Stressed teachers are not effective teachers. It’s true in any industry, but perhaps the most in these people who are responsible for the education and molding of unpredictable children and their equally unpredictable parents.
“It’s concerning,” said Elizabeth Steiner, a policy researcher at RAND Corporation, an objective research service. “People who are experiencing symptoms of depression and burnout can be less engaged in their work, they may be absent more often.”
RAND surveyed 1,000 teachers in the United States and 1,075 randomly selected adults at the end of 2020. The research firm was looking for results that addressed four research questions:
- What is the state of teacher well-being during the pandemic?
- What job-related stressors have teachers faced during the pandemic, and how do those correlate with well-being?
- How do teachers’ reports of well-being and intentions to leave their job compare with those of the general public?
- How do the job-related stressors faced by teachers who were considering leaving their jobs because of the pandemic differ from teachers who were likely to leave before the pandemic and teachers who were unlikely to leave?
Their results indicated that even before the pandemic, teaching was a stressful job, which is hopefully obvious. But the pandemic has worsened virtually all of the stressful aspects of the job.
Frequent job-related stress was reported by 78 percent of teachers surveyed, and 20 percent said it was greater than their ability to tolerate. Over a quarter of teachers reported symptoms of depression, and half described their condition as “burned out.” One in four respondents to the survey said they might leave teaching after the end of the 2020-21 school year. (Sixteen percent of teachers quit each year under normal circumstances, either to change schools or leave the field).
Stressed teachers, teachers who are burned out by being ground between a challenging job and an unsupportive environment, are a very real problem. Teaching requires engagement and energy, and maintaining both of those clearly requires more support than our teachers are getting.