Just how stressed are teachers? A recent Gallup poll found teachers are tied with nurses for the most stressful occupation in America today. Unfortunately, that stress can have a trickle-down effect on their students, leading to disruptive behavior that results in student suspensions.
One of those overburdened teachers is Jennifer Lloyd, a high school English teacher in Maryland and a graduate student at the University of Missouri. She has noticed how perceptive her students are to her mood and their ability to feed off of her energy, for better or worse.
"If I come into class from a rough meeting or a stressful morning and I bring those feelings into the classroom environment, the kids notice," Lloyd said. "Sometimes they will give that negative energy right back to me, and we all end up having a bad day."
To examine the impact of teacher burnout on student behavior outcomes, Lloyd's sister, Colleen Eddy, a doctoral student in the MU College of Education, and her colleagues with the Missouri Prevention Science Institute, conducted teacher surveys and classroom observations in nine Missouri elementary schools. They found when teachers are highly stressed and emotionally exhausted, students in their classrooms are at a higher risk of being suspended or disciplined by school administrators.
"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," Eddy said. "If we want to make schools a positive place for student learning, we first need to ensure it is a positive workplace for teachers. By giving teachers strategies to better manage disruptive student behavior, they will have more time for instruction and building those positive relationships with students."