- A 2018 study revealed that 93% of elementary school teachers reported high levels of stress, and though mindfulness can help reduce teacher stress and improve school climate, finding a way to incorporate mindfulness for teachers into the school day can be a challenge, eSchool News reports.
- The creation of “peace corners” has been used in some schools to provide a safe, quiet place for students who are stressed or affected by trauma to meditate, reflect and self-regulate their emotions. Teachers can also benefit from peace corners that allow them to find a sense of calm during the day.
- The article suggests three steps to creating peace corners for teachers and administrators, include gathering feedback from staff members as to what the peace corner should include, finding a quiet space or corner that can be used by teachers for this purpose, and building the spaces using elements such as plants, sensory items, teas, and inspirational images to create a positive and calming environment.
Most teachers go into the profession because they love children and young people and want to help them develop their full potential. But while teaching has always been stressful to some degree, those stresses are magnified now for a number of reasons including greater pressures to produce results verifiable by testing, school safety concerns and the vicarious trauma teachers experience when dealing with greater numbers of children experiencing adverse experiences.
Teacher stress is bad for the well-being of teachers, but it is also bad for students as well. Research has shown that teachers who are unduly stressed are absent more often and negatively influence student academic performance. The stress teachers experience is also “contagious” to some degree, eliciting a biochemical response in their students, which raises their own stress levels. This, in turn, can affect student behavior and the cycle escalates. Stressed teachers impact school climate as well, causing a ripple effect in schools. And stressed out teachers are more likely to experience burnout and leave the school or the profession altogether, affecting efforts at teacher retention.
School leaders can support teachers and encourage them to practice self-care and some form of mindfulness in the midst of caring for others. Providing a brief time and an appropriate place for them to wind down during the day can aid in that endeavor. A teacher’s lounge where teachers gather to complain about the day they are having is often not enough for teachers who just need a few quiet moments to themselves. Providing special touches such as essential oils, tea making supplies or ambient noise machines can help teachers feel appreciated and can also be paid for through crowdfunding, as are some peace corners for students. Schools can also provide perks that relieve stress such as on-site child care or access to exercise programs.
Inviting teachers into the conversation about the best ways to address stress is important, too. A Psychology Today article noted the results when school leaders tried a variety of methods to address stress in teachers. The results of the methods were roughly the same, but researchers noticed an interesting effect during the study: all the methods worked to some degree simply because school administrators acknowledged the problem and addressed the issue. “Opening the lines of communication made stress relief an organizational problem, so teachers felt more comfortable suggesting solutions,” the article noted.