A Failing Classroom Environment Affects Behavioral Health of Students

A study released this month illustrates a clear relationship between a child’s mental state and the quality of his classroom. Children taught by teachers who felt inferior to their colleagues developed more mental health problems than kids whose teachers felt respected. In addition, children whose classrooms were lacking in adequate learning materials and supplies also exhibited a higher rate of mental stress.

The authors of this recent study examined four different areas of mental health, including attentiveness, externalizing of problems, interpersonal relationships and anxiety or sadness as a result of internalizing mental frustrations. All four of these areas were reported to be elevated for children who were in substandard learning environments.

Melissa A. Milkie, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, who led the study, described her findings. “Being in a classroom with a lack of resources might adversely impact children’s mental health because children are frustrated or disheartened by their surroundings,” Milkie said. “Teachers also may be more discouraged or harsh when they can’t teach properly due to the fact that they are missing key elements.”

“For teachers to get the support and encouragement that they need from colleagues, including the principal, is likely important for whether the teachers are able to create a classroom climate that helps children thrive,” Milkie said. “If teachers are feeling stressed out because they aren’t getting what they need from their colleagues, that stress may carry over to the kids.”

This new evidence clearly shows that our children’s mental stability and well-being is directly impacted by these major external forces. Because the school day represents a large portion of our children’s lives, the information gathered in this study warrants the need for additional research to ensure our future scholars can excel both academically and emotionally.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Grace


    March 11th, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    Children are very susceptible to their surroundings and the feelings and emotions of the adults around them too. If the teacher in charge feels inferior then this has to show in the classroom and they will begin to pick up on that behavior. This may include feeling inferior to others themselves and in turn acting out to hide some of that low self esteem. We are always in need of really good teachers who trust in their abilities and who have the know how to turn our students around and not bring them down.

  • damien


    March 11th, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    school and the learning environment play a major role in a child’s development. it is only right that we give them the best possible in these parameters. it’s just like if you want a good produce then you need to nurture the seeds with the best support and care.

  • ariel


    March 12th, 2011 at 6:04 AM

    When kids are told that they are going to fail then what else do you think that they are going to live up to? The teachers put them down because they don’t feel good about themselves, the parents are probably no help if their kids are being allowed to stay in this kind of situation, so I am not sure what more we are supposed to expect? Even with no child left behind you are going to have teachers in the classroom who do not deserve to be there. The key is to get better teachers, more funding, and help these kids see all of their positive potential. Is that too much to ask?

  • Robyn


    March 13th, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    This really frustrates me to no end because our kids really do deserve so much better than this. And all they get are resources that are cut to the bone and due to the failure to pay our teachers what they are worth the good ones are all leaving the field and going where they know they will be compensated for their efforts, unlike in the public school system.

  • Jenn


    March 14th, 2011 at 4:41 AM

    No wonder teachers are frustrated. Most of them have to worry about whether there will be ebough money in budgets to fund their jobs for the following year. Many have to deal not only with the apathy of the school system but the apathy of the families that they are serving. No one seems to appreciate what so many of the do for our children everyday. Wouldn’t you feel put down and trod upon too? I would have a hard time not letting this affect me too but that is why we still need good teachers in the classroom. Men and women who roll up their sleeves and make it work no matter what kind of funding and support that they have. A good teacher will go to the ends of the earth to reach his or her students. It is asking a lot but in this day and time I fear that this is what it is going to take.

  • Zoe


    March 16th, 2011 at 8:25 PM

    There have been plenty of teachers I’ve known that simply did not know how to teach. I spent my time elsewhere for the last three months and still aced the exam with a week of cramming in what I missed. Teacher training should be reserved for the smartest of the smart that can handle students brainier than they are.

  • keith


    March 16th, 2011 at 9:01 PM

    America blows fortune after fortune on things we don’t want and schools have budget problems. If students have to share a textbook, something that costs jack, the government has failed. If your school’s equipment is broken, the government has failed. If they can’t afford to hire qualified teachers, the government has failed. Give us school programs, not another space one!

  • Barb


    March 18th, 2011 at 8:24 AM

    Bad teachers put out bad students. However we cannot lay the blame at their door and jump to the conclusion that it’s their teaching skills that are the problem if they don’t have the resources to properly teach. Education isn’t just a right, it’s required to live your life. How can we possibly expect future generations to function cohesively if they cannot read, write or evaluate well? I feel that if a school is underequipped, then the right to an education is being breached. Aren’t there laws being broken here?

  • Colin


    March 19th, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    @ Barb: A very insightful and true comment! Schools that don’t do what is expected of them, and that includes keeping the students in line, will churn out failures. How is our society going to function adequately? That’s what I worry about. Literacy levels alone are shockingly bad.

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