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December 1, 2020
Vol. 78
No. 4

Research Alert / The Link Between Teacher and Student Well-Being

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Social-emotional learning
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Turns out that if teachers aren't feeling so well, their students are negatively affected, too. A recent U.K. study found a link between teacher depression and student well-being and psychological difficulties.
The study, which surveyed more than 3,000 students ages 12–13 and more than 1,100 teachers, indicated that better teacher well-being is associated with better student well-being and with lower student psychological difficulties.
The researchers found several factors that might contribute to this link. One was the student-teacher relationship: Higher-quality teacher-student relationships were associated with happier students and vice versa. It seems that teachers with well-being issues may find it harder to develop supportive relationships, which may lessen the impact of their connections with students.
While high teacher absence rates were also a factor impacting student well-being, a greater influence might be the rising issue of teacher "presenteeism"—when employees show up to work even though they are not feeling well physically or mentally. Teachers who come to school when their physical or mental health is suffering may "be less able to engage in positive classroom and behaviour management or be more likely to display negative emotions or behaviours," the researchers noted.
These links suggest that focusing on improving teacher well-being and encouraging teachers to take breaks and take time off when they need it can not only have a positive effect on the teachers, but also help improve student's physical and mental health as well. A win-win.
Source: Harding, S., Morris, R., Gunnell, D., Ford, T., Hollingworth, W., Tilling, K., et al. (2019). Is teachers' mental health and wellbeing associated with students' mental health and wellbeing? Journal of Affective Disorders, 180–187.

Tara Laskowski is senior editor for Educational Leadership.

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