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Middle School Can Be Highly Stressful, And Not Just For Students

Middle school is notorious for being one of the most stressful periods in a young person’s life.

Now, a new study finds that middle school is not just stressful for students, but it is extremely taxing for teachers as well. In fact, the findings show that 94% of middle school teachers experience high levels of stress, which could contribute to negative outcomes for students.

Researchers from the University of Missouri (MU) say that reducing the burden of teaching is critical to improving student success, both academically and behaviorally.

The study, published in the Journal of School Psychology, expands on research looking at stress among elementary school teachers, and provides additional evidence that teacher stress might lead to negative outcomes for students.

“Many studies of teacher stress have used samples from elementary schools,” said Dr. Keith Herman, 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.”

For the study, Herman and his team studied data collected from nine middle schools in two neighboring urban school districts in the Midwest. Factors that went into the analysis included self-reported levels of teacher stress and coping, student disruptive and pro-social behavior, and parent involvement.

The findings show that nearly all teachers reported high stress. The researchers also found that teachers varied in how they coped with stress.

The largest group, 66%, reported high stress and high coping. Nearly one-third of the participants, 28%, reported high stress and low coping. Only 6% of middle school teachers reported low levels of stress and high coping ability.

“Unfortunately our findings suggest many teachers are not getting the support they need to adequately cope with the stressors of their job,” Herman said. “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.”

Herman suggests that school districts provide access to initiatives and programs that promote mental health to improve conditions for middle school teachers. This can include wellness programs, organizational support for teachers and mental health interventions.

“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,” Herman said.

“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.”

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia


Middle School Can Be Highly Stressful, And Not Just For Students

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2020). Middle School Can Be Highly Stressful, And Not Just For Students. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 28 Jan 2020 (Originally: 28 Jan 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 28 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.