Teachers’ wellbeing and pedagogical success

Rejina K C
            Rejina KC

Background

Teachers need to be in good health to teach in an innovative, inspiring, and meaningful way. During their pedagogical journey, they may experience a variety of emotions. These experiences and emotions have a major impact on their as well as students’ successful schooling. The happiness of teachers is linked to their work satisfaction, professional relationships, and personal lives. The main purpose of this article is to review past and current literature related to the issues of teachers’ wellbeing and its adverse effect on their pedagogical success.

My perception of wellbeing

As an English language teacher in a private school and college in Kathmandu, I spend a lot of time and energy not only in the classroom, but also outside of it, because the job requires a lot of preparation time for assignments, lectures, and lesson plans. So far my experience is concerned, teaching in a private school is one of the lowest-paying jobs available, with no retirement plans or job security. Almost all teachers work on a contract basis and a part-time basis. Further, the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the teachers’ predicament. On one hand, teachers’ paychecks have been cut in half, and have to devote even more time preparing for online lectures and implementing new technology for teaching. On the other hand, working from home has made teachers’ work-life balance even more difficult. As a result, I am experiencing a negative impact from this change in both my personal and professional life.

I feel deprived of one of the basic needs of day-to-day normal life due to a lack of personal and emotional contact with students, colleagues, and close ones for an extended period. Staying at home twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for months and months has been exhausting, stressful, boring, mentally unhealthy, and frustrating. As an ELT teacher, the unfolding situation has prompted an important question in my professional and emotional thinking. I am constantly wondering if I will be able to fulfill my professional obligations while also living my personal life to the fullest.

Based on a review of the literature on how pedagogical success and learning outcomes are affected, this research article is the result of my quest to understand teachers’ wellbeing and their negative and positive emotions. This question nags at the back of my mind whenever I reflect on my career as an ELT professional. I was curious about how teachers’ wellbeing affects their professional and personal goals. I was curious as to what teachers’ wellbeing entails, what factors contribute to it, and if there is anything that can be done to improve teachers’ wellbeing. What role can schools play in this endeavor? In line with these questions, this article vividly presents concepts of wellbeing and its components.

Teachers’ wellbeing

According to Mercer (2021), wellbeing, as a social construct, is considered not only for the individual but also for the entire ELT ecology. Although happiness, in general, is based on people’s perceptions, it is a deeply psychological construct that is difficult to define. According to one CESE (2014) report, teacher wellbeing is linked to the quality of their work and its impact on student outcomes. Mercer (2021) further argues that wellbeing is not void nonsense. It is deeply rooted in human existence within social communities and global ecology. Here, the term wellbeing does not denote an individual but the collective. So Mercer further states that ELT has got into this very intensely for understanding what wellbeing does mean for all the members of ELT community.

Wellbeing is synonymous with happiness and as Cann (2019) states ‘ life satisfaction’. There are two main theoretical perspectives on happiness: hedonic and eudemonic. The hedonic approach focuses on personal experience of happiness and an individual’s perception of balance between positive/negative emotions and their overall sense of life satisfaction (Diener et al., 1999; Mercer, 2020). The eudemonic perspective, on the other hand, is centered on self-actualization and the ability to derive a sense of purpose or meaning in life.  Wellbeing brings pride and happiness, and happiness is more closely linked to effective teaching and learning in any educational institution (Cann, 2019). As a result, wellbeing appears to be one of the most important factors in pedagogical performance. Many studies have concluded that it is critical to promote teacher wellbeing to achieve better learning outcomes for students. Toraby and Modaresi (2018) suggest that when teachers are happy, they teach more creatively and their students achieve more (e.g. Caprara et al., 2006). Similarly, when students experience positive wellbeing in school and see positive behavior from teachers, they are more motivated and successful in their studies (e.g. Seligman et al., 2009). A positive relationship with coworkers to improve wellbeing is important for professional achievement and happy life.

