From hormonal changes to new schedules and altered expectations, children face a variety of challenges when they enter middle school. But students and their parents aren’t the only ones stressing out.

Researchers from the University of Missouri found that 94% of middle school teachers experience high-stress levels. Reducing this burden could improve student success, researchers say.

“Many studies of teacher stress have used samples from elementary schools,” said study author Keith Herman, a professor in the MU College of Education. “However, middle school is a particularly important time in students’ lives as they transition from elementary school and have many different teachers. It’s critical that we understand how stress impacts middle school teachers so we can find ways to support them.”

Herman and his colleagues analyzed data from nine middle schools in the Midwest. They looked at teachers’ self-reported stress and coping ability, as well as student behavior and parent involvement.

While nearly all teachers experienced high-stress levels, their coping abilities varied. Sixty-six percent reported high stress and high coping and 28% reported high stress and low coping. Just 6% reported low stress and high coping.

“Unfortunately our findings suggest many teachers are not getting the support they need to adequately cope with the stressors of their job,” Herman said in a university news release. “The evidence is clear that teacher stress is related to student success, so it is critical that we find ways to reduce stressful school environments while also helping teachers cope with the demands of their jobs.”

He encourages school districts to provide resources and support for middle school teachers to promote their mental health.

“There are research-based tools that can help screen and identify teachers who might be at risk for problems with stress, coping and the risk of burnout,” said Herman. “Knowing what we know about how teacher stress can impact students, it is imperative that district and school leaders examine policies and practices that make the job less burdensome while also supporting teacher well-being.”

The study was published in the February issue of the Journal of School Psychology.

More information

The American Institute of Stress has more on stress management.