Addressing Educator Wellbeing Is Key Step to Rebuilding Schools, New Report Shows

Teachers shoulder an unimaginable burden. Not only are they responsible for shaping the minds of the next generation, but they are also tasked with providing emotional support for children, adolescents, and teenagers during their most formative years. Today, the role of the teacher is even more complex. Disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as recent school shootings have pushed educatorsteachers, principals, and administratorsto the brink.

But just how overworked are America’s teachers?

A new report from the RAND Corporation shows that teachers and principals are suffering worse wellbeing than other working adults, especially teachers and principals of color. The findings were based on survey results from a nationally representative sample of 2,360 teachers and 1,540 principals who work in K-12 public schools and are members of the American Teacher Panel and American School Leader Panel.

Survey questions were designed to measure five different aspects of wellbeing (frequency of job-related stress, ability to cope with job-related stress, symptoms of depression, burnout, and resilience) and evaluate how these factors influenced teachers’ and principals’ intentions to remain in their jobs. An additional goal of the survey was to better understand the different experiences of white educators compared to those of color.

Results showed that teachers across demographics selected “supporting students’ academic learning” as their top-ranked source of job-related stress, while principals reported staffing shortages as their biggest disruptor to wellbeing; however, nearly half of principals of color and one-third of teachers of color experienced racial discrimination, which contributed to them reporting an especially low wellbeing. Other sources of teacher-stress included managing student behavior, taking on additional work, supporting students’ mental and emotional health, and very low salaries.

The survey was also designed to identify ways that the wellbeing of teachers and principals can be improved. Based on the responses, the RAND Corporation recommended school districts focus more attention on the mental and physical wellbeing of their educators by promoting certain initiatives, such as “expanding tutoring programs, investing in summer school, or hiring additional staff to address student behavior and mental health concerns and provide more adult support in the classroom.” Other suggestions included addressing barriers to mental health services and publicizing their availability to ensure all staff are aware of their existence, and fostering positive relationships and communities among staff members.

Although these recommendations are a step in the right direction, many educators are looking for simple ways to relieve job-related stress that they can implement at home or in the classroom. The DeStress Monday at School (DSMAS) Program supports teachers and educators by offering simple ways to introduce stress management techniques into their routine, starting every Monday. Through a series of 20 stress management practices created by Johns Hopkins University and The Monday Campaigns (TMC), the DeStress Monday at School Program helps teachers—and their students—start the week with a new tool for managing stress, to help them feel more focused, energized, and relaxed.

During the spring of 2022 more than 6,200 teachers from 34 states and seven countries enrolled in a DSMAS program, reaching 29,000 students. The program also garnered national media coverage thanks to a video feature by Reuters, which highlighted students at the Frederick Douglass Academy in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City using DeStress Monday at School practices to start the academic week off with a positive frame of mind and equip them with the tools necessary to better manage stress and improve focus. 

Are you an educator, educational leader, or working in an education-adjacent organization? You can support your own wellness, or that of your staff, teachers, and their students with The DeStress Monday at School Program? Learn more about the program or enroll for Fall 2022.