A new study from the University of British Columbia has found a link between teacher burnout and student stress. The study found that students in classes with teachers who reported more burnout had higher levels of cortisol, a chemical related to stress. It is unclear yet whether teacher burnout leads to increased student stress, whether it’s the other way around, or if it is a cyclical situation.
Stressed out students not only have a more difficult time learning but are harder to teach. And recent studies have found that teaching is one of the most stressful jobs around, in part because classroom sizes continue to increase while support for teachers continues to shrink. The result is that teachers become burned out more frequently; they report mental exhaustion caused by the stress of dealing with their jobs.
Students are under increasing stress as well, expected to perform better and better on standardized testing, which is of questionable value as an educational tool in the first place. More stress for students makes them harder to deal with, which burns their teachers out that much more quickly.
The study does not offer solutions to these problems, but it does highlight the systemic problems faced by teachers, students, and the education system in general. We continue to demand more and more of students and teachers, yet don’t increase education funding accordingly, making both of their jobs, learning or teaching, that much harder.
“It is clear from a number of recent research studies that … teachers need adequate resources and support in their jobs in order to battle burnout and alleviate stress in the classroom,” says University of British Columbia education professor Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, a co-author of the study. “If we do not support teachers, we risk the collateral damage of students.”
While more research must be done to better understand the connection between student stress and teacher burnout, the study has helped to make clear that there are problems that must be addressed in our education systems if we truly want the best for our students.