Positive and negative emotions

The COVID- 19 pandemics have greatly disrupted the teaching and learning process (Sanusi, Olaleye & Dada, 2021), and it has created a lot of negative emotions among teachers and learners as infection numbers rise and is reported in news outlets and social media. Frenzel (2014) discussed negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, boredom, as well as positive emotions such as feelings of enjoyment and pride.

Dibbon (2004) has already brought the idea from his study that anxiety, anger, and boredom lead to the negativity of teachers’ wellbeing. Sanusi, Olaleye, and Dada (2021) describe the factors that create negative emotions such as “internet issues, including its cost, student’s participation rate, insufficient media instruction, lack of student’s preparation, and preference for face-to-face class”. The positive impact that COVID- 19 has brought is, among others, the learning of technology by the teachers to accomplish their tasks (Sanusiet et al., 2020). Positive emotions among teachers are likely to grow when they can adequately rely on their profession for sustenance and security.

Learning new skills and remaining consistent at work during the pandemic can provide an abundance of positive emotions.  Teachers perceive their workplace as being stressful and anxiety-inducing and it exerts great pressure and stress on them (Salashour & Esmillie, 2021). One of the issues that must be addressed at the institutional level is the negative impact of negative teacher emotion (Toraby, 2018). Students’ performance may suffer as a result of negative emotions. Yoon (2002) researched student-teacher relationships in the classroom and concluded that students had a negative view towards their teachers as a result of the teacher’s stress and negative emotions. Such negative emotions are directly related to teacher burnout, which may reduce self-efficacy.

Burnout and self-efficacy

Learning without burden for students and teaching without burnout for teachers is essential for -the wellness of students and teachers. According to Maslach (2015, as cited in Safari, 2021), burnout is a psychological syndrome aroused from mental and emotional exhaustion that later develops as long-term emotional or interpersonal stressors. Also, long-term anxiety and stress may cause burnout. Some studies have also discussed the sources of burnout and have discussed briefly creating the issues (Safari, 2021; Maslach, 2015; Chang, 2009). It is pointed out that individual, organizational and transactional factors are the three main sources of burnout (Chang, 2009).

Individual factors include age, gender, ethnicity, educational background, and teaching experience.  Traditionally, studies on education production function have focused on how teachers and their background characteristics influence student performance (Hanushek & Rivkin, 2010 et. al., Todd & Wolphin, 2003). Similarly, organizational factor denotes job satisfaction and workplace environment, which are linked to income, division of labor, classroom management, incentives, and the organization’s socioeconomic status.

Since self-efficacy is an important variable and can affect the rate and time of burnout, the relationship between self-efficacy and burnout is studied (Safari, 2021). The theory of social cognitive defines the term ‘self- efficacy’ as an individual’s faith in their capacity to be successful in certain conditions (Bandura, 2006).The theory defines that teachers’ self-efficacy is the belief in the ability to plan, organize, and implement different educational activities that are critical to achieving pedagogical goals. Implementation of the measures to control the level of burnout help to improving teachers’ mental, physical, and social wellbeing that supports to enhance their teaching effectiveness, interpersonal relationship and their job satisfaction (Safari, 2021). Hence, an effective teaching process plays a vital role in the performance and success of any institution.

Relation between wellbeing and pedagogical success

Teachers’ pedagogical success is primarily determined by their cognitive abilities as well as their academic and professional knowledge in the field (Toraby, 2018). Students prefer teachers who have both emotional literacy and professional literacy. Many studies have been conducted to investigate the cause and effect on the teachers’ wellbeing (Blazar& Kraft, 2017). The unpleasant emotions, which are experienced by the teachers such as tension, anxiety, frustration, anger, depression may result in dissatisfaction in their work (Kyriacou, 2009). Negative emotions in teachers have an impact on their wellbeing, which can lead to poor performance of the students. Therefore teachers need to focus on happiness since it can bring positivity and positive emotions that assist teachers in being content with their lives. In this way, many studies have concluded a moderate, positive correlation between teachers’ emotions and students’ views on teachers’ pedagogical success.

