Letter: How can we expect students to thrive if their teachers aren’t thriving?

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Students head to Bonneville Elementary on Tuesday, April 20, 2021.

There is a significant pressure to improve mental health resources within school systems as students’ anxiety, depression levels and suicide rates have increased since COVID-19.

While students’ mental health needs are assisted, we may be overlooking their teachers’ well-being. As student stress increases, teachers face classrooms filled with unrest and emotionally unregulated teenagers. Teacher burnout often goes overlooked by administrators when the students are the ones creating the most noise.

According to the State of the American Teacher Survey in 2021 and 2022, teachers were twice as likely to report job-related stress than the rest of the nation’s working adults. The teachers also reported feeling twice the difficulty of coping with job-related stress due to inadequate well-being or mental health support. A lack of class coverage and access to paid leave were the top reasons for inadequacy. With a lack of well-being and feeling like the job is worth the struggle, 23% of teachers planned to leave their jobs by the end of the 2022-2023 school year. Among this percentage, Black teachers and teachers who reported poor well-being were more likely to be leaving than their co-workers.

In 2022, teacher turnover rates were the highest in urban districts and majority-student-of-color districts, while principal turnover rates were the highest in rural districts and high-poverty districts. These statistics and information provide us with an awareness about the importance of enhancing educators’ well-being to benefit individual and collective interests.

Teachers are major support systems for students, so how do we expect students to thrive if their teachers aren’t? Inevitably, the nation suffers these consequences, so it is in our greatest interest to advocate for education reform that targets the enhancement of teacher welfare.

Norah Jones, Park City

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