Home » The Importance of Teacher Mental Health and Wellness

The stress and uncertainty of teaching has taken a tremendous toll on educator mental health. Put simply, teachers and school staff are exhausted and stressed out, and that impacts their students. Teacher wellness correlates with teaching effectiveness and student achievement. And with research showing that teacher stress may lead to reduced job satisfaction, burnout, and poor work performance, it’s become critical that districts prioritize teacher wellness for the sake of both educators and their students.
Teacher wellness, or well-being, is a “measure” of an educator’s social, physical, and mental health, as well as their belief that they can do their job effectively. Some of these factors directly impact a teacher’s wellness or well-being:

  • Working conditions
  • Feeling empowered to do their jobs effectively
  • Compensation
  • Recognition for their work
  • Workload
  • Professional development
  • Work-life balance
  • Mental health and well-being support

Teachers who are valued, supported, paid well, and not overworked are often happy with their jobs. However, it’s becoming increasingly rare for teachers that all of these boxes are being checked. That explains why 59% of teachers experience burnout, compared to 48% of people in other professions

Why Is Teacher Wellness & Mental Health Important?

As we mentioned, teacher well-being directly impacts student performance. If teachers are not in the proper headspace to effectively do their jobs because of stress, exhaustion, or burnout, how are students supposed to learn? The bottom line is, if student success and wellness are top priorities for districts (which they undoubtedly are), teacher wellness must be an equally important priority.

Teachers, like those in any other profession, need to know their opinions matter, that they’re valued for their abilities, and that they’re supported by school leadership and colleagues. When teachers are part of a supportive, safe environment, they’re often more comfortable delivering and receiving feedback, working collaboratively, and performing at a high level. Similarly, if teachers are feeling positive about their lives outside of school, they’re much more likely to walk through the school doors every day confident, content, and ready to make a difference. An educator’s holistic mental health is of critical importance as it relates to their overall effectiveness and performance in the classroom.

Think about the instructions flight attendants deliver as the plane taxis the runway—in the event of an emergency, always put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. Why? Because if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to take care of others. The same basic principle applies to teacher mental health and well-being…if teachers aren’t in the right place mentally, due to any number of factors listed above, how are they supposed to effectively instruct students? Teacher wellness must be addressed so they’re in an optimal position to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

How Is Teacher Well-Being Measured?

While each teacher has individual needs and thresholds for stress and burnout, there are a few ways for school administrators to get a gauge on how their teachers are feeling from a wellness and mental health perspective.

  • Questionnaires: A simple but effective way to measure a teacher’s well-being is through a questionnaire. One example, the Teacher Subjective Well-being Questionnaire is an eight-item self-report rating scale that measures teacher well-being specific to their jobs.
  • Individual Feedback: Through one-on-one sessions that encourage open dialogue, administrators can ask specific questions related to teacher well-being and use the feedback to address any concerns.
  • Focus Groups: Similarly, districts can gather a small group of teachers for a Q&A to see what the most pressing issues are concerning teacher wellness.

By reaching out to educators, whether by questionnaire or interview, school leadership can get a finger on the pulse of their teachers’ well-being and begin to create solutions that address teacher concerns.

Tips for Teacher Well-Being

While administrators are certainly encouraged to create a supportive environment conducive to satisfied teachers, there are some steps teachers themselves can take to improve their wellness.

  1.  Stay focused on goals. Having clear goals helps keep people motivated and avoid distractions that may result in stress. Most teachers likely have goals; if not, setting achievable and measurable goals will keep them focused on the task at hand, not the outside noise.
  2.  Rediscover why teachers do what they do. Most teachers enter the profession for a reason—to help children grow, learn, and succeed both within and outside the classroom. Sometimes, however, teachers lose that sense of purpose when dealing with the day-to-day grind, and that often leads to burnout. By regularly taking a step back and revisiting why they decided to teach in the first place, many teachers can rediscover that purpose and improve their well-being.
  3. Create new relationships. One of the great benefits of teaching is the relationships that can be forged. Teachers are in a unique position of being able to form bonds with students, fellow educators, school staff, administrators, and parents. When teachers create these relationships, they establish new lines of communication as well as a new support system.
  4. Maintain healthy lifestyle habits. It may sound simple but getting a good night’s sleep and eating healthy are the foundation upon which wellness—physical and mental—is built upon. Waking up each morning refreshed and energetic goes a long way toward having a less-stressful day and improving teacher well-being.
  5. Consider talking to someone. It could be a therapist or school counselor, or it could be a good friend or parent. Sometimes talking about the day or week and its stressors can relieve the tension and unburden a teacher from the anxiety and toll that school stress can lead to.

How Can Schools Support Teacher Mental Wellness and Well-Being?

Short of increasing salary or improving physical working conditions, there are plenty of initiatives schools can take to support the well-being of their educators.

  • Offer professional development. Along with wellness-specific PD like the EmpowerU self-paced course, most teachers want the opportunity to learn new best practices, speak with colleagues from different schools, attend workshops and seminars, and have other professional learning resources at their disposal so they can grow their skills. Giving them access to these tools makes educators feel invested in and valued, boosts their motivation and self-confidence.
  • Provide a strong support system. Teachers need to feel supported by their school leaders and colleagues. By providing a strong support system that encourages a healthy work-life balance, offers mental health-related resources like school counselors to talk to, and simply listens to their requests and struggles, teachers will feel appreciated.
  • Create a positive overall school culture. When educators walk into the building each morning and know that the school community is a safe environment that respects, values, and trusts teachers, they’ll feel a strong connection and positive feelings of well-being.

How Can Catapult Learning Help?

As a leader in educator professional development for more than 45 years, Catapult Learning recognizes the importance of teacher wellness. Catapult’s Educator Well-Being PD services package addresses the critical issue of teacher mental health and wellness by helping them build resilience through:

  • A three-day wellness institute focused on teacher self-care
  • Instructor-led workshops on Promoting Teacher Self-Care and Wellness, Mental Health Literacy, and more
  • A virtual portal with 1:1 coaching from a wellness expert
  • Educator Resilience Training, which includes 12+ hours of virtual resilience, self-care, and wellness training

By providing your educators with support, resources, and professional learning, your district can reduce teacher stress and increase engagement through improved educator wellness.

Learn more about our Educator Well-Being PD services package by visiting https://catapultlearning.com/programs/pd-bundles/.