When teachers are stressed out, their students suffer too. While this isn’t news to teachers, a new study gives important evidence of how a lack of support and excessive demands placed on educators harm students and thwart their success.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) collected saliva samples from over 400 elementary school children and tested their cortisol levels. In classrooms where teachers experienced higher levels of stress and emotional exhaustion, students’ cortisol levels were elevated. Higher cortisol levels in elementary school children have been linked to learning difficulties as well as mental health problems.
“Our study is a reminder of the systemic issues facing teachers and educators as classroom sizes increase and supports for teachers are cut,” said lead author and UBC Assistant Professor Eva Oberle.
“It is clear from a number of recent research studies that teaching is one of the most stressful professions, and that teachers need adequate resources and support in their jobs in order to battle burnout and alleviate stress in the classroom,” said UBC Education Professor Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, the study’s co-author. “If we do not support teachers, we risk the collateral damage of students.”