Let’s talk about educator mental health.
It’s a topic educators knows about.
A topic that educators can relate to and understand.
A topic that educators want to do something about.
But it’s not a topic that is regularly talked about.
Not a topic that is given priority.
Not a topic that our education system, in practice, provides support for.
The research that has been conducted on the topic of educator mental health has shown that educators are under high stress- large class sizes, pressures from higher up, and classroom management, among other education demands.
Because of this stress, educators have one of the highest rates of low job satisfaction, burnout, and leave (either permanent or temporary).
You can’t pour from an empty cup
Doesn’t make much sense does it?
The primary job of an educator is to provide academic support to students. But how can this happen if an educator is under so much stress that they can barely support themselves?
Further, regardless of how good your “brave face” is, your students know when you are stressed. They know when you are overwhelmed and are having trouble coping. And it affects them.
Think about it. When a student is acting out in the classroom, it doesn’t take long for the other students to act the same way. Right?
This is because emotions and actions are contagious. Including stress.
When you are stressed and are having trouble at work, your students are stressed and having trouble at work (in their case, work = schoolwork).
And student stress is related to low academic outcomes, reduced focus and attention span, higher stress and anxiety levels, negative student-teacher interactions, and an overall emotionally negative environment.
One thing about the topic of educator mental health that bothers me is that it is often talked about in the context of the students, not the educator him-/her- self.
‘This is how your emotional state affects your students”. Not “This is how your emotional state affects yourself and this is why it is important for YOU”.
It almost seems as though the educator is not a priority. But that is slowly changing. An educator cannot emotionally and academically support a student if they cannot emotionally and professionally support themselves.An educator cannot emotionally and academically support a student if they cannot emotionally and professionally support themselves. Click To Tweet
The newest topic of conversation regarding educator mental health?
Sign up for Creating Mindful Classrooms, an online course encouraging social-emotional learning and wellbeing in education using mindfulness!
While the topic of educator stress has been around and researched for some time, the topic of educator resilience has only recently begun to be studied. Educator resilience refers to the ability of educators to overcome barriers and obstacles, both personally and professionally, to maintain wellbeing. Having high levels of resilience may be a protective factor in educator stress, burnout, and turnover.
But what makes an educator resilient? What helps them to get through the days with less stress and lower burnout rates than other educators?
You might be interested in: Tips for Unlocking Educator Morale
Environmental support includes support from colleagues, administrators, educational principles, and other higher-ups such as educational board leaders. Support can take the form of meaningful feedback, being consulted in decision-making processes, or being mentored. Feeling as though you are welcomed and belong in the educational environment is a crucial step in building resiliency. Just like your students, you want to feel as though you belong in the classroom- not have to be there.
You might be interested in: Why Teacher Support is so Important from We Are Teachers
Having effective and appropriate coping skills is another important step in building resiliency. If you cannot effectively and appropriately manage yourself – emotionally, personally,professionally – you cannot expect to learn and grow in your profession.
Coping skills can take the form of positive help-seeking behaviours, understanding your students, learning from failures, and developing self-care routines (see below).
As educators, we always expect that our students will continue learning new things and expanding their knowledge. But what about ourselves? Taking opportunities for professional growth such as additional training will help us to learn new techniques for various classroom need such as classroom management and inclusive education. Rather than struggle through something, seek help and further learning to encourage a healthy professional lifestyle.
Building Positive Relationships
Building positive relationships means developing professional and collaborative relationships with colleagues, students’ parents, and administrative staff. Remember, it is not only the students that you are working with. There are many other people involved in a child’s education. Building positive relationships with those involved will help ensure that you are supported in your endeavours.
Having an emotional support team such as family, friends, and significant others to lean on is also crucial to resiliency. While building positive relationships with those involved in a child’s education is important, it is just as important that you have a support system of your own. People who you trust to be supportive of you and be there for you in times of need. Keeping things to yourself is detrimental to building resiliency so it is important that you have people you can talk to to help you release thoughts and feelings.
Ahhh the big one.
At the end of the day, only you are responsible for yourself. It is our individual responsibility to take charge of our lives and take care of ourselves. Nobody can make you do it. Nobody can do it for you. You gotta want it.
Remember that you deserve to take a break. You deserve some time to yourself, time away from your work. You deserve the time to build yourself up. Taking the time for self-care will help you to build resiliency and take on your classrooms with love and learning!
Ideas for self-care:
- Tidy up and enjoy a clean space
- Go for a walk or another form of exercise
- Sit in the sunshine
- Write or draw
- Watch a movie
- Talk to a friend
- Play with a pet
- Listen to music
- Eat something healthy
- Take a bath
- Practice yoga & mindfulness
- Read your favorite book. Or a new book!
Your mental health matters. It matters to you, to your friends, your family, your colleagues. And it matters to your students.
Educator wellbeing is student wellbeing. And we all want the best for our students. So we need to want the best for ourselves. Take control of your mental health. Love it, support it, empower it. You deserve to be the very best version of yourself.
**This article uses information obtained from the Canadian Psychology journal. Reference: Gray, C., Wilcox, G., & Nordstokke, D. (2017). Teacher mental health, school climate, inclusive education and student learning: A review. Canadian Psychology, 58(3). 203-210.
P.S. Looking for the research teacher mental health? Check out these great articles!
Note that these are only a few of the amazing articles from research that support teacher self-care!
Briner, R., & Dewberry, C. (2007). Staff wellbeing is key to school success: A research study into the links between staff wellbeing and school performance. London, England: Worklife Support.
Cohen, J., McCabe, L., Michelli, N. M., & Pickeral, T. (2009). School climate: Research, policy, practice, and teacher education. Teachers College Record, 111, 180-213. Retrieved from http://ww.ijvs.org/files/Publications/School-Climate.pdf.
Gray, C., Wilcox, G., & Nordstokke, D. (2017). Teacher mental health, school climate, inclusive education and student learning: A review. Canadian Psychology, 58(3). 203-210.
MacNeil, A. J., Prater, D. L., & Busch, S. (2009). The effects of school culture and climate on student achievement. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 12, 73-84.
McCallum, F., & Price, D. (2010). Well teacher, well students. Journal of Student Wellbeing, 4, 19-34. Retrieved from https://ojs.unisa.edu.au/index.php/JSW/article/view/599/522