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Teachers' Mental Health Warrants Attention

The start of the fall semester is a good time to take a closer look at teacher burnout. It won't be long before the grind of teaching five classes a day exerts a price.  If companies are finally acknowledging the importance of their employees taking a mental-health day off, I say schools need to do the same ("Some Companies Want You to Take a Mental-Health Day," The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 15).

For too long, there has been a stigma attached to mental health.  But mental issues can be every bit as debilitating as physical ones.  Yet teachers are reluctant to take a day off when they feel mentally overwhelmed because they believe their absence shortchanges their students.  The truth is just the opposite.  I knew a dedicated teacher who soldiered on, only to wind up having to take early disability retirement.  His students were forever deprived of his presence in the classroom as a result.

Teachers have little time to attend to their basic biological needs.  Bathroom breaks have to be timed to fit the bell schedule.  Pressure to boost test scores often means that teachers devote their lunch period to tutoring students.  When the school day finally ends, they hasten to get on the highway before traffic becomes congested.  My point is that most teachers will eventually reach a point where they need to take a day off just to briefly recover from the lockstep schedule.  They should not feel guilty doing so.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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