PhotoThere’s no discounting the importance of teachers when it comes to young students’ academic success, but new research finds that many elementary teachers are stressed to the point of being ineffective.

A new study from the University of Missouri found that 93 percent of teachers are affected by high levels of job-related stress. They say that this extremely high percentage may be leading to poorer grades and a higher prevalence of behavior problems.

“It’s no secret that teaching is a stressful profession. However, when stress interferes with personal and emotional well-being at such a severe level, the relationships teachers have with students are likely to suffer, much like any relationship would in a high stress environment,” said professor Keith Herman from the MU College of Education.

High stress and low coping ability

The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing teacher profiles and measuring levels of stress, coping ability, and self-reported levels of “burnout.” Herman says that the results indicated that a miniscule number of teachers showed both low levels of stress and high coping ability.

"It's troubling that only 7 percent of teachers experience low stress and feel they are getting the support they need to adequately cope with the stressors of their job," he said.

"Even more concerning is that these patterns of teacher stress are related to students' success in school, both academically and behaviorally. For example, classrooms with highly stressed teachers have more instances of disruptive behaviors and lower levels of prosocial behaviors."

More support needed for teachers

While there may be no surefire solutions to this problem, the researchers say that it’s important that teachers have access to support to minimize negative outcomes.

"We as a society need to consider methods that create nurturing school environments not just for students, but for the adults who work there," Herman said.

"This could mean finding ways for administrators, peers and parents to have positive interactions with teachers, giving teachers the time and training to perform their jobs, and creating social networks of support so that teachers do not feel isolated."

The full study has been published in the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions.


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