Teaching is a demanding profession. To prepare lessons in an interesting way while also sticking to the curriculum, to manage a class full of disruptive students with different learning paces and capabilities, to struggle with the few resources you’re given by a system that seems to be working against you, and to do it all with a smile on your face seems nearly impossible.
Add to the mix a global pandemic, a need to adapt to technology challenges and new ways of teaching, and a fear of contracting COVID and spreading it to your loved ones… and you get a stressed-out teacher on the verge of a burnout.
An increasing struggle
Teachers are stressed, and that’s a fact. They have been stressed for years, and way before the pandemic, but that added challenge has led them to reach their breaking point.
Work-related stress among teachers has significantly increased during the last decade resulting in one of the highest rates of burnout. And with the added challenges, they feel like they are spread thin.
“COVID is kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Lisa Pellegrino, a 4th-grade teacher in Maryland.
Teachers are all working longer hours, trying hard to adapt to the changes but also make their classes more interesting as they see a decline in student engagement, and feel like all their efforts are in vain as they fear that their students aren’t performing well or receiving the education they need and deserve.
“I don’t feel like I am able to show my students the care, love, and comfort a teacher normally gives. Virtual learning stresses me out because I don’t feel like I am able to fulfill my duties as a teacher, no matter how much effort is put into the teaching,” says Nour Sidani, a special needs teacher in Lebanon.
Teachers feel overwhelmed with the workload which they believe has increased dramatically during the pandemic. The burden of the task aligns with a frequent change in health guidelines depending on the context of the contamination, causing a feeling of permanent insecurity.
We often forget that healthy teachers are crucial to successful teaching. “Teachers fulfill an essential and demanding task, preparing future generations. They deserve appropriate working conditions that allow them to stay healthy. Teacher health is a necessary prerequisite for good quality teaching.”
Relieving the pressure
“Stress is part of any teacher’s life with all the heavy workload thrown at us by the schools’ administrations,” says Cynthia Madi, a K-12 Lebanese teacher.
So now the question to be asked is the following: what’s the solution? Where do we go from here? Asking teachers to plan better or get more organized didn’t lead anywhere, as it didn’t target the source of the problem. The real solution that could actually lead to change is that schools, not teachers, can reduce stress and burnouts.
“Instead of “make space to restore your balance” or “find time to exercise more,” schools need to acknowledge their role in the problem and put in place the structures, practices, and time for self-care, reflection, and general well-being among educators, school staff, and the leaders themselves.”
Schools could start by surveying teachers and listening to their needs. Schools always think they know the source of the problem, but they often don’t, and end up offering solutions that aren’t helpful. Hearing what teachers have to say is the first step to acknowledge the issues that need to be addressed and fix them. Schools and institutions also need to rethink the way they divide teachers’ time, and consider including planning time into their schedule, to avoid longer working hours.
Making breaks a standard thing can also relieve teachers from the pressure of being a superhero who’s always there and can do it all. Stepping out to breathe when the environment gets overwhelming is the best way to ensure that a teacher gets their energy back and provides better teaching.
Finally, schools should model and support wellness. “Support programs, including workshops, are an effective way to address mental health issues in schools while creating a space where teachers and staff feel seen and heard.” Implementing “Emotional Learning” and “Wellness” programs can not only help teachers cope with stress and anxiety but also model to students and staff that mental health is important and should always be acknowledged and treated.
Making teachers and their health a priority, providing them with the right tools, support, and programs they need is the only way to ensure a healthy learning environment for both teachers and students and make both their educational journeys enjoyable and successful.
WILL Madeline, Teachers Are Stressed Out, and It’s Causing Some to Quit, https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/teachers-are-stressed-out-and-its-causing-some-to-quit/2021/02, February 22, 2021
Wettstein, A., (2020). Investigating teachers’ psychological and physiological stress Research OUTREACH, Available at: https://researchoutreach.org/articles/investigating-teachers-psychological-and-physiological-stress/
 GONSER Sarah, Schools, Not Teachers, Must Reduce Stress and Burnout—Here’s How, https://www.edutopia.org/article/schools-not-teachers-must-reduce-stress-and-burnout-heres-how, February 11, 2021