How can we support teachers with their mental wellbeing?

Hannah Tait

As the partial lockdown continues in the UK, many of us are now slowly adapting to the new normal of working and learning from home. There is no doubt that schools, parents, students and edtech providers have demonstrated great resilience and togetherness during these unusual times, especially the teachers who have been working hard to maintain normality for pupils.

In the UK, many teachers are continuing to go into schools staying open to support children of key workers and vulnerable students. Others are also going above and beyond to teach remotely with innovative online lessons and resources for home-friendly activities, despite the confusion around what is expected of teachers during distance learning.

While teachers are taking care to reassure pupils and put on a smile on their faces, who is supporting them? Understandably, many are feeling anxious and without proper emotional support the industry risks losing great teachers through resignations. We must put our teachers first as well and empower them with the tools and best practices to boost their mental wellbeing.

Reassurance and communication  

The first point to remember is that remote learning is a new experience for everyone. Reassure teachers that it is okay to feel stressed or worried and encourage them to talk about how they are feeling, either with their line managers, colleagues or friends and family. It is even more crucial for schools to regularly check in with staff, assess their mental wellbeing and identify areas where individuals may need support.

Schools might look at setting up a mindfulness top tips page on their website and support groups via their social media which enable teachers to communicate with one another. Teachers may find it easier to discuss the pressures they are facing with their peers, and some may prefer to do so anonymously. Whatever the preference, give them the option to unload.

There are also many useful resources available offering working from home guidance and mental health support, created by industry organisations who know better than anyone the pressures on teachers. Like all of us now staying home and practicing social distancing, it is easy to feel isolated. Communication is therefore crucial. If you know a teacher, check in to see how they are feeling.

With the current uncertainty it can be hard for schools to say with confidence what tomorrow will bring. Still, being as timely, transparent and clear as possible with communications will help to reassure teachers.

Ease the workload

Teachers are often overstretched with work at the best of times, and teaching from home brings a risk of overworking and burnout. Take advantage of the great online learning resources available, many of which are free and accessible for all schools, to help teachers set work and monitor student progress remotely. These online platforms can significantly streamline teacher workloads through automated functions, while also providing activities which students can do independently. This will reduce the burden on teachers and ensure students are still learning quality, curriculum-based content.

Encourage teachers to stick to a healthy work/life balance at home. Regular breaks and time outside, if possible, are invaluable for maintaining a positive outlook. Schools can monitor this through regular check-ins or perhaps ask teachers to share with colleagues one way they are planning to unwind for the day. Whether it is baking, exercising or simply watching a good film, little moments such as this are essential for lifting one’s spirits.

Use this time positively

While this situation is far from ideal, it is important to look at the opportunities presented to educators during this unprecedented time. For example, teachers might be able to do more creative projects and provide more one-to-one support with the lower student ratios in classrooms. With more flexibility in the current curriculum schedule, teachers could also catch up on the online training and development courses which they have been meaning to do. Using this time positively to work on professional goals and build up knowledge can be a great way for teachers to stay focused and keep upbeat.

The challenges of remote learning can affect teachers just as much as students. Providing emotional support and resources to help teachers with their mental wellbeing is essential so they can continue doing their best for pupils.

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