Any parent knows that teaching is hard work. It’s not just about trying to get across a certain subset of information through fun, interactive activities. There’s also time management, and behavior management, being an emotional support to students, and trying to save time at the end of the day to make lesson plans for the next. Overall, there are a lot of sources of stress, and kids don’t benefit when teachers are stressed out.
Take the recent situation in Beaumont, Texas, for instance, where a 63-year old teacher slapped a kid multiple times in her classroom. Several students reported her behavior as irregular, saying that the teacher was otherwise a really nice person. Was it a case of stress on the job?
A national study of thousands of teachers found that many do have cause to be stressed out. Teachers say they aren’t trusted to do their job, even while the expectations mounted upon them rise. There are curriculum regulations to meet, and model roles to be played all the time. It’s no wonder that all of this pressure can lead to stress. And while striking a student is still fairly rare, it's not surprising that students feel some negative effects of teacher stress in their learning experience.
Fortunately, it looks like there is something that parents can do to support their children’s educators. Advocate for a mindfulness professional development program. In a recent study of such a program, Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE), the teachers involved in the intervention saw positive impacts on their mental and emotional health. More importantly to parents, they improved their teaching.
CARE is a mixture of mindfulness practice, communications and listening training, and self-regulation exercises that help teachers de-escalate their responses in challenging classroom situations. It helps teachers relate better to their students and have more empathy for their lives.
What if teachers’ emotional well-being were the subject of the next PTA meeting you attend? It become a hot new topic for those who want to see some real changes in classroom environments.