Supporting Teachers and The Work They are Doing

As a mental health therapist who has worked many years alongside teachers within the school system, I have a deep appreciate for the work that they do. I have seen the effects of teacher stress and burnout firsthand and feel honored to work with teachers who are coping with the additional stressors associated with educating students at this time. Teachers-are-anxious-and-overwhelmed. It is important to support teachers and the work they are doing.

In a survey conducted at the end of March 2020 by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Collaborative for Social Emotional and Academic Learning 5,000 teachers were asked to describe in their own words, the most frequent emotions they felt each day.

The top five emotions reported were anxious, fearful, worries, overwhelmed, and sad with over 95% of the feelings reported being rooted in anxiety. In fact, anxiety was the most frequently reported emotion.

Common causes of teacher stress and burnout include the following:

• Lack of strong leadership and/ or lack of support from leadership
• Negative work climate
• Increased job demands
• Addressing challenging student behaviors
• Lack of autonomy and decision-making power
• Limited or lack of social and emotional training

Now add in the new stressors of becoming proficient in distance learning and responding to the needs of students and families during these challenging times!

The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence advocates that emotions matter for attention, memory, and learning, decision making, relationships, health and well-being, and for performance. Social and emotional training is an important component that was identified how to support teachers right now. Educators’ emotions matter.

Here are Four Strategies to Support Teachers:

  1. Create a school culture where staff administration/ leadership have strongly developed their emotional skills.
    o Teachers expressed a strong need for honesty, respect, kindness, flexibility, and patience from their school administrators.
    o Strongly developed emotional skills can help administrators listen to teachers, respond to their concerns, and be sensitive to their emotional needs.
  2. Support teachers with developing their emotional skills.
    o Learn how to recognize emotions, understand their causes and consequences, be able to label, comfortably express, and effectively regulate emotions. Therapy is a great place to do so!
    o Prioritize time and resources focused on supporting-teachers-do-their-best-work through opportunities for teachers to share strategies and participate in quality professional development that focuses on teachers’ health and well-being.
  3. Set realistic expectations.
    o It takes time to adjust to a “new normal” with on-line learning or return to in-person teaching. This includes setting boundaries around realistic expectations.
    o Show compassion and offer support to teachers/ colleagues who are struggling with transitions.
  4. Show support through your actions.
    o Offer words of affirmation to express appreciation and support.
    o Ask teachers how you can help.
    o Donate time and financial resources to help out in areas that are needed.
    o Show support through advocating for student and teachers’ needs.

Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC

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