When teachers are stressed, they are prone to irritation and can easily punish their students. This is what a recent study represents, wherein students are at risk of suspension due to teachers having a foul mood.
The link between teacher stress and student suspension was unveiled by researchers at the University of Missouri (MU), a US public research university. Teachers exposed to intense stress could subject their students to suspension. The burnout of their occupation could easily be aggravated by unwanted student behavior. If stressed further, they would likely issue disciplinary actions even to minor misbehavior. They published their findings in the journal School Psychology Review.
Teacher Wellbeing Matters in the Education System
Being a teacher is not an easy job. They have to prepare for lessons and other school materials, and then, deal with different attitudes of students on a regular basis. Apart from that, teachers can be pressured by their superiors, especially if there are ongoing issues in academic affairs. As such, teachers are prone to chronic stress and can be annoyed quickly. This is because teachers are people that can suffer occupational burnout.
According to Statista, the teaching profession was not included in the most stressful jobs in the US in 2016. The most stressful job was enlisted military personnel that scored 84.8 in a stress index. It was followed by firefighter at 60.6, airline pilot at 60.5, police officer at 53.8, and event coordinator at 49.9. The least stressful job was information security analyst that scored 3.8. It was followed by diagnostic medical sonographer at 4.0, university professor at 6.9, hairstylist at 7.5, and medical records technician at 7.6.
But the Teacher Wellbeing Index of 2019, a report by the UK charity group Education Support, showed how many education professionals suffered from stress. An estimated 72% of these professionals described themselves as stressed. Out of that, 84% were senior leaders of the sector. Around 33% of school teachers worked more than 51 hours per week on average. About 74% of education professionals considered the lack of relaxation as a big factor in a negative work-life balance.
In terms of mental health, 34% reported having a mental health issue in the past academic year, 78% experienced behavioral, psychological, or physical symptoms due to their profession, and 57% considered leaving the sector over the past two years because of the pressure on their health and wellbeing. An estimated 46% showed signs of anxiety and 35% showed signs of depression, and out of those, over 50% were formally diagnosed by a physician.
Stressed Teachers Could Impact Student Suspensions
A recent study at MU showed a connection between teacher stress and student suspension. The greater the stress was, the higher the chance for a suspension to happen. The main culprit was the burnout experienced by teachers. And if all teachers in a school were stressed, the risk of issuing a suspension to multiple students would likely be higher.
"Removing students from the classroom environment as a form of punishment can be really harmful, as research has shown it not only reduces student achievement but also increases the risk of dropout," said Colleen Eddy, the lead author of the study and doctoral student at MU College of Education.
Researchers highlighted the experience of a female high school English teacher in Maryland. She often noticed that her students were very perceptive of her mood. Her students would also feed off the energy she emanated during class, whether the energy was positive or negative. She confessed that the negative feelings from a rough meeting or stressful morning would be brought into the classroom. These feelings would taint the entire environment as if polluting students. Sometimes, the students themselves would emanate negative energy and she would feed on it, which usually resulted in everyone being upset at the end of class.
To find a correlation between teacher burnout and student outcome, researchers performed several class observations and teacher surveys in nine elementary schools in Missouri. A total of 105 teachers and 1,663 students were included in the study. They observed that teachers who were emotionally exhausted and stressed beyond reason were most likely to suspend or issue a disciplinary action on a student.
While disciplinary actions could be used to correct misbehavior, sending students out of classes would raise the odds of dropouts. Eddy commented that strategies to manage disruptive behaviors should be given to teachers. These strategies could help them address student misbehavior without resorting to severe punishment. This way, teachers could form positive relationships with students.
School administrations must also include coping mechanisms in those strategies. Teachers are in the frontline of the education sector. If students view teachers as antagonistic, they will believe that teachers are against everything. This is an adverse viewpoint since they have no idea that teachers are simply too stressed. So, school administrators have to assist to protect both the image of teachers and the rights of students. Whatever a teacher is feeling can be redirected to a student in a classroom.
The dropout rate is associated with student suspension due to belongingness and support. Students, particularly first-years and transferees, seek individuals they are comfortable with. This creates a sense of belongingness and comfort. It motivates a student to go to class and learn something. If a teacher suspends a student, it will cause a cascading effect. Other students who are following the suspended one are unlikely to go to the same class. The lack of motivation because of a missing friend may lead to dropout.
The increase in dropout rates is a significant factor in various aspects of society. It can influence the number of employed and unemployed individuals, the number of skilled and unskilled workers, and the number of educated and uneducated households. Thus, both students and teachers require an effective support system to lower teacher stress and dropout rates.
Teachers are key to the outcomes of students of all ages. If they are a source of negative energy, their students will likely have adverse endings. But if they are a source of positivity, they will encourage students to take proper paths to success.