of education. For this, they deserve not only credit but also immense support for their wellness.
Schools all over the world have now started giving importance to mental health hence breaking the stigma around it. However, the wellness of teachers in most schools still goes ignored even in the pandemic. The larger focus is often on creating a conducive environment for students to express their stress or anxiety. It is good that there is now a more extensive awareness of mental health in educational setups than ever before. But there is a need to create an equitable space to address the mental health issues for students as well as teachers. Schools should also include teachers in the idea of creating an environment based on the well-being of all. The unprecedented times of COVID-19 have made everyone’s mental sanity more fragile. Thus, the idea of wellness for all becomes indispensable.
Educators are the soul of the education system, and their efficiency is a vital cog in defining the quality of education that a school delivers. Thus, every school values its teachers and offers immense respect to them for their relentless efforts. Besides, teachers discharge their duties with a selfless spirit and with the sole aim of helping their students excel. When it comes to managing a classroom, they display extraordinary efficiency. But they are only humans, and such exertion may take a toll on their mental health. This blog talks about the need to value the wellness of teachers so that they can continue to deliver their best. Well-being is a holistic idea that is inclusive of physical as well as mental wellness. But while teachers look at every child as their own, there is little sensitivity towards their mental condition. To realize the need to give priority to teachers’ well-being, let us first look to understand teacher burnout.
What is teacher burnout?
Teaching is a noble profession beyond the ambit of any doubts. But being a teacher is demanding and challenging at a lot of levels. Teachers are susceptible to continuous stress and feeling exhausted. It can be too tiring to take multiple classes and to run jam-packed schedules. To add, teachers also need to offer additional support to students in many instances. This is what can lead to burnout in teachers which further hampers their efficacy and their health. Teacher burnout is a psychological condition characterized by chronic emotional and physical exhaustion. In this state, teachers start to feel that they have nothing more left to offer and become cynical. Besides, they start detaching themselves from their job duties, students, and school. Negative thoughts comprehensively hijack their mindsets, and there is a deterioration of their focus and efficiency.
Teacher burnout can have adverse effects on students’ future and the quality of education a school offers. Exhausted teachers may no longer feel the passion for making a real difference. Therefore, when teachers of an institution start feeling burnt out, it can hamper their efficacy as educators. Stats compiled by Alliance for Excellent Education suggest that around 500,000 teachers in the US quit their jobs each year. A significant part of this high turnover in teachers attributes to teacher burnout. But you should not blame teachers for leaving their jobs too often as their jobs can sometimes be stressful. This stress can further become chronic and affect the mental health of teachers. In a scenario where they receive no help, they might find quitting to be the best option. But schools must retain their best teachers and also help them sustain their productivity. So, schools can attain this objective in a better way if they offer support to their teachers in terms of wellness. Like students receive sufficient mental health assistance, teachers should also have the option to avail themselves the same. In addition to this, the following hurdles in online teaching can make teachers more susceptible to burnout:
- Motivating students to learn online with efficiency and focus
- Mastering and managing various tools for online learning
- Time management with resources that consume a lot of time
- Planning and execution of online learning activities
- Notorious behaviors of students in a virtual classroom
5 Major advantages of offering well-being support to teachers
1. Improves employee retention
When schools offer adequate support to the wellness of their teachers, they can boost retention. Teachers are going to be less vulnerable to leave their jobs if schools play an active role to help them manage the causes of stress. In every profession, employee retention is a critical factor for success and to sustain the offered quality. Thus, assisting teachers in managing their focus and preventing them from burnout can pull down turnover rates.
2. Helps teachers to maintain a healthy work-life balance
All of us sometimes struggle to maintain a handsome balance between our jobs and personal life. Because teachers have a lot to manage, they can sometimes feel undue pressure to balance things. But when schools facilitate them to receive proper mental health assistance, they can overcome such hurdles. When they have the right balance in their lives, they work with productivity and commitment. This commitment showcased by teachers is critical to the future of students.
3. Creates positivity in the classroom
Teachers with a positive outlook have the prowess to incorporate positivity into the classroom. This positivity can do wonders to create curiosity for learning in students and to help them be more flamboyant. Besides, teachers with a positive mindset are often keen to go beyond the curriculum to impart valuable life lessons to the classroom. But teachers affected by negative attitudes may offer uninspiring learning. A teacher’s ability to motivate depends on his level of motivation. So, a disengaged teacher will have no inspiration to contribute to his students. Hence schools should facilitate the management of teachers’ stress.
4. Promotes willingness to take additional responsibilities
When teachers feel worn out, they often distance themselves from putting in the extra effort. Also, then they are hesitant to take added responsibilities. But if teachers can effectively manage their stress, they tend to love their work. Besides, they are also willing to take augmented responsibilities like managing various events. So, this is yet another reason why schools should show determination to care for the wellness of teachers.
5. Reduces absenteeism
Absenteeism in teachers can have an impact on curriculum management. Teachers who have a healthy state of mind or emotions are not going to take a lot of leaves. However, teachers who are under immense stress and have untreated mental health issues may take regular leaves. If teachers have wellness issues, they are going to require frequent leaves to cope with their health. Hence, by promoting a culture of well-being among teachers, you can bring down absenteeism.
To conclude, the 21st century is marred by various reasons that make the mental health of individuals vulnerable. From students to teachers, everyone is under constant stress to give their best and maintain essential balances in life. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more difficult to maintain a healthy balance of life. Talking of teachers, they should be rewarded for their relentless efforts to keep serving even in such difficult times. They deserve appreciation for how they dedicate themselves to the development of their students’ careers. In such a scenario, the best reward for them is going to be a sense of concern for their well being. In the idea of creating mental health awareness in schools, teachers are often excluded. But teachers deserve empathy and assistance to be able to manage stress in a better way. On the outside, teaching online may seem too easy but it can be more exhausting than it looks. Prolonged exposure to screen and management of education technology can expose teachers to health risks. Thus, the idea of well-being at school is incomplete if it is not sensitive towards teachers.
A teacher can absorb the stress of his students in a flash, but we often forget that this can make his well-being fragile. Also, to keep the quality of education and retention high, schools should show more empathy towards their teachers. There are ample rational reasons why teachers should receive the right care for their well-being. Happy teachers are going to make crucial positive impacts in a classroom.
Jessica Robison is a guest writer, personal blogger, and the content manager for The Speaking Polymath.