In a shock announcement, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia have stated that: “94% of middle school teachers experience high levels of stress, which could contribute to negative outcomes for students.” Moreover, they suggest that: “reducing the burden of teaching experienced by so many teachers is critical to improve student success — both academically and behaviorally.”
Compounding Students’ Challenges
Whenever a child enters middle school, their families are faced with a number of valid concerns for their loved ones. These include: changing expectations, new teachers, new fellow students, a different environment, and hormonal changes. And as if that wasn’t enough, this latest research showing the extremely high levels of stress experienced by middle school teachers, is yet another worry. In fact, it could be seen as being on a par with over worked doctors, who do not always appear in optimum health to be able to listen to, and address our health concerns in the best possible way.
More on the Study
This particular study, which elaborates previous research that analyzed stress experienced by elementary school teachers, reinforces the latter’s conclusion that teachers’ high stress levels could result in a negative outcome for students. MU’s College of Education professor, Keith Herman, notes: “Many studies of teacher stress have used samples from elementary schools. However, middle school is a particularly important time in students’ lives as they transition from elementary school, and have many different teachers. It’s critical that we understand how stress impacts middle school teachers so we can find ways to support them.”
Getting to the Root Cause
Herman’s words are very wise, as this like most issues, needs to be addressed from the root cause. There could be a number of viable factors at play here, for example: long working hours involving working at home as well as school; budget cuts which cause all kinds of difficulties, and frequently result in larger classes; the negative aspects of technology, and the loss of the conventional pupil teacher relationship. To that end, holistic wellness support for teachers would be a giant step forward. This could include: mental health programs and interventions, organizational support, advice on eating an optimum diet, taking regular exercise, getting sufficient sleep, limiting screen time, and so on.
Virtually all the middle school teachers involved in the study (which comprised nine middle schools), reported high stress. They also found a difference in the way in which teachers dealt with the problem. The statistics showed that: 66% of participants suffered high stress and high coping ability; 28% (almost one-third), recorded high stress and low coping ability; and just 6% displayed low levels of stress and high coping ability; the latter of which is a very low percentage indeed.
Herman concluded: “Unfortunately our findings suggest many teachers are not getting the support they need to adequately cope with the stressors of their job. The evidence is clear that teacher stress is related to student success, so it is critical that we find ways to reduce stressful school environments while also helping teachers cope with the demands of their jobs.”