To Promote Success in Schools, Focus on Teacher Well-being

Writing for the Brookings Institute, Amy Roberts and Helyn Kim explore the importance of teacher well-being for student success. Excerpts of the piece appear below:

Without question, teachers are central to student success. Anyone who has taught knows how rewarding it is to witness student learning. Teaching can also be one of the most stressful, demanding, and undersupported professions [See], leading to national teacher strikes, shortages, and high rates of turnover. In fact, research shows that 46% of teachers report high levels of daily stress, which affects their health, quality of life, and teaching performance, and costs U.S. schools billions of dollars each year.

Although almost everyone understands the importance of student well-being and how teachers impact students, there is much less consideration for the well-being of teachers themselves.  

Teacher well-being is often narrowly characterized by what it is not. Research consistently shows that teachers who are more stressed are less likely to form close relationships with students, which can negatively impact student achievement.

Amy Roberts, in collaboration with researchers at the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, developed an ecological framework of teacher well-being, which identifies not only individual factors (shown in green) that are linked to teacher well-being, but also contextual factors (shown in blue). Although the framework was created with early childhood educators in mind, it is applicable to teachers working with students of various ages. By focusing only on the more “easily treatable” individual factors (sending teachers to trainings to build competencies, for instance), only a small sliver of well-being is addressed. If real change is to happen, the onus cannot be solely on the educators themselves; Workplaces, policies, and education systems must also work together to provide specific supports for teachers and change the culture around teaching to help reduce teacher stress, minimize the negative effects of that stress, and improve teacher well-being and student outcomes.

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