Support for Educators and the uncertainty of the future…..
“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security” By John Allen Paulos, Professor of Mathematics
Teachers have an incredible amount of stress heading back into the classroom. Much of our headspace is spent on wondering how our children will cope at school in the time of COVID-19. And we need to give some credit to those teachers who are heading into the classroom at a time of great uncertainty.
Teachers are given directives each day about how they will be teaching, what their schedules will look like, what their classrooms will look like, how to manage the children in their classrooms…and it changes from moment to moment, day to day and week to week. They are suspicious about their administration (are they holding back?). They are worried about the accuracy of the information provided to them by the education administration. They are not sure whether to trust the provincial government, the federal government, or even themselves.
While we have been giving high-fives and accolades to the well-deserved medical professionals and the front line workers over the past few months, the teachers are now heading into the front line with our most precious people – our children.
And yes those same teachers are stressed, they are anxious, they are worried….and all of this is being driven by their lack of knowledge about what is to come…what will their week look like? And most do not know what the impending school year will be like? Will the rates of COVID-19 increase?
And while these professionals are feeling excited about the new school year – being connected with the children and their colleagues – they are equally frustrated about some of the hypocrisy and mixed messages meted out by their governing bodies. And so these teachers put their best feet forward and attempt to be the calm in the eye of the storm.
Educators are not only responsible for their own mental wellbeing (which is challenging in and of itself) but they are responsible for the mental wellbeing of their students – some of who are frightened, confused, and anxious. So these teachers become the frontline workers for the mental wellbeing for our most treasured human beings, while attending to their own mental health needs.
In my discussions with teachers, they plan on dedicating some of their class-time to supporting the mental wellbeing of students – many students do not have the appropriate coping tools at such a strenuous time. In fact, some students have had little contact with the “outside” world and returning to school (after a hiatus since March, 2020) may be their first foray intermixing with other people outside of their direct family. Our teachers will be responsible for preparing our children for this challenge of being with others, acting in a safe manner, and supporting their own students’ mental health. These teachers will have to model good coping behaviours for students – calm, honest, and caring
So what are the core emotions that some of the teachers are experiencing? More than likely they are dealing with
The teachers and the students themselves are all actors in this play with no script. They are all improvising in the moment in order to get through the day. Getting used to uncertainty has certainly been one of the outcomes (good or bad) of this global pandemic.
So what are some of the ways that teachers can deal with their own psychological wellbeing so that they can be their very best in the classroom?
1. Accept that some anxiety and stress is normal given these incredibly abnormal circumstances.
2. Seek out credible information through reliable sources (e.g. The World Health Organization , Health Canada , Ontario Ministry of Health , Your local public health unit ).
3. Discover positive news instead of conventional news that is often mired in negativity (negativity sells). Some positive news sites include: www.huffpost.com, www.upworthy.com, www.positive.news, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu.
4. Put into action those self-care activities you can control (and mentally release those things you cannot control). Self-care items you can control are:
a. Unplugging phones, computers, and electronics one day per week (or even a few hours a day one day per week).
b. Turn off alerts on your phone.
c. Eat healthy foods.
e. Get outside and into nature.
f. Get enough sleep.
g. Connect with colleagues and friends in a positive way to provide and receive support.
h. Engage in an activity or hobby where you can completely immerse yourself (e.g. playing an instrument, sewing, crafting, reading, painting, etc.)
i. Practice relaxation, meditation and/or prayer.
j. Spend time with your family pet.
k. Avoid substances such as alcohol, caffeine, and marijuana.
l. Assist others: Do something kind for someone else (e.g. make a meal for a neighbour, write a letter to a friend, cut your neighbour’s lawn etc.)
Furthermore, reflect on your past successes and your ability to be resilient. Above all, practice patience, kindness and compassion for your self and for others around you.