The Status of Teacher Wellbeing
Did you know teachers can be involved in 1000 interpersonal connections a day? (Holmes 2005).
The quality of these interactions can either diminish or enhance wellbeing. In fact teachers are among those professionals with the highest levels of job stress and burnout across many countries. (Stoeber, J., & Rennert, D, 2008). Growing research is showing that not only are beginning teachers struggling as they enter the profession but experienced teachers are increasingly becoming burnt out including that of Principals. In the recent Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey (2019) (https://www.principalhealth.org/au/reports.php) , the two leading causes of stress were;
– Sheer Quantity of Work, and
– Lack of Time to Focus on Teaching and Learning
In other studies, common stressors include school systems becoming increasingly more bureaucratic, greater service delivery demands in the form of heavy workloads with fewer resources. Teachers are expected to manage difficult student behaviour including violence and lack of student motivation. Teachers are stretched with a lack of planning time coupled with an increased emphasis on accountability (Jennifer Curry, 2012). The changing nature of society expects schools to address social justice, promote a sense of belonging, build resilience and keep abreast of mass media influences which fuels unrealistic expectations of teachers. (Mccallum & Price, 2010).
A summary of the 10 main causes of teacher stress can be seen in the picture below.
NEW Book "Cultivating Teacher Resilience" (2020)
I recently had a book chapter published on building Psychological Capital for teachers.
The book is called “Cultivating Teacher Resilience” and it is FREE to download. It draws on the research of Positive Psychology in the workplace using Hope, Efficacy, Resilience and Optimism theory. This forms the acronym HERO. I have also developed some workshops called “Supporting our inner HERO”.
Access your FREE copy HERE
OUR APPROACH TO SUPPORTING TEACHER WELLBEING
Just as student wellbeing programs must be informed by research, so too, should teacher wellbeing programs. In developing our programs, we draw on the research from Positive Psychology, Social and Emotional learning, Mental Toughness and Coaching Psychology.
1. Positive Psychology
Positive psychology is the study of what makes life worth living and is commonly known as the science of wellbeing. Positive Psychology is not a program or a theory but an umbrella term that incorporates many fields of psychology. It encompasses many fields of research such as Mindfulness, Character development, Social and Emotional learning, Growth Mindsets, Goal-setting theory, Hope-Theory, Flow-Theory, Learned Optimism, Self-Determination Theory and more.
Positive education is the application of positive psychology in a school setting. It involves educating the head and the heart. Positive education sees the explicit and implicit teaching a wellbeing sitting alongside that of academics. The two are intertwined and interconnected.
2. Social and Emotional Competence
Teaching is an emotional vocation and if we don’t have the social and emotional skills to manage these emotions we increase our risk of burnout. In fact teachers who have difficulty regulating their emotions (and their classrooms) tend to have students who experience more negative emotions in class e.g., sadness, shame, and guilt (Sutton,2003).
Given the high stress rates within the teaching profession it is crucial that teachers have social and emotional competence to manage this state. People who are deficient in these skills have been linked to high alcohol and tobacco use as well as anxiety and depression (Zeman 2002).
Emotional skills training for teachers can create a more stable, supportive, and productive learning environment – one that encourages positive social interaction, active engagement, and academic achievement among students (Brackett and Katulak 2006).
People high in emotional intelligence will build a real social fabric within an organization, between an organization and those it serves, whereas those low in EI may tend to create problems for the organization through their individual behaviours.(Mayer & Caruso).
If teachers are going to teach Social-Emotional Learning programs in schools, teachers must be trained in how to do so as well as how to model such competencies (Bracket, Alister, Wolfe, Katulak, Fale, 2007).
- Why teachers need to have training in social and emotional skills
- The Case for Emotional Intelligence in schools – produced by 6 seconds, an international EQ network
- Emotional Intelligence at work – produced by Langley Group
- CASEL – Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning
- The benefits of mindfulness training for teachers
3. Mental Toughness
Mental Toughness is a personality trait that determines your ability to perform consistently under stress and pressure, and is closely related to qualities such as character, resilience, grit and perseverance. Basically, it is a personality trait of how people respond to challenge, stress and pressure, irrespective of their circumstances.
In order to develop mental toughness, Professor Peter Clough, Professor of Applied Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University a pioneer on research into Mental Toughness explains the 4 C’s – Control, Commitment, Challenge and Confidence. By developing the 4 C’s, we not only increase our social and emotional competence, but we also develop a Growth Mindset.
You can read more about the Mental Toughness and the 4C’s in the book – Developing Mental toughness in young people
4. Coaching Psychology
Coaching psychology is influenced by theories in various psychological fields, such as humanistic psychology, positive psychology, learning theory and social psychology. Its aim is to increase performance, achievement and well-being in individuals, teams and organisations by utilising evidence-based methods grounded in scientific research (Allen, 2016).
While mentoring has existed in education for many years, coaching is relatively new. Mentoring tends to be predominantly focussed on the development of a person, typically with an expert and an apprentice, however coaching tends to be more strategy and task focussed working towards specific goals with distinct measures and evidence for. Coaching can also be defined as “Unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them” (Whitmore 2003).
Christian van Nieuwerburgh, a leader in the field of coaching in education says educational leaders need to be “lead learners” (2012). This involves educational leaders having the skills to know when to support someone through non-directive coaching as opposed to a more directive approach. This shift in approach requires new methods in professional development. Researchers are calling for professional development programs for mentors in order to improve the mentoring ability and support teachers as learners (Hudson & Hudson, 2010).
- AITSL has put together an overview of coaching and the benefits it can have for educators
Impact on students
Did you know ….Teacher stress can have up to an 8% variance on student academic performance (Teacher Support Network, UK, 2007). In fact, John Hattie also links teacher motivation to student achievement;
“When teachers become burned out, or worn out, their students’ achievement outcomes are likely to suffer because they are more concerned with their personal survival.”
The primary business of schools is education of its students. Achievement and wellbeing lie at the heart of this with. The DEC Wellbeing Framework for schools states, “wellbeing, or the lack of it, can affect a student’s engagement and success in learning. Educators need to understand the potential wellbeing has to bring about positive change, what is required to foster wellbeing, and how it can become a powerful force in students’ learning and development.”
In order to do this, teachers themselves must be well (Roffey, 2010). This means teachers must be able to not only teach the various domains of wellbeing, but model competence within these domains. These domains described by the DEC Wellbeing Framework include;
- Cognitive wellbeing is associated with achievement and success and is informed by motivation and persistence to achieve. This has strong links to growth mindset
- Emotional wellbeing relates to self-awareness and emotional regulation. It includes how well we cope, and is often reflected by the level of a person’s resilience. Mindfulness is one way we can learn to regulate our emotions
- Social wellbeing includes the extent to which we experience positive relationships and connectedness to others. Through strength based conversations we can develop greater empathy for others and feel better connected.
- Physical wellbeing is associated with the extent to which we feel physically safe and healthy. It includes nutrition, preventative health care, physical activity and physical safety and security. Physical wellbeing enables positive health outcomes.
- Spiritual wellbeing relates to our sense of meaning and purpose. It can include our connection to culture, religion or community and includes the beliefs, values and ethics we hold.
- Impact of SEL for student learning (CASEL) – According to a meta-analysis of 213 studies involving more than 270,000 students, those who participated in evidence-based SEL programs showed an 11 percentile-point gain in academic achievement compared to students who did not participate in SEL programs.
- The Australian Student Wellbeing Framework
- “Pupil wellbeing – Teacher wellbeing: Two sides of the same coin” Roffey, 2012