By Jessica Salcido-Leonard and Leslie Spinder
We believe there is a direct correlation between teacher mental health, student mental health and the overall success of the classroom. According to Harding, Morris, Grunell, et al. (2018), there are associations between teacher well-being and student success (Harding et al., 2018). If a teacher is not in the right frame of mind, it may be difficult for them to be fully present to meet the educational and emotional needs of their students. Therefore, by focusing on teacher mental health, teachers and students are likely to benefit.
There is no doubt that teaching is a stressful job. The daily tasks, planning engaging lessons, managing student behavior, working with colleagues, preparing for standardized testing, and feeling responsible for the success of students may lead to teacher burnout. In fact, Teacher Burnout Statistics-2021 states 41.3% of teachers leave the teaching profession within 5 years and 66% consider leaving the profession altogether. With stress on the rise, teachers often cope with unhealthy amounts of alcohol and other substance abuse (Campbell, 2021).
Taking care of teachers is of utmost importance and administrators are the key to help foster and promote a mindset that encourages and addresses teachers’ mental health.
Here are a few ways to get started:
- Normalize and encourage teachers to take personal/mental health days without fear of judgment.
- Seek counseling through employee assistance programs or use personal insurance.
- Provide ongoing teacher training, groups and discussions on self care.
- Provide opportunities during the school day to practice self care (ex: hosting self care days that can include a massage therapist, yoga at lunch, exercise trainings, outdoor lunch, etc).
- Provide teachers breakfast tacos or lunch or coffee.
- Host a monthly raffle to have a class covered/leave early (ex: teachers enter a raffle by listing any self care they completed).
- Include mental health topics in professional development and/or staff newsletters.
Creating a culture where mental health is prioritized takes time and can be difficult. With consistency and modeling, long term positive results are likely to occur. While this is not an exhaustive list, it is a good starting point to create a climate where mental health is valued.
We cannot put a focus on the mental health of teachers without putting a focus on the mental health of students. Schools should think about mental health as a prerequisite to learning and overall success in school. Because students come with outside stressors and trauma, such as conflicts with peers, families, divorce, illness, death, poverty, violence, homelessness, or abuse, schools must be prepared to address these issues. This is where we can go back to the emphasis of teachers’ mental health. A teacher needs to be mentally capable and present to form relationships centered around trust and empathy in order to help students who come with extra barriers to learning.
Schools can support student mental health by:
- Encouraging students/families to seek counseling outside of the school.
- Providing training to teachers on student mental health issues, what it looks like, how it affects the classrooms and ways to help manage it.
- Providing parent training and resources to help their students at home.
- Implementing a positive behavior system.
- Practicing restorative discipline instead of traditional approaches.
- Embedding social emotional learning in all classrooms as opposed to a single part of the day.
While a campus has many factors to consider throughout the year, mental health should be a priority. There is no doubt mental health issues are on the rise. These suggestions for supporting students and teachers are a starting point for campus administrators. With an emphasis on mental health, campuses may see positive impacts on student and teacher performance.
Jessica Salcido-Leonard is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with 20 years experience in the field. She currently works as the Communities in Schools Program Manager at Simon Middle School in Hays CISD.
Leslie Spinder is a Texas certified school counselor with 12 years experience in education. She currently works as a school counselor at Simon Middle School in Hays CISD.
Campbell, J. (2020, December 30). Teacher Burnout Statistics 2021 – Definition, Causes & Solutions. Middle Class Dad. Retrieved September 30, 2021, from https://newmiddleclassdad.com
Harding, S., Morris, R., Gunnell, D., Ford, T., Hollingworth, W., Tilling, K., Evans, R., Bell, S., Grey, J., Brockman, R., Campbell, R., Araya, R., Murphy, S., & Kidger, J. (2018, August 17). Is teachers’ mental health and wellbeing associated with students’ mental health and wellbeing? Journal of Affective Disorders. Retrieved September 30, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com.
TEPSA News, January/February 2022, Vol 79, No 1
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