Teachers Are Stressed, And That Should Stress Us All

By Cory Turner for Morning Edition

We all experience stress at work, no matter the job. But for teachers, the work seems to be getting harder and the stress harder to shake.

A new report out this month pulls together some stark numbers on this:

Forty-six percent of teachers say they feel high daily stress. That’s on par with nurses and physicians. And roughly half of teachers agree with this statement: “The stress and disappointments involved in teaching at this school aren’t really worth it.”

It’s a problem for all of us — not just these unhappy teachers.

Here’s why: “Between 30 and 40 percent of teachers leave the profession in their first five years,” says Mark Greenberg, a professor of human development and psychology at Penn State.

And that turnover, he says, costs schools — and taxpayers — billions of dollars a year, while research (like this and this) suggests teacher burnout hurts student achievement, too.

Greenberg has studied America’s schools for more than 40 years, and, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (also an NPR funder), he helped author the new brief exploring teacher stress.

He says teachers feel frazzled for many reasons, including high-stakes testing and the fact that many students are themselves coming to school stressed. As for the fixes, Greenberg recommends a few.

New teachers who receive steady mentoring are less likely to quit. Workplace wellness programs can also help. But both require school wide, even district wide buy-in. If that’s not realistic, Greenberg suggests a fix that is well within every teacher’s control, one that just might surprise you …

Read more here.

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