The importance of Resilience and personal Wellbeing for Educators
If somebody walked up to you today and asked you what the most stressful job in the country was, what would you say? Police officer, Doctor, Executive or business owner? No, no, no and no. Studies have shown that Teachers report the highest level of occupational stress in Australia, with 41% of teachers reporting high levels of occupational stress. In fact, teachers make more mental stress claims than any other Australian industry. Teachers are responsible for providing stimulating learning environments for children in order to facilitate optimal academic outcomes and to provide a positive emotional climate to support student social-emotional functioning. But how can they possibly do this if their own wellbeing and resilience is being pushed and eroded each day? Although efforts to improve school wellbeing have emphasised the importance of student social-emotional functioning, many programs overlook the wellbeing and social-emotional functioning of the Educators themselves.
What are the main causes of stress for Educators?
Teacher stress has been defined as a teachers’ experience of unpleasant or negative emotions that arise due to aspects of their work. Scientifically speaking, teacher stress consists of two components: stress causes and stress responses. Stress causes are the collection of aspects of the work content and the work situation influencing employees at cognitive, motivational and emotional levels while stress responses relate to the educators’ mental interpretations when experiencing stress causes. Some of the most commonly stated causes of teacher stress are:
- excessive workload and working hours
- poor student behaviour including lack of motivation and effort, disrespect and violence
- aggression from pupils and parents
- Pressures of assessment and grade targets
- Conflict with management and colleagues
- Adapting and implementing new curriculum
- Self-esteem, support and status
- False public perceptions about teachers
- Lack of professional opportunities
What are the effects of stress on Educators?
The personal consequences of teacher stress commonly include absenteeism, burnout, physical and emotional distress, reduced self confidence and self-esteem, damaged personal relationships and suicide. These sustained stress levels result in large numbers of Australian teachers leaving or thinking about leaving their positions, with around half to two thirds of teachers considering quitting due to stress. Without training on how to identify social and emotional issues, teachers can further erode their resilience and negatively impact their own wellbeing.
How do stressed teachers affect students’ wellbeing and results?
Did you know that teacher stress and wellbeing can be directly linked to student results? In 2016, a University of British Columbia study tracked the levels of stress hormones of over 400 elementary students. Researchers found that teachers who reported higher levels of workplace burnout and stress had students with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol each morning, showing classroom tension could be contagious. Studies have also shown that emotionally exhausted teachers are more likely to use reactive and punitive punishments that contribute to negative classroom climates and student-teacher relationships. This cycle fosters poor social and school connectedness and leads to decreased student mental health and academic performance.
Tips for Educators to reduce stress, improve their resilience and emotional wellbeing
- Focus on why you became a teacher in the first place
Try to do one thing each week that reminds you why you became a teacher. Utilise a fun teaching strategy that you and your students can enjoy, and prioritise making a positive impact on their lives.
- Adopt a growth mindset in your teaching and personal learning
The research is clear that having a positive and growth mindset increases resilience and grit through long or difficult times, which in turn helps individuals achieve their goals. Growth Mindset and resilience programs can be beneficial to educators in helping them to lead from the front and guide students through the processes of facilitating a growth mindset. This is because the impact of the practices of a teacher on a child’s mindset can be substantial.
- Create a clear boundary between school and home
Finding a way to switch from ‘teacher mindset’ to home mindset can play a big part in lowering stress levels and increasing overall wellbeing. Developing an end of day routine starting with leaving work at a reasonable time, going for a run or walk, getting into nature, spending time with family and friends or other hobbies that make you happy will go a long way to reducing your stress.
Engaging in a social and emotional learning program, and learning exactly what resilience is and how it can be used to increase wellbeing on a daily basis is not just beneficial for educators. By continually improving personally and learning the ways in which they can influence a child’s behaviour and emotions, educators can provide a more balanced, productive and successful classroom for their students