The Most Overlooked Piece For Healthy School Climate? The Answer Will Surprise You.

With improvements to school climate, school safety, and student well-being,  it is also essential to explore ways of supporting teachers and school staff who often experience high levels of stress.

Teacher wellness has been linked not only to teachers’ physical health but also to stability in schools and to teaching effectiveness and student achievement.  Moreover, teachers’emotions and stress levels have been found to influence those of students and other teachers.

Research points to several key sources of stress that can undermine teacher wellness:

  • 1. high-stakes job demands
  • 2. limited resources
  • 3. professional autonomy
  • 4. negative school climate.

Teachers are often expected to drive student success for a diverse set of learners and intervene across a range of challenging situations with limited materials, assistance, and control over school and classroom decisions.

When a student experiences trauma at home or lacks sufficient resources to thrive in the classroom, their teacher is often the first to notice that something is wrong and to respond. In the absence of sufficient student support services at the school, the teacher may feel helpless to meet the needs of that student.  Both scenarios are emotionally taxing.

The mechanisms commonly suggested to reduce teacher stress tend to focus on the teacher’s responsibility for self-care.  This is a misdirection; a policy that is adopted by administrators and, while it has great intentions, it will actually make school not  as fun, nor joyful, or safe.

Self-care practices such as meditation, exercise, or participation in a support group do not address the root causes of teacher stress. Instead, schools should address these sources of stress. Promoting teacher wellness requires attention to physical and mental health, professional development and support, and resources needed to be effective in the classroom, among other things.

We can better shape healthy schools for teachers and students by addressing the underlying causes of chronic stress and cultivating environments that promote teacher wellness. Ultimately, such attention could lead to a healthier, more supportive school communities and more positive outcomes for students.

When teacher wellness becomes a norm, so too will student success.