Teaching is a highly stressful profession. In fact, research conducted by the American Federation of Teachers found that teachers are more stressed than the average employee working in fields other than education.
This is understandable, considering teachers face many obstacles throughout the school day. Contributing factors to teacher stress include the pressure to help all students to succeed, district bureaucracy, lack of autonomy, insufficient time and resources, and low pay (Haynes, 2014).
And of course, COVID-19 has made teaching even more stressful. Though teachers have handled the impacts of the pandemic extraordinarily well, COVID-19 has created many new stressors, including the conversion to online and distance learning, economic and financial difficulties, feelings of anxiety and isolation, etc. (MacIntyre, Gregersen, & Mercer, 2020).
When teachers are stressed, students feel that pressure, too. Overly stressed teachers can unknowingly contribute to increased behavior incidents and decreased engagement and performance. When teachers are not able to effectively manage stress, they also tend to burn out and some may choose to leave their profession. High teacher turnover results in teacher shortages and fewer experienced teachers in the field. Teacher attrition costs the U.S. up to $2.2 billion each year due to teachers leaving the profession or moving (Haynes, 2014).
We need to better support teachers and help them develop effective stress management skills, especially during and after the pandemic. A growing body of research shows that social and emotional learning, or SEL, can help (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009; Carson, Templin, & Weiss, 2006).
How SEL Can Help
Research shows that when teachers are able to effectively manage stress and the demands of teaching, their health and well-being improves and they are less likely to leave their profession (Greenberg, Brown, & Abenavoli, 2016; Ingersoll, 2001).
Teachers with strong social and emotional skills are also more effective at creating optimal learning environments for their students by reducing classroom conflict and behavior incidents and promoting cooperation and effective communication (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009, Eccles & Roeser, 1999; La Paro & Pianta, 2003).
In addition to creating healthy and productive learning environments, SEL promotes strong teacher-student relationships. These relationships are important because research shows that when students feel their teachers support and care about them, they are less likely to engage in disruptive behavior and are more likely to succeed academically (Jussim & Harber, 2005). Strong teacher-student relationships also improve school and classroom climate and help students feel more connected to their class, school, and learning (Darling-Hammond, Ancess, & Ort, 2002).
To learn more about teacher stress, how it impacts students, and how we can help teachers learn to manage stress to avoid burnout and improve student outcomes, fill out the form below to download our white paper, Reducing Teacher and Student Stress with SEL.