Educators need emotional support, too
- Shakita Smith, a teacher’s assistant at Pablo Casals School of Excellence in Chicago, shares with Chalkbeat the plight of many educators who are highly stressed and emotionally exhausted from providing academic, emotional and behavioral support to stressed and traumatized students.
- While the move to social-emotional learning and a broader discussion of the effects of stress and trauma and students is valuable for students, Smith says, relatively little is done to mitigate the stress on educators who deal with the fallout of student stress.
- Smith says the emotional well-being of educators and staff members is often neglected and that more support is needed, including funding for guidance counselors so that teachers can focus more on teaching.
According to a 2016 study conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 46% of teachers report high daily stress that affects their quality of life and teaching performance which, in turn, lowers levels of both social adjustment and academic performance in students. The study suggests that schools use interventions to reduce teacher stress by changing the school culture and approaches to teaching. It also suggests that stronger programs for mentoring, workplace wellness, and mindfulness be put in place for the benefit of both teachers and students.
As educators learn that more students have been affected by traumatic events and adverse childhood experiences, teachers are finding it difficult to not only help these students, but to deal with the consequences of student stress, such as acting out. These activities also divert teacher time from education matters, which in turn increases stress levels. High levels of stress can also impact teacher retention.
Advocating for funding for more school counselors is one way administrators can respond. It may also be necessary to add more support systems for teachers. Acknowledging the issue during professional development or meeting times can also help, particularly if teachers are given instructions on ways to deal with stress and cope with the emotional baggage of the job. Mindfulness is another technique that some schools have adopted. Teachers who work with traumatized students can experience vicarious trauma, particularly if they are strongly empathetic. Before they can care for students, they need to have the resources in place to care for themselves.