May 12, 2022 | Paula Dicu
Every child can experience the power of a great teacher, and every teacher can shape lives.
Teachers are guides for the leaders of tomorrow. But in all this work, how conscious does every educator remain of their wellness?
In episode 5 of our teacher podcast School of Talk, we welcomed our guest, renowned psychologist and author of the bestsellers Kids These Days: A Game Plan for Reconnecting with Those We Teach, Lead & Love and Teachers These Days: Stories & Strategies for Reconnecting, Dr. Jody Carrington, to the show.
One of the interview highlights was the valuable insight Dr. Carrington shared on how the global pandemic impacted connection building within the education space.
Why is that important? The global pandemic wreaked havoc on the mental health of both teachers and students. It accelerated teacher burnout.
But, Dr. Carrington says, one of the most powerful ways to combat teacher burnout is through building connections.
Strong connections create a reliable support network and a sense of community.
Community is such an important factor in supporting mental health and well-being, as well as easing the feeling of isolation among teachers.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Mental Health Awareness Month brings attention to the reality of how critical taking care of our mental health is.
Every year, organizations like the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America bring people from all walks of life together to raise awareness about mental health.
Through education and advocacy on behalf of policies, teachers are, and can be, agents of change in helping teachers, families, and communities get access to mental health care.
While on a mission to reconnect a disconnected world, Dr. Carrington offers insights and wisdom that will inspire educators worldwide to tune into their power and build solid structures for mental wellbeing.
These are 4 key takeaways from Episode 5:
- Being gentle during a global pandemic
- Power of acknowledgment and listening
- Understanding proximity and technology
- Importance of connection
Being gentle during a global pandemic
The global pandemic has created burnout, fear, and uncertainty and impacted people’s collective wellbeing.
It has become harder to do some of the things that will allow us to retain our well-being, such as connection.
Dr. Carrington points out that a rise in loneliness can also cause people to lash out more.
And so the question is, how can schools and districts create a supportive environment for K-12 teachers?
As the global pandemic created a heightened state of arousal, it’s essential to be mindful and gentle.
This is a time to be gentle with ourselves and others as we emerge from a crisis collectively.
Empathy and taking time for ourselves are the self-care and nurturing that will keep burnout at bay.
Self-care can seem like a buzzword these days, but it boils down to engaging in activities that care for our mental health and wellbeing.
This can include maintaining good hygiene, exercising, proper nutrition, resting, connecting with loved ones, and much more.
Shift the focus to your present wellbeing, and ask yourself what is needed to feel like the best version of yourself.
What will allow you to shine as the brilliant teacher you know yourself to be?
Power of acknowledgment and listening
There is power in acknowledging and listening, says Dr. Carrington.
A genuine acknowledgment rooted in understanding and listening is profoundly transformative.
It coincides with the ability to witness another person and offer them a compliment.
Empathy is what drives leadership, and so when teachers are experiencing burnout and fatigue, the school system needs to acknowledge and take appropriate action to remedy the well-being of these teachers.
Instead of focusing on ‘what went wrong,’ what about offering gratitude to staff working within your school!
The intention behind communication is fundamental, in addition to understanding the impact of making certain acknowledgments.
Recognition and validation can create fulfillment for teachers and a healthier work environment and empower teachers to speak up with confidence.
Understanding proximity and technology
Technological advances are beneficial as access to information is much faster and grander. It can save time, create better learning techniques, and offers a wide range of innovation.
As Dr. Carrington mentioned, technology isn’t the problem but how we use it.
Technological advances are beautiful, but a mindful awareness is needed to create spaces, even in the virtual realm, that feel open to connection and driven by empathy.
How can technology be used as a source of creativity?
Incorporating fun in the classroom, especially when teaching online, will boost the morale of students and teachers alike.
Connecting via webcam can certainly create fatigue. This is an opportunity to create lesson plans and set up the classroom flow to be engaging and stimulating for you, as the teacher, and your students.
One approach to maintaining a sense of variety can include using visuals and different audio soundtracks during lessons.
Use this as an opportunity to work with your creative muscle, and incorporate those joyful elements into the world of education.
Importance of connection
It can feel like life is constantly busy and changing, never having a moment to settle into the present.
Balancing between work, school, hobbies, and self-care is not always straightforward, and many things fall to the sidelines. One side effect, in particular, could be disconnection.
Connection with others has been directly linked to improving our immune system, helping us develop empathy, increasing our self-esteem, and even helping with regulating our emotions.
One of the best parts of teaching is building connections with students and peers!
Yet, when burnout begins to rise, the connection is often one of the last priorities on one’s mind.
The irony of it is that through enhancing our connection, speaking to others we work with, and mindfully engaging, we will begin to feel lighter.
Lean into connection through the practice of presence.
Notice who you have in your life, and vocalize where you require support. Of course, this will extend to seeking help from family or friends, but even speaking up within the school that you are working in can go a long way.
The art of mindfulness
A deep understanding of self and others can powerfully combat teacher burnout.
Remember, the side effects of burnout can spill into various areas of everyday life! It will impact work, home, social interactions, and your body's overall well-being.
As a direct result of all the consequences, it’s essential to take preventative measures.
Mindfulness is a journey, but there is also an increase in awareness that can help ensure students, teachers, and those working in education are well taken care of.
Consider learning more about reducing stress and anxiety through these 6 mindfulness apps. Find more teacher solutions on our Klassroom blog.