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Lessons from a Year of Teaching in a COVID-19 World: What Teachers Need Now

January 30, 2021

Hopeless. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Depressed. Exhausted. Those are just some of the emotions that educators report feeling in the past year since COVID-19 infiltrated our lives and schools. Teachers were tossed into the virtual world without tools or blueprints, using trial and error to figure out remote teaching for themselves, and remote learning for their kids, who are contending with a wide range of conditions at home.

Parents and caregivers relied heavily on educators for the success of this transition. But most schools offered little or no recess before getting their remote plans in place. For many, there was only a few days to scrap together modified lessons and find effective ways to transition from in-person to virtual roles. As news channels tracked the virus and empty grocery shelves through the spring, news stories offered snapshots of teachers across the country breaking through the fear and uncertainty to raise students’ spirits: dressing in costumes, introducing pets, engaging in creative story times with virtual backgrounds and animations, staging virtual road trips across the country, and hosting virtual singalongs.

But who was watching out for educators’ spirits?

In the early days of the pandemic—and again more recently—2,000 teachers were surveyed about their needs by the organization Teaching Tolerance, which in ordinary times supports teachers to educate students towards a diverse democracy. Results showed that educators wanted online resources for virtual teaching, including materials on the intersections of COVID-19 and social justice. But amid these requests for tangible resources was a plea for help and support in coping with the intersecting anxieties students and educators are facing.

At Housman Institute, this is smack in the middle of our wheelhouse. We work to educate educators, parents, and the children they nurture about the importance of emotional intelligence and development of its underlying competencies and associated skills. Now more than ever, we recognize teachers are experiencing tremendous levels of stress. In fact, well before the global pandemic, according to an AFT survey, two-thirds of teachers found their work to be stressful 61 percent of the time, and nearly a quarter of respondents said work was “always” stressful. Now, teachers are juggling multifaceted demands of the job while trying to cope with their own life challenges and support their wellness. The impact that stress and anxiety have on educators takes a toll not only on their mental health and well-being, but also on their ability to teach effectively and our students’ ability to learn. A 2015 study shows that teacher stress and depression symptoms are linked to lower student achievement gains in third-grade math.

With so much pandemic pressure on educators to be there for students, it is easy to understand how they might not have the time to show up for their own emotional wellbeing. And it’s critical that those who nurture students’ understanding of their emotions understand the role stress plays in their own everyday lives. That is why Housman Institute has created the Teacher Stress Program to help educators cope with their anxiety, stress and exhaustion. Our four-course program helps educators to understand, manage, and attend to their emotional health. A foundation of key social-emotional tools is just the beginning;

When educators are able to attend to their emotional health, they not only report increased happiness in their personal lives, but in their work lives as educators. We know that children are emotional detectives, and when they see the important adults in their lives are experiencing stress and anxiety, they absorb these emotions, themselves. By learning how to understand and manage their own stress, educators are better able to guide their students through a similar process—setting them on the path to become emotionally intelligent children who  grow into more resilient, successful, and mentally healthy adults.

To learn more about our new Teacher Stress program, please visit www.housmaninstitute.com/teacher-stress.

Other Resources (sourced from the New York Times):

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