It is widely acknowledged that teachers are under inordinate amounts of pressure in their jobs and that they, more than most, have to use a taxing combination of physical, psychological and emotional energy in order to do the job to the best of their ability.
When your reserves are drained like this day-after-day, especially if you do not have the time (or know-how) to recover in between, you are at high risk of developing chronic stress. This is evidenced in the number of teachers on long-term leave with stress, with 3750 cases reported during the 2016-2017 academic year in England alone.
What can be done to help teachers?
Research has shown that how much grit teachers have and how resilient they are has a direct impact on their ability to provide high-quality teaching, in addition to indicating how likely they are to remain in the vocation. Thankfully, as resilience is not an innate quality, this is something that can be influenced through training.
Although factors such as workload, student behaviour organisational support and workplace relationships will continue to have an explicit impact on the wellbeing of teachers, providing individuals with the skills to manage stress effectively and bounce back quickly from challenge gives them the best chance of managing the pressures and remaining satisfied within their roles.
In addition, becoming more resilient involves learning to think more flexibly, build positive emotions and increase optimism. Research shows that positive emotions help to broaden our thinking and increase our interest, innovation and creativity. This combination of improved emotional well-being and mindset not only builds teachers’ resilience but also facilitates their capacity for designing, and delivering, lessons that are engaging and exciting.
What would other benefits would there be from providing teachers with resilience training?
Our blog post, What Happens When Resilience is taught in the Workplace, discussed the benefits for organisations of providing resilience training to employees. All of which, including staff retention, increased productivity and smoother organisational change, are applicable to teaching staff. However it’s worth considering how these benefits impact not only the organisation, but the students too.
For example, the research mentioned above found that the more resilient a teacher is, the more likely they are to stay in their job. With the alarming rate that qualified teachers are leaving the profession that has been widely reported over the last couple of years, this is crucial for not only the benefit of the educational organisations, but also that of the students and their learning.
Further research has shown other key components of resilience training that focus on managing stress are also particularly pertinent for teachers and have benefits for both the educators and the people they are educating. The study found that when teachers are taught practices to help them regulate their emotions, be present in the moment (often through mindfulness-based practices) and use skills to actively listen, it not only reduced their reported stress levels, but it also improved the quality of the environment within the classroom. The environment was found to be more emotionally supportive, interactions became more emotionally positive and the teachers demonstrated a greater sensitivity to the needs of the student – all of which has been linked with improved learning in students.
With benefits to both teachers and students it would be great to see resilience training for teachers introduced as part of their initial training and on-going professional development, but for now we have to remain encouraged by the increase in the number of educational facilities implementing it on their own initiative.
If you’d like to discuss resilience training for the educational setting that you work in, please get in touch.