Ways to Support Teacher Well Being in the Pandemic and Beyond
We’re back with another roundup of The Multipurpose Room with hosts Debora and Wesley where they are joined by Rebecca Arnold of Root Coaching and Consulting. There’s no doubt that the educational system has undergone a complete 180-turn over the last year, and while there’s plenty of discussion on how that has impacted students and parents, teachers are often left out of the picture. However, it’s vital to keep educators at the forefront as their experience of the system has a direct impact on a child’s educational journey.
Exploring the Need to Support Teacher Wellbeing
Teachers everywhere are experiencing the epidemic of stress, a situation brought about by consistently increasing workloads as well as the need for teachers to manage conflict for students and support trauma-based instructions, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated this situation.
Not only are teachers having to work under new circumstances, but they’re also having to work two jobs at once: in-person teaching for students in the classroom, and virtual teaching for those opting for distance learning. Teachers have also had to adopt new roles, with many of them acting as grief counsellors and sources of advice for students who are suffering from the effects of the pandemic. All of this has understandably caused a massive surge in teacher stress levels.
As a result of that, there’s a downturn in feelings of self-efficacy within teachers where they start feeling inadequate at their jobs. What follows are feelings of anxiety, fearfulness, worry, and sadness, among others.
Creating a Supportive Environment for Teachers During this Trying Time
It’s vital that the system protects the wellbeing of teachers, making sure they are facilitated in these unprecedented times.
Here’s how to make sure this happens:
1. Get the Teachers Involved
Teachers themselves can actively engage in creating a system that provides them with support. One important step down this road is to practice honesty, and that includes telling your supervisors the true extent of what’s happening. It’s necessary to break out of the suffering in silence dynamic that is operational in some institutions and learn to voice concerns and ask for the support you need.
Another thing that teachers can do is to ask for programming that is solely focused on their own wellbeing instead of techniques aimed at improving the classroom or the curriculum – in essence, treat teacher wellbeing as a separate, and vital, area of need.
Creating and facilitating teacher support networks is also a great step, as it allows them a space where they can interact with people that are undergoing a similar situation.
2. Create Opportunities to Connect
Virtual teaching has meant that staff that has been working together for years on end are no longer seeing each other on the daily. This makes it essential to create opportunities for people to connect in meaningful ways. This can be as simple as taking out some time at the start or end of meetings where staff can catch up on what's going on in their lives and just have a little reconnection.
If you’re all out of ideas, nothing beats a good icebreaker session at the start of meetings, just to get the ball rolling.
3. Provide Virtual Training
Virtual training provides an opportunity for professional development. It also allows teachers to exchange virtual teaching techniques and talk about the strengths they’ve developed over this course.
4. Add Support Systems for Teachers and Staff
Sometimes, it becomes necessary to seek out external help, and getting some supportive skills education is a great idea. These session focus on different areas, including identifying needs, drafting self-care plans, maintaining and believing in one’s self-efficacy, and generally just powering through the reality of online teaching.
These sessions usually follow one of two routes: an entire staff presentation that focuses on self-care where individuals are paired up to build a deeper connection and help one another practice their self-care goals, and a session on managing in-the-moment stress. The best thing that comes out of these sessions is the very human feeling of connectedness and belonging.
PTAs and PTOs Can Help as Well
PTAs and PTOs are a vital aspect of the educational system, and they can play their part in supporting teachers. As a PTA or PTO, your first course of action should be to communicate with teachers and figure out what their current needs are as this will give you a sense of direction. Then, based on the responses you’ve garnered, your organization should offer wellbeing offerings such as yoga, meditation, coaching, or self-care applications.
It’s also of the essence that the PTA or PTO sets the boundaries and tone for parent-teacher communication to ensure that parents are not overstepping and adding to this already stressful time.
So, there you have it, a quick guide on how to support your teachers during this pandemic. And it’s important to remember that these needs are not limited to corona times, as educators are one of the most stressed professionals out there. So, these support systems and methods need to be a permanent fixture in the education world.