I recently sat down with a dozen administrators at a networking event. Ostensibly, we were going to discuss approaches to learning loss. But while that’s an important topic, it wasn’t at the top of everyone’s mind. No, there was something bigger — a topic that pulled us toward it like the gravity of an enormous planet.
Student mental health. Teacher mental health. And, perhaps more than anything else, administrator mental health. These people were exhausted. The pandemic had forced them to navigate new territory. They were dealing with stressed out staff and students, with angry parents, with shifting landscapes and risks…. and they were not okay. But over the course of our connection, they shared a few powerful ideas — a few ways to alleviate the negatives, and to make themselves a little more okay. Regardless of your role in education, these are powerful principles that can help you address your own mental health.
Spend Time Together
Educators sometimes like to go it alone. Teachers can get siloed in their classrooms. Administrators are sometimes the only ones holding a whole slew of things together. It can be a lonely profession — but that’s a disaster for mental health in trying times.
So get social! Set up time to relax and refresh with your friends in the profession. A little midweek recharge can make all the difference — and those friends of yours need that connection, too. Don’t have a group that comes to mind? Reach out! The odds are that every single educator you know could use a little time to turn off their “educator brain”.
So reach out. Set up a regular time to meet up. You won’t regret it.
Be Good to Yourself
Improving your mental health is not something you do in order to increase your productivity. It’s not something you do because it makes you more efficient and effective. This is something you do because it’s good for you, in and of itself. Period.
So when you get together with your support network, don’t feel pressure to make it a work session. Instead, feel free to be useless for awhile. Let yourself unburden and unwind. Sure, it will, in the long run, help you be a better educator — but that’s not the point. The point is allowing yourself to create the space and the distance you need.
Look to the Helpers
You’re not alone. A huge element of mental health is feeling valued, and there ARE people and organizations out there who recognize and value the heroic work you do.
I know — I’m one of them, and I work for one of them. This year, everything we do is oriented around helping make things easier and more fulfilling for teachers: getting them free resources. Getting them instructional supports. Making sure their professional development really honors them as people and as professionals. Providing ongoing support to make sure they have what they need.
There are businesses in your community who would love the chance to provide schools with support. At our Better Together discussion, one principal was talking about how a costume supplier had given free costumes out to the school. I know caterers who have provided free lunches to teachers (we do the same thing through our Lunch and Learn program). All you need to do is reach out.
Let us help you find those helpers. Send me an email, let me know where your school is located, and I’ll reach out on your behalf. My bet is that I can find a connection that will make the day at your school a little brighter. And in education these days, a little more brightness is exactly what we need.