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Mental Wellbeing of Educators in Perspective of Current Teaching Challenges

The way our school communities have come to support the learning and education of our children during this immensely challenging time is remarkable. Our teachers adapted so quickly in the face of such significant challenges. However, as months with COVID drag, the combinations of blended learning and in-person came in, teachers found themselves in a place where the school day never ends.

Online schools, work from home, in-person school, google classrooms, recordings, never-ending workday, and pressure from parents has brought in the sense of timelessness that leads to disorientation in the educator’s community.  In this stressful time, we are looking for answers to support teacher’s burnout and their mental health.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) can help educators to avoid that burnout and increase wellbeing. Now more than ever, we need to focus on developing their emotional intelligence to cope with the challenges of their work. Being able to connect with their own emotions and feelings, finding ways to unwind after a busy day, or identifying their internal drivers are all ways of using emotional intelligence to feel better with ourselves and the world around us. We develop emotional intelligence by cultivating self-awareness. When we are mindful of our emotions, we feel more in control and make better decisions.

Research has found that students learn better in safe and supportive environments. The same is valid for adults. SEL is influenced by context. If our work environment is stressful, we tend to display more damaging behavior, and if our work environment is healthy and supportive, we are inclined to manage stress. Providing a supportive environment for educators may be the key to handle the stressors of our current situation.

Learning mindfulness, seeking counseling, supporting each other, and prioritizing mental health are some of the actions that school communities can take for wellbeing of teachers. Several research studies have suggested preventive interventions that include models of professional development for teachers that incorporate stress-reduction, emotional awareness, and the practice of skills drawn from the fields of mindfulness and compassion are especially important. The report of the National Commission on Social, Emotional & Academic Development (2018) highlighted the importance of adult SEL. These studies have become more relevant for us this year.

To navigate our current crisis and to engage in continued learning for students, we need well-regulated educators, who enjoy their work and are equipped to meet the current needs of our students. When adults develop their social-emotional competencies, research shows better outcomes for students too. Teachers who are calm, positive, and content are better equipped for treating students warmly and sensitively. Intentionally or not teachers’ model SEL for students. When teachers navigate stressful situations every day, students are paying attention.  Students learn from their teachers how to manage frustration, deal with conflicts, or maintain control in the classroom.

Educators play such an essential role in the success of our children, our families, and our communities. We need to equip our educators with tools and resources so that they feel confident in handling the current challenges, and that will translate as better learning outcomes for our students.

Author: Massrat Shaikh – Educational Psychologist | Mindfulness Educator.

Massrat is an advocate for SEL – From Oman. To bring transformation in our education system, I have taken a role in advocating SEL in our schools.  I see that SEL has the potential to transform our learning environment as well as provide us with tools for systematic change. 

Massrat will be speaking at the GESS EdTech Vitual Summit Dubai on the benefits of EdTech in SEN. Click here to register for free to attend the summit.