International schools are often viewed as a gateway to a bright future for students, yet, the pressure to create a positive learning environment for them can weigh heavily on teachers.
In recent years, the issue of teacher well-being has become a major concern for educators, school administrators, and policymakers alike and a study published during the pandemic showed that 59% of international teaching staff were considering leaving the sector due to pressures on their mental health and well-being.
Measuring well-being in the workplace has become increasingly common in recent years as employers such as the UN & ICRC recognise the importance of creating a positive and supportive work environment for their employees.
However, despite the well-known benefits of teacher well-being, many schools have been slow to adopt this same approach in education.
One option to support staff mental health & well-being would be for schools to monitor, measure and track data on psychosocial risks throughout the academic year.
Psychosocial risks for teachers in schools refer to the various factors that can negatively impact their mental health & well-being. Some examples of these risks include workload, student behaviour, and their own personal life stressors such as family problems.
In some countries like Switzerland, did you know that employers are required by law to identify and address these risks as part of their duty of care to protect their employees’ health?
When teachers are engaged and have good mental health, it has a significant impact on their students. Research has shown that teacher well-being is closely linked to student outcomes, and that teachers who are engaged and mentally healthy are more effective and better able to support their students’ success.
According to the Teacher Well-being Index from 2021, almost half (43%) of education professionals believe that their institutions did not properly support their employees who are struggling with mental health problems.
In a school environment, psychosocial risks for teachers can come from a variety of sources. One of the main sources of stress for teachers is workload. Teachers are often expected to handle a large workload, including lesson planning, grading, and managing student behaviour.
When teachers are unable to manage their workload, they can experience high levels of stress and burnout.
Student behaviour is another common source of psychosocial risk for teachers. Disruptive behaviour, aggression, and violence can all contribute to high levels of stress and anxiety for teachers.
Additionally, teachers who have their own personal life stressors, such as family problems or financial worries, may struggle to manage the additional stress of their work environment.
For teachers who choose to work abroad, the stress of being away from their families and support networks can be an additional challenge to their mental health and well-being. Cultural differences, language barriers, and the need to adapt to a new educational system can also add to the stress.
Moreover, international schools may not always provide adequate support to their staff, and teachers may feel isolated and unsupported. It is crucial for schools to recognize the unique challenges that international teachers face and provide appropriate support to help them maintain good mental health and well-being.
Many schools offer counselling services to students, but often these same services are also available to staff members who may be experiencing mental health challenges. However, some teachers may be hesitant to access these services due to concerns about confidentiality, particularly if the counsellors are primarily focused on students. Did you know that 80% of employees are too afraid to share their mental health concerns with their managers?
As a result, they may choose to suffer in silence rather than speak out, which can exacerbate their mental health issues. It’s important for schools to address these concerns and provide confidential support to staff members to encourage them to seek help when needed.
Other psychosocial risks in schools can include a lack of support from senior leadership, a lack of job security, and a lack of opportunities for career development.
All of these factors can contribute to high levels of stress and anxiety for teachers and can negatively impact their mental health and well-being.
Research has shown that men and women may experience and respond to mental health challenges and well-being differently. In general, women may be more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression, while men may be more likely to engage in risky behaviours or struggle with substance abuse. These differences can also impact how men and women seek help and support for their mental health challenges.
In the context of teaching, it’s important to consider these gender differences and how they may impact teachers’ experiences and needs when it comes to mental health and well-being. For example, female teachers may be more likely to seek out support and resources for their mental health, while male teachers may be more hesitant to do so. Additionally, male teachers may be more likely to experience stigma or feel that their mental health struggles are not taken seriously, which can discourage them from seeking help.
By recognizing and addressing these gender differences in the context of teaching, schools and educators can better support the mental health and well-being of all teachers, regardless of gender. This may involve creating tailored support programs or resources that cater to the specific needs and preferences of male and female teachers, as well as fostering a culture of openness and understanding around mental health in the school community.
School leaders also face significant pressure to create positive learning environments and support their staff’s mental health and wellbeing. In addition to managing student and staff expectations, school leaders must also navigate ever-changing policies, curriculum requirements, and budget constraints.
The constant demands of the job can lead to high levels of stress and burnout, which can have negative impacts on both the school community and the leaders themselves. It’s crucial for school leaders to prioritise their own mental health and wellbeing, seek support when needed, and foster a culture of support and openness that encourages staff to do the same.
Investing in the emotional well-being is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do. Research has shown that teacher well-being is closely linked to student outcomes, and that teachers who are engaged and psychologically resilient are more effective and better able to support their students’ success.
Ultimately, by supporting a proactive and data-driven approach to teacher mental health you can provide an environment that will that will directly influence the mental health of those you have a duty of care for, not just for now, but for the rest of their lives.
Written by Martin Coul from OTII.
OTII® offers tailored, term by term well-being solutions that are designed to address the specific needs of each school community.
We focus on promoting ‘whole school’ well-being, encompassing not only students from Grade 3 and up, but also teachers, support staff and even the mental health literacy of parents.
Our evidence-based insights are curated by the Occupational Health Psychologist who helped to assess global well-being for over 40,000 UN staff. With a focus on prevention, our insights and data-driven dashboards provide a comprehensive overview of your school’s well-being pulse. Visit www.otii.io to find out more.