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Make Teacher Wellness a Priority Now (and All Year Round!)


a teaching having a happy interaction with a student while the student is writing

Conversations about personal wellness changed with the Covid-19 pandemic, and this is true for educators as much as anyone else.


While summer is a great time for teachers and administrators to relax and recharge, it hasn’t ever been enough to truly balance the demands of the school year.


As we’ve realized that and lived through the upheaval of the last few years, we know now more than ever how important it is to prioritize the mental and emotional health of those serving children and their families.


While summer is a great time for teachers and administrators to relax and recharge, it hasn’t ever been enough to truly balance the demands of the school year.

Summer is swiftly coming to a close, and we’re looking ahead to autumn conferences that will focus on teacher wellness. How can we keep that theme front and center all year round, and how can data solutions support that effort?


Let’s explore ways to promote educator wellness and dig a little deeper into what this kind of self-care truly means. Along the way, we can also look at the interesting way data can play a role in this very human aspect of education.


What’s Required for Educator Wellness?


Those who work in education observe a unique calendar, often having two or three months away from the workplace every year. Of course, you know this doesn’t mean educators and school administrators aren’t working during the summer months.


Teachers are known for working summer jobs, whether it be summer school, camp counseling, waiting tables, or something else. Often teachers spend their “time off” updating lesson plans or maintaining specific certifications. The point here is, for many educators, summer isn’t really a break. They might not be physically in the classroom, but they’re also not fully disconnected from their work.


People who view teaching as their vocation, more than just a job to pay the bills, are driven to work long hours during the school year and plan for the next school year during the summer. It’s important to recognize that extra time as a way educators should support mental health within their careers; telling teachers to simply work less is not helpful. It also disregards challenges in the larger system, which is not helpful.


Promoting true wellness for teachers and administrators is two-fold:

  1. Encourage them to take real time off for personal endeavors, family, travel, rest, and other things fully unrelated to work.

  2. Help them find work-related methods and approaches that not only make them better at their jobs, but strive to make the work less taxing physically, mentally, and emotionally.

That second one isn’t always straightforward. While some schools struggle with efficient communication between teachers and highly involved parents, others serve families who face food and housing insecurities. Depending on the communities surrounding a school, the tolls on educator wellness vary widely.

Telling teachers to simply work less is not helpful. It also disregards challenges in the larger system, which is not helpful.

Signs of Teacher Stress


It's no secret that the education system isn't perfect, and educator well-being is one of the primary areas that takes the brunt of the stress it causes. In fact, this is among the potential reasons prospective teachers ultimately decide not to enter the teaching profession.


Worse, this anxiety can negatively impact the school community by inhibiting student learning, degrading teachers' physical wellness, and reducing how much educators engage with the families they serve. School leadership may need to get involved and teacher burnout becomes a reality.


To avoid the worst pitfalls of teacher stress, watch school employees for the following signs:

  • High teacher turnover

  • Challenges with physical health

  • Depression and withdrawal

  • Disorganized use or lack of resources


an educator experiencing teacher stress

Teachers and School Leaders Need More Than Self-Care


Just as telling educators to work less isn’t helpful, suggesting cliché self-care activities isn’t enough either. And whereas nice gestures are usually appreciated by staff, the root causes of teacher fatigue and administrator stress won’t go away with bubble baths, chocolates, and spa days.


Some self-care approaches rely too much on escapism and feel-good distractions from problems. While these can offer moments of relaxation, they aren’t a strategy for long-term wellness. Weekly massages and extra vacation aren’t realistic for all teachers and won’t do much for a school building or district as a whole if only a handful of educators can enjoy them.


Rather than giving teachers one more to-do of figuring out how to relax here and there, you can make a greater impact by identifying and addressing the root causes of educator exhaustion.


RELATED: Are You Countering the Negative Effects of Remote Learning?

Rather than giving teachers one more to-do of figuring out how to relax here and there, you can make a greater impact by identifying and addressing the root causes of educator exhaustion.

