Earlier this week, I attended a webinar where the speaker focused on the importance of the mental wellness of teachers. This topic was part of a larger topic related to teacher burnout. She mentioned the importance of schools and districts allocating resources to support the mental well being of teachers especially those who who are teaching face to face currently. Her point really resonated with me and I have spent time thinking about this much today. I am compelled to write this post to being attention to the mental well being of teachers and all educators who are working to deliver quality instruction to our students during this pandemic.
Earlier this year, the system where I taught opted to bring half of our students back on Monday/Tuesday with the other half being brought back on Thursday/Friday. On Wednesdays, all staff work from home. Days when students are not physically at school, students are expected to be engaged in remote learning. Last spring, there was much focus on supporting the social emotional wellness of students. I experienced and lived this first hand. Our students needed this and they still need it. For students, it was challenging. They are growing up in an uncertain world. Navigating this ever changing landscape is challenging especially for students who may have not yet matured enough to develop the necessary coping skills and resilience to adapt and thrive in our world. Our schools and district with support from the federal and state government has invested in resources and personnel to support students. We need to continue to do this and ensure that we do our absolute best to make sure that all students are supported, encouraged, and included.
As previously stated, supporting students is a nonnegotiable. However, we must also extend our focus on mental wellness to include teachers and all educators who support those same students. We must acknowledge the trauma caused by the pandemic on our educators. As last semester drew to a close, our teachers were concerned and troubled by the high number of students who either failed courses or did not experience high levels of success. Our teachers absorbed much of that stress. Teachers want their students to be successful. When students are not successful, this creates a dilemma for teachers who want their students to be successful. This in turn perpetuates a cycle of additional stress and challenge. We cannot ignore that educators are subject to enormous levels for stress; in fact, we must acknowledge and seek to actively support them in positive and productive ways.
We must actively share strategies and opportunities that help educators focus on their mental wellness. One such strategy involves the use of mindfulness practices. Often providing educators with the opportunity to learn deep breathing techniques where they focus on their self can be extremely useful and liberating. Additionally engaging in regular physical activity such as walking, running, or swimming can great ways to deter stress. Another sometimes overlooked practice is simply listening to educators. Many educators fell ignored and neglected. Coupled with this, often educators are focused on helping others and don’t focus on their own self care and wellness. We need to change the narrative of educators sacrificing their own wellness for their students and profession.
We must also ensure that our schools and districts make teacher wellness a priority in much the same way that they do for student social emotional wellness. We cannot neglect them. For the district where I teach, our community spread is covid is classified as critical. Our local health department ran out of their allotted covid vaccines earlier today. Just a few hours ago, I received an emailed where we told to discontinue any PLCs immediately and no two adults can be in the same room at the same time. Our governor and health secretary share daily reports imploring citizens to stay in their homes and limit their trips outside of their home. With all these indicators, it is easy to understand why educators are stressed. The mental wellness of educators should be a focus of all schools and districts. Many educators feel that they are, in some ways, sacrificial lambs with limited voice and influence. For our school and government leaders, we must step up and ensure that we are fully supporting the mental well being of our teachers. If they do not feel safe or are not at their best, they cannot give their best to support our students. Let us remember the importance of teachers during this pandemic.
May our actions and commitments ensure that our educators see that their mental wellness is valued and a focus as our leaders make future decisions.
The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.