While there has been a great deal of well-deserved focus on student mental health—particularly since the pandemic—it is also very important to consider teacher well-being. The additional responsibilities and pressures brought on by school closures, the switch to online learning, and other unanticipated changes had a significant impact on them as well. According to 2021 and 2022 surveys by the RAND Corporation, teachers were twice as likely to report experiencing frequent job-related stress and difficulty coping with it than the general population of working adults.
In its 2023 study of teacher well-being, RAND discovered improvements in teachers’ workplace stress—it had returned to pre-pandemic levels. But they still report being more stressed out at work than other adults. In fact, 23% of teachers said that they were likely to leave their job by the end of the 2022–2023 school year. Those who reported poor well-being were more likely than their counterparts to say that they intended to leave.
Nearly half of the teachers said their number-one stressor was managing student behavior, which has worsened since school closures. In fact, 26% of teachers said they feared for their physical safety at school because of students’ behavior or a potential active shooter event.
The good news is that 75% of teachers said they had access to at least one type of well-being or mental health support, but only slightly more than half indicated that these supports were adequate.1
Teachers matter. A lot. And it seems every school year, we ask more and more of them. In addition to actual teaching, they need to mitigate student conflicts, decorate their classrooms, deal with sometimes difficult parents, take on lunch and playground duty, and attend a multitude of professional development activities. The list is endless and growing.
And yes, every year we designate a week in May to “appreciate them,” but what can we do year-round as an industry to support teacher well-being? Here are a few ideas:
- Think carefully about the demands on teachers and their well-being during the design and development of your products and services. Involve them in the conversation through focus groups or paid online surveys so that you have their perspectives. Ease of use for teachers should always be part of your planning.
- Develop support materials to help teachers communicate with parents about your products and services. Parents are more engaged in education than ever before, and it can take a lot off of a teacher’s plate if they have resources they can easily turn to to answer a concerned parent’s questions.
- Adopt a school in your community or in several communities around the country and provide them with services to support teacher well-being. Maybe weekly yoga classes or access to telehealth services? But ask first. Find out what they most want and need.
- Check in on teachers using your products and services. An email campaign that simply asks, “How are you doing and how can we help?” may produce simple ideas that will make their jobs easier and improve your offerings. Maybe they have concerns/complaints about your teacher materials or some other aspect of your product that makes their lives difficult.
- Offer professional development, but also offer support. An online support group or chatline
where teachers can get easy answers to product questions or connect with another teacher to learn about their best practices. An asynchronous environment is best so they can access the information on their timeline—not have another demand put on their schedule.
- Be patient! Whether on the phone, at a conference, or via email, always remember everything teachers are dealing with when you are connecting with them. Yes, they might be 30 minutes late for a scheduled call or professional development workshop, but they also may have been dealing with a difficult student situation or struggling with a technology challenge. You never know what someone—especially a teacher—is coping with.
We can’t afford to have teachers leave the profession. Not just because there is a constantly looming teacher shortage, but because they play an integral part in developing the future leaders of our country and our world. As an education community, we can and should help support their well-being. MDR is committed to helping and would love to discuss campaign strategies for supporting teacher well-being with you.