School Districts Can Support Educator Wellness in Several Ways


Perhaps the best way to start is by addressing all of this with educators. Remind them that true time off is vital, and to incorporate it into summers, holiday breaks, and weekends as much as possible.


Beyond that, look for ways to support teacher and administrator wellness within the context of the school year and their individual jobs. Here are a few ideas for how to do that.


Promote Mindfulness School Culture for Everyone


Anxiety among teachers, students, or administrators can disrupt the working and learning environment for those around them. Before long, one person’s stress can kick off a cycle of anxiety in the entire building.


Schools that promote mindfulness for teachers and students see improvements in just about every area. Beyond benefits from the techniques themselves, prioritizing this kind of culture puts wellness front and center in a school district or building.


Rethink Professional Development


Spending time without students to discuss work and refine skills can certainly be a positive, beneficial activity. Yet perhaps every professional development day doesn’t have to revolve around work itself.


As an example of this, consider the New Mexico district that spent its professional development day taking walks, learning about alternative medicine, and drinking smoothies. The idea was to support teachers as whole people, not just district employees. For many participants, the focus on their wellbeing was probably more helpful than anything else could have been.


Another option would be to facilitate open discussions and activities that remind teachers why they are there in the first place. Between state testing, the pandemic, and personal challenges, the passion that brings people into teaching has become repressed for many out there. Taking time to resurrect a love of teaching might be just what the proverbial doctor ordered for some highly stressed and burned-out educators.


Incorporate Adult Social Emotional Learning


Social emotional learning helps people develop self-awareness and self-control, as well as interpersonal and relationship skills. Also called emotional intelligence, these skills are important for decision making and growth within school and the workplace.


For educators, social emotional learning (SEL) is vital. Not only does it support their career, but it impacts the children in their care. Districts certainly don’t have to come up with SEL programs on their own; a quick online search will connect you with several options for your district or building.


Advocate for Educators


As with any employee, educators are happier at work and better at their jobs when they feel supported by the organization. While this is important for salaries, work hours, budgets, and other employment factors, it goes for personal wellness too.



hat can a district do to advocate for teacher and administrator wellness? Maybe it’s ideas for reducing screen time, creating opportunities for colleagues to check in with each other, or revisiting the curriculum to include mindfulness education for students. Certainly, anything discussed in this article would be a great place to start.


RELATED: How to Be a Better Teacher for Students at Risk


Use Data to Support Educator Wellness


Whether you’re a superintendent, principal, or teacher, you no doubt hear colleagues talk about how to improve their jobs. Candid discussions are helpful, and data is a great way to dig deeper and get to the root of a school’s or district’s challenges.


Data can show you where there are gaps in performance, attendance, budgets, and more. Visualizations of the facts then lead to conversations and further investigation, letting individual school buildings develop their own plans for wellness.


RELATED: How Can Principals Support Teachers Using Eidex as a Resource?


Data can show you where there are gaps in performance, attendance, budgets, and more. Visualizations of the facts then lead to conversations and further investigation, letting individual school buildings develop their own plans for wellness.

Eidex Cares About Teacher Wellness


Eidex was founded by educators. Because of that simple fact, we know what your job entails and understand the struggles around personal and professional wellness.


And now we use our experience and insight to create assessment software that is accessible, easy to use, flexible, collaborative, and engaging, all to help you overcome challenges that go along with providing first-class education for the youth in your community.


To learn more about what we do and how you can implement it for your school and district, please call 844-K12-DATA | (844) 512-3282 or fill in the simple contact form on our website. We look forward to hearing from you!


References


Melhado, W. (2021, Nov. 17). With teacher wellness “hanging by a thread,” one district tries walking and smoothies. The Hechinger Report. Retrieved from https://hechingerreport.org/with-teacher-wellness-hanging-by-a-thread-one-district-tries-walking-and-smoothies/


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