Teachers’ wellbeing is not only the matter of being satisfied but also has some dimensions for developing positive emotions that influence the success in teaching. Teachers’ psychological and sociological factors can influence their success and failure (Safari, 2021).Emotional exhaustion relates to the psychological problem whereas sociological factors here refer to the interpersonal relationships between teachers and their self-efficacy. So, control over the stressors helps to improve mental health issues, teaching techniques and skills, interpersonal relation that results to job satisfaction.

According to Cotton (2008), various dimensions such as quality education, classroom quality, classroom management, job satisfaction, language, teacher turnover, and self-efficacy affect teacher’s wellbeing. The success of teaching is, directly and indirectly, related to the beliefs that arise out of different theories in pedagogy. Positive emotions in teachers, according to studies, cause them to teach more creatively, and the learner(s) to achieve more. Toraby (2018) revealed that when students believe their teachers are enjoying their jobs, they learn more. Similarly, when students feel good in the classroom and during the learning process, they are more motivated and successful in their studies (Seligman et al, 2009). As a result, teachers’ wellbeing and positive emotions are critical factors in successful teaching and pedagogical success.

Teachers’ wellbeing amidst the pandemic

Mental health issues, stress, and anxiety are sweeping the world as a result of social isolation caused by COVID-19 led lockdown across the world for the last year. Due to massively increased coronavirus, schools and universities are some of the most severely affected areas in this regard. Teachers in remote and hybrid environments reported more challenges than those in solely face- to face instruction (Schwartz, 2020). While anxiety and stress among students due to online classes or even no classes are well reported, teacher’s wellbeing is not spared from the mental health pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to educators including disruption in the management of day-to-day teaching stuff and a rapid transition from in-person to remote learning (Porter, 2020). Seeing the current situation, teachers’ wellbeing is affected adversely from the following three sides.

Teachers are forced to teach online, if any, without direct human interaction. As human interaction is the most important social ingredient for social health, the deprived teachers are unable to manage their emotional needs by merely teaching from home and not being able to go to physical classes. Teachers are forced to reply on computer screens for professional work, information, communication, entertainment, and so on. This helps to deteriorate not just the mental health of teachers, but also their physical health.

On the second side, millions of teachers across the world are losing or on the verge of losing their job.  As private schools are struggling to survive amidst almost zero revenue and constant costs, teachers have to face with ever-increasing job insecurity and financial catastrophe.

Finally, the pandemic can hit a teacher’s family anytime. With little access to the vaccine among teachers, they are already one of the most vulnerable groups in society after medical professionals. This threat of disease has also put a lot of stress on teachers.

All these three factors have made teachers’ jobs even more challenging. They are neither being able to fully deliver what they have been doing for years and intend to do for the rest of their lives nor are they being able to receive extra support and incentive for all the extra effort they have to invest to switch from physical to online mode.

Conclusion

Many studies have claimed that teacher’s wellbeing, emotions, and students learning outcomes are an integral part of pedagogical success. Positive feelings coincide with teachers’ professional success and that success determines the teachers’ wellbeing. So, the display of emotion is considered vital in teaching success. Literature suggests emphasizing both the teachers’ wellbeing and students’ achievements for pedagogical success. Teachers’ positive emotion leads to better students’ achievement and success in teaching.

The pandemic has brought additional challenges to teachers’ wellbeing and pedagogical success. Effective and natural connections between the teachers and learners have been broken. Thus, the virtual world is nowhere near enough to meet the emotional need of the teachers and students.

References

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Author’s bio:

Rejina KC is a Nepalese ELT teacher-researcher. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Kathmandu University, School of Education, Kathmandu. She has a master’s degree in English from Tribhuvan University and an MPhil degree in Interdisciplinary Education from Pokhara University. Her research interests include literature in language classroom, creative writing in EFL and teachers’ wellbeing and motivation. She has more than a decade-long experience as an ELT teacher from ECD to the University level. She is passionate about learning different methodology in ELT teaching for fostering language competence and skills in both teaching and learning English.

 

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