Improving education by focusing on teacher health and well-being

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We pay football coaches millions and praise them for building successful programs because the best coaches can take any group and turn them into champions. Teachers are the coaches of the classroom and they too can turn ordinary groups into extraordinary high achievers.

Unfortunately, we do not support teachers the way we support coaches. We are expecting more and more out of teachers without providing them additional tools to keep up with the demands. This has resulted in significant increases in teacher stress, tying them for the highest rate of daily stress among occupations.

{mosads}These levels of stress are not just bad news for educators, but also for our students who depend on them every day and for our economy which is losing $7 billion a year due to high rates of teacher turnover and retraining.

Luckily, there are programs available that focus on workplace wellness, social emotional learning, and teacher stress management to help our nation’s educators perform at their best.

It is undeniable that high levels of stress are adversely affecting teachers’ health. Educators are burning out and becoming less effective in raising student achievement than their healthier peers.

Stress affects teachers’ physical health, compromises teaching performance and negatively impacts student well-being. That is why I introduced the Teacher Health and Wellness Act which provides support for teachers by creating a pilot study at the National Institute of Health aimed at reducing teacher stress and increasing teacher retention and well-being.

The Teacher Health and Wellness Act implements and analyzes the results of evidence based programs that improve teacher health, attendance, and engagement. By improving teacher performances we can increase student engagement, proficiency and educational achievement. 

Recent efforts to reform our nation’s education have become overly focused on student data, and in doing so we have unfortunately missed the human connection needed to put that data to work. Supporting teachers’ ability to build relationships with their students allows school systems to teach the whole child and instill in them the social-emotional skills needed in a 21st century workforce.

Teachers have the monumental task of preparing students for jobs that have not been invented yet and to do that they need opportunities to collaborate and take on leadership positions to provide solutions for their students in real time. Taking action to support teacher health and well-being is necessary to elevate the profession and ensure each teacher has the skills and tools necessary to give every student the education they deserve.

Ryan was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 and is now serving in his eighth term. Ryan is a member of the House Appropriations Committee which controls the expenditure of money by the federal government. He believes that investing in education is an investment into our economy, our quality of life and most importantly it is an investment into our children’s future.

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.


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