Teachers are superheroes. Since the 2020 education movement, teachers have defied the odds. Their abilities to modify and adjust teaching strategies within seconds, face days of uncertainty, and provide social/emotional support to students daily since then has proved to the nation that our teachers are the real superheroes of today.
Social and emotional health of students is now at the forefront of education, yet social emotional well-being of teachers is just as important. Teachers are expected to fill the buckets of numerous students daily, yet many times teachers are trying to fill others' buckets out of their own empty bucket.
Although many districts are back to "normal," the lasting effects of the covid years are still present. Teachers are feeling the extra stress of trying to fill in education gaps, lack of support, home-life expectations, and supporting the new behaviors they are seeing from students that teachers have not experienced before.
Teachers are also seeing that districts have taken away covid leave, which is another added stress. Districts throughout the nation allow teachers on average 10 sick days. We are now seeing teachers having to use five sick days every time they test positive. Soon, we will see teachers having to take unpaid leave for covid and/or their own children being sick. Now is the time that teachers want to feel supported not only financially, but socially and emotionally as well. Administrators and school boards are now wondering how to fill their teachers' buckets.
Relax and Recharge
Administrators are going to TikTok to find ways to help their staff relax and recharge. Teachers are going viral by sharing the positives that are happening in their schools.
Some administrators have identified the need for teachers to have a safe space to unwind after handling difficult behaviors or even to unwind for 10 minutes from a stressful day. You can find a room with low light, warm lamps, tea/coffee bars, soft music playing, and a TV with Netflix options. By providing a simple relaxing space for teachers, they are now able to recharge, feel appreciated, and ultimately be able to fulfill their students' needs.
Ultimately, feeling appreciated and having the understanding that teachers have needs will keep teachers in the field where they are needed now more than ever.
If you speak to a teacher, they will always tell you that they set high expectations for their students and themselves. Although high expectations are set for students, they also take into consideration students' backgrounds, performance levels, and experiences. These considerations aren't always the case when administrators set high expectations for teachers.
Teachers feel pressured to fill the gaps of those lost covid years, all while providing extra support to their students' social and emotional needs. Teachers are seeing new behaviors, screen-time addictions, and academic challenges in the classrooms. It is important that leadership is patient, realistic expectations are given, and support is given to teachers from all leadership positions.
Provide appropriate SEL resources
Teachers' formal training consists of classroom management strategies, unpacking of state standards, lesson planning, and curriculum implementation. Placing teachers in today's classrooms without proper social/emotional (SEL) resources and training is like asking an adult with a regular driver's license to load up an 18-wheeler with cargo and drive long distances across the country without hesitation, accidents, and with a smile on their face. That would be near impossible.
If teachers are not provided with proper paid training, tools, resources, and staffing to support social and emotional learning in the classroom, how can we ask them to provide a proper education to students on the state standards?
Teachers need professional training in social and emotional learning in order to provide a safe and empathetic learning environment so that appropriate learning skills are developed for our students. Administrators and leaders should consider providing resources, training, and extra staffing throughout the next few years for teachers to be able to feel confident in their roles as well as supported in their district.
Administrators are also under the stresses of balancing their leadership responsibilities, budgets, and home lives. This domino effect of lack of support is being received from the top down. Representatives around the nation are being called to support our teachers financially as well as socially and emotionally.
In every workplace there are great days, and then there are hard days. It's important to be able to look back on each day's good moments and remember our purpose as educators.
If you are a leader, self-reflect on the social and emotional support that is being given to your staff. Find ways to give a safe place for your staff to unwind. Research SEL resources for your staff.
The time has now come for all schools to focus on their employees and give back to the well-being and health of the staff so that our students' buckets can be filled from the overflow of their teachers' buckets.
Kristina Eisenhower is a 15-year veteran teacher, small-business owner, and mother to three who lives in Cabot. Kristina earned her bachelor of science in Elementary Education, master's of Theory and Practice, and Ed.S. in Educational Leadership from Arkansas State University, and is a national board-certified teacher.