Wellness is a concept used to describe something bigger than just physical health. It’s a word that encompasses our overall well-being. Because teachers are the foundation of education and the ones who train all other jobs, teacher health and wellness is a topic of growing importance.
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Teacher Wellness and Compassion Fatigue
Teachers are consistently asked to do more with less as budgets tighten and classroom sizes grow. However, one of the more prominent reasons for declining teacher morale may surprise people outside of education: they’re too burned out to be the teacher they know their students need.
Teachers know the importance of their job. They know the importance of their interactions with students, parents, colleagues, and administrators. Many stay on the job because of the profound differences they make in the lives of their students. However, with deteriorating working conditions, they often have to push aside their own feelings and concerns to focus on their students.
This unsustainable pattern ultimately ends up hurting the students. So what can be done to promote teacher health and wellness so teachers are personally fulfilled while giving their students the attention they need?
Teachers genuinely want to prepare their students for the future, but they are battling compassion fatigue. They care so much about increasing their students social and academic health, that inadvertently it decreases their own.Dr. Richard Warren Jr. on The Schoolyard Podcast
5 Health and Wellness Tips for Teachers and Administrators
The Schoolyard has suggestions for teachers and administrators that can quickly be implemented to help promote a supportive working environment and improve overall teacher wellness.
1. Set Boundaries
The caring nature of teachers can be a blessing and a curse, as the inclination to be helpful makes it difficult to know when to step back and focus on yourself. Setting boundaries and practicing self-care will allow you to prioritize and compartmentalize your needs and the needs of your students.
2. Build a Community
If anyone understands what a teacher is going through, it’s another teacher. Building a community of teachers and staff provides needed connections and support from other adults. It can be as simple as visiting each other throughout the school day or something more involved, like a night out together or a weekend potluck.
*Hot Tip: More experienced teachers likely have former students who are now adults and are grateful for the teachers who pushed them to succeed. That’s another community for teachers to reconnect with and see proof of their impact.
3. Get Those Steps
Even small changes to be more active in your daily routine can make a big difference. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Instead of calling a colleague to talk, walk to their classroom to see them in person. You can plan short exercise activities or stretching breaks during the school day to keep yourself and your students active.
One thing I like to do is go around and teach seated stretches. This is something the teacher can do, then teach the students, and then the students can do at any time during class and it’s not disruptive to everyone else.Maya Evans on The Schoolyard Podcast
4. Teacher Career Lattice
If a school district doesn’t have a career lattice for teachers, any teacher they hire starts at the height of their profession. This may even lead to teachers pursuing advancement into administration or a different profession, leaving an empty teacher’s desk in the classroom.
By implementing a career lattice, school districts can provide teachers with opportunities for advancement within the teaching profession. This can be done in several ways and will likely depend on the district’s needs. But the common denominator is to create a path toward professional growth that rewards teachers for their efforts.
Formal recognition of a teacher’s growth may come with a distinct title, financial incentives, and further leadership opportunities.
5. Mentorship Programs
A natural complement to a career lattice is a robust mentorship program. When a teacher advances in their leadership growth, they’ve shown the experience necessary to help guide new teachers through the early stages of their career.
Mentors are especially valuable in helping new teachers understand ways to address their own wellness, such as setting boundaries and building a community.
Renew the Focus on Teachers
Teacher wellness is as important as ever. Addressing this will require comprehensive and forward-thinking solutions, but developing the best solutions starts with understanding the full scope of wellness. To promote a healthy classroom environment, communities must work together to ensure teachers are recognized for their efforts and valued for their contributions.