Why is wellness in schools so important?
Our kids and their teachers are suffering. They're stressed. There's too much to do, too much to teach, too much to learn and the pressure is mounting. We see the effects of that stress all around us.
Something must be done about the stress and anxiety that leads to teachers burning out and students stressing out and acting-out.
If we can infuse in our schools a culture of wellness, and make well-being a priority, teachers and students will start to thrive.
Great teachers are overwhelmed, with too much to do and too little time. The number of teachers experiencing burnout (fatigue, irritability, loss of sleep, anxiety, for example) is at an all-time high and the pressure continues to mount.
Teachers have too many things to do in a limited amount of time (Staff and Wire Services Report, 2013).
When surveyed, 73% of teachers reported they are “often” under stress (American Federation of Teachers, 2015).
This percentage was higher than found two years earlier by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (2013), when only 48% of teachers reported they were regularly under great stress. Even then, only 39% of U.S. teachers reported they were very satisfied (the lowest in 25 years).
55% of U.S. teachers reported their morale is low or very low, and 69% of teachers reported their morale had declined (National Union of Teachers, 2013).
Even when teachers are passionate, working in a very demanding environment leads to mental and physical fatigue that is hard to fight, affects one’s attitude, and makes it hard to work with students all day (Neufeldnov, 2014).
Studies suggest that one in eight students in the US experience anxiety. This "silent epidemic" can impact students emotionally and academically as well.
Consider this quote from a recent article:
"Anxiety impacts a student’s working memory, making it difficult to learn and retain information. The anxious student works and thinks less efficiently, which significantly affects the student’s learning capability. One study showed children who were the most anxious in the autumn of first grade were almost eight times more likely to be in the lowest quartile of reading achievement and almost 2.5 times more likely to be in the lowest quartile in math achievement by spring of first grade."
Teachers and students are not the only ones experiencing high levels of stress and pressure. Administrators, who work long hours and must meet the demands of parents and district supervisors as well as teachers and students, are reaching their limits.
"The annual Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey, released today, identified unrealistic workloads as the biggest source of stress taking a toll on school leaders.
Report author Philip Riley, from the Australian Catholic University, said most principals worked too many hours to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “On average, 53 per cent of principals worked more than 56 hours per week during term, with 27 per cent working upwards of 61 to 65 hours per week,” he said."
A recent article exploring how to end gun violence in schools states that changing the culture of the school from one that is "hardened" to one that is "softer" and more supportive is the first step.
"School climate may sound fuzzy or abstract. It means the quality of relationships among the students and the adults in a school. It's affected by the school's approach to discipline and behavior, the availability of professionals like counselors and social workers, as well as any social-emotional curriculum taught in the classroom.
School climate, in turn, affects students' mental and emotional health and academic success. And research by Astor and others has consistently found key factors that can make schools safer: cultivate social and emotional health, connect to community resources and respond, particularly, to troubled students."