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Depression in Teachers Impacts Students' Performance, Study Finds

Depression in Teachers Impacts Students' Performance, Study Finds

A small study finds that elementary school teachers with depression could be hindering more than just their performance. 

Arizona State University researchers found that "third-grade teachers who were struggling with symptoms of depression — such as poor appetite, restless sleep, crying spells and feeling like a failure — were generally less likely to create and maintain a high-quality classroom environment for their students compared with teachers who had fewer signs of depression," according to an article on LiveScience.com.

According to the article, the research "also showed that students who had weak math skills tended to be more affected by their teachers' depressive symptoms and the poorer-quality classroom environment. In contrast, the performance of their classmates with stronger math skills was not affected by the learning environment."

"Our study suggests that depression in teachers is not only a personal struggle, but could potentially impact the learning experiences of students," study researcher Leigh McLean, an ASU-Tempe doctoral student said in the article.

McLean said that teaching "is one of the most stressful occupations in America, yet relatively little is done to ensure that teachers have the resources they need to cope with this stress successfully."

"In the study, the researchers looked at 27 teachers and 523 third-graders at eight schools in a Florida school district," the article said. "The teachers filled out a questionnaire evaluating their risk for depression based on their symptoms, and trained observers used videotapes of the teachers in action to rate the quality of the learning environment inside each classroom. Observers had no prior knowledge of the teachers self-reported depressive symptoms."

According to the article, "few studies have examined the role of teachers' depression in students' academic performance. Yet, teachers face a daily grind of stress-inducing pressures, from managing behavioral problems in the classroom to working with difficult parents, that might make them prone to depression."

"These findings provide intriguing evidence that our nation's teachers are in need of more support in their work-related mental health, McLean said," according to the article. "'Unfortunately, there are few to no support systems provided by schools to aid teachers in their mental health struggles,' she added."

According to the article, "she explained that while an engineer or an architect might be able to take a walk or a coffee break when work stress becomes overwhelming, teachers often do not have this opportunity."

"They have to stay in the classroom and continue teaching in the face of extreme stress," McLean said.

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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