Happy teachers: a key to improving academic results


Nine in the morning, the doorbell rings. The boys and girls rush to enter the classrooms. His teacher is waiting there. She has been at the center for more than half an hour arranging the classroom to carry out a dynamic that she hopes will work and capture attention better than yesterday. Among the large number of students she has, she has two children with specific educational needs. The day before she was preparing the sessions, correcting exams and analyzing the best way to address the family of a girl who had “made a fuss” in class with her tablemate.

Fatigue and stress take their toll and the days accumulate meetings, tests to evaluate, conflicts to resolve and the great objective that their classes achieve the learning that their students so need and that the center, families and society demand. They call it quality of the educational system.

A key link

Multiple variables influence this quality of the educational system. Changes in laws, the appearance of new curricula, the impact of innovative methodologies, lower classroom ratios, technological advances, among others. However, one of the most determining aspects to achieve a quality educational system and provide an optimal learning experience is teacher well-being.

In Spain, for example, students’ academic performance has not undergone significant changes in recent years, as reflected in the PISA Report . Nor does the quality of professional life of teachers improve. In this regard, the Eurodyce Report indicates that almost 50% of European teachers say they suffer “a lot” or “a lot” of stress at work.

Anxiety and depression, travel companions

Among the “culprits” of this work stress are the burden of administrative tasks, excessive grades, responsibility for student achievements and the requirement to quickly adapt to educational reforms. One of the latest Reports from the Spanish Teachers’ Ombudsman points to an increase in the anxiety suffered by teachers. This is confirmed by up to 78% of those surveyed. Furthermore, 12% of teachers state that they have suffered a depressive process and up to 15% state that they have been on sick leave due to anxiety.

So, can an educational system be effective if teachers do not enjoy what they do? In the educational field, teacher well-being is not only important for the quality of life of teachers, but also has a direct impact on educational quality and student development.

All these aspects influence to generate substantial transformations. Thus, trained and empowered teachers are needed to achieve change. Changes in educational legislation are usually not enough. Furthermore, it is necessary to evaluate both the skills acquired by the students and their context and, of course, the teachers. Therefore, it is worth asking how the well-being of teachers affects their quality of life and, therefore, the educational system as a whole?

Motivation and well-being: the keys

Improving skills and motivation in the teaching profession are the priorities of the European strategic framework for cooperation in education and training 2021-2030. The document highlights the importance of creating favorable environments for teacher well-being and satisfaction, recognizing that their satisfaction directly influences their motivation and, in turn, the quality of teaching they provide.

To address working conditions and work stress to promote the well-being of teachers, we have analyzed the factors associated with the psychological well-being of teachers. This study, which analyzes teacher well-being of different nationalities, identifies various variables, from sociodemographic to work-related, personal and contextual.

The results of our study suggest the presence of greater psychological well-being among teachers who have adequate personal development, adjusted self-esteem and a greater capacity for cognitive regulation. Furthermore, the type of tasks they carry out, whether they are only teaching tasks or complemented by administrative tasks, influences their well-being. The origin of the teachers, their social relationships and the classroom climate also modify their well-being.

How to improve

Among the possible actions that can be carried out to improve the well-being of teachers, we highlight:

  1. Increase investment in Education for the development of continuous training of teachers. Both to promote research on teacher well-being, and to provide teachers with the tools and resources necessary for their personal and professional development.
  2. Value the teaching profession at the national level, developing programs that dignify the profession and recognize the complex work they do.
  3. Promote research in different teaching populations and in social and emotional education programs.
  4. Promote a change in the organizational climate. To achieve this, it is essential to improve the working conditions of teachers, and propose spaces for positive rest and reflection along with the promotion of support groups. Thus, training and psychological support programs for teachers could be implemented. These programs would emphasize the development of self-care and stress management skills.
  5. Offer effective support for the professional development of teachers.
  6. Raise awareness among political leaders and authorities about their great responsibility in educational matters and about the need to take care of those who teach.

‘Flow’ in teaching

The teaching task could become a “flow”, as the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains : achieving the maximum potential in a profound way, without excessive effort. In this way it is possible to achieve a positive state of mind in which the activity itself is motivating, in a virtuous circle of well-being, work commitment and teaching effectiveness that feeds on each other.

The support plans are training programs to improve teacher well-being. They include actions of two types. On the one hand, with the management teams, through:

  1. Workshops that work on social and emotional skills.
  2. Spaces for rest and positive relief that foster groups of trust and support.
  3. Development of mutual help through co -education , where teachers share responsibility for the teaching and learning process of students.

And, on the other hand, with the teachers themselves, through psycho-educational programs and continuous training to work:

  1. The ability to resurface in stressful situations, one’s own emotional intelligence.
  2. Support among colleagues.
  3. The development of creativity as a tool for the new problems that current education poses to us.
  4. Incorporating new evidence-based practices

The better teachers feel and the more committed they feel to the well-being of future generations, the better their work and results will be.

The key to changing the world through education also lies in making teachers happier.

Author Bios: Vanesa Redondo Trujillo is Professor at UNED and educational counselor at EOEP General, Ana Eva Rodríguez Bravo is a Senior Lecturer and Ángel De-Juanas Oliva is a University Professor. Department of Educational Theory and Social Pedagogy. Education Area all at UNED – National University of Distance Education