I am a mum myself and I have three boys who are all currently being home schooled while we all wait for the technology and procedures to be in place for a safe return to education for our children and the staff. What I am noticing throughout this uncertain time is that there is a clear divide between teachers who continue to deliver a high standard of education and those that are simply providing the basics and are being slated for not doing enough or anything in the eyes of a parent. Teachers themselves are saying that they feel as though they are on holiday with nothing to do.
The truth is they don’t know what to do. There is no leadership telling them what to do. The feeling of being on holiday is actually a stress response when there isn’t enough information available to us in order for us to take any form of action. They have entered a state of overwhelm where the brain will not look for a solution, but rather retreat and ignore the problem. The proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand. Most of the population right now is either in survival mode or striving mode. There is no safe zone or comfort zone in the middle, and that is a scary thing. It’s a natural response to fear. We either retreat and only focus on meeting our basic needs (shelter, food, clothing etc), or we want to rise up and fight to become something better in the face of the threat. The teaching staff who are still doing their best every day to deliver lessons, mark work being handed in and communicate with their students, are the ones who have strong, confident leaders in place. The staff who feel as though they are drifting and have a very low rate of productivity, are those who do not have direction and leadership in place to guide them through this situation.
Any one leading a team in the education sector right now has a responsibility to majorly focus on their own well-being to enable them to be that pillar of support, guide through the dark and ultimately give teachers the tools they need for them to feel secure and continue providing our children with the building blocks for their future. They also have a responsibility to provide their team with the same emotional, mental and soul centred support. A leader who isn’t emotionally resilient, confident or have clear direction cannot instil the same skills into their team. A leader who is overwhelmed and stressed cannot provide support for anyone. This reported state of feeling as if teachers are on some sort of holiday leave is a response to overwhelm and stress as I mentioned before.
Teachers need support with their own wellbeing. My children get regular modules on ‘ways to wellbeing’ sent to them via their online learning platform, but who is supporting the teachers themselves through this? Their lack of productivity and retreat into survival mode is evidence that their mental and emotional needs are not being met. They need to create mental space to process their own emotions and process their feelings properly. They need to build emotional resilience so that they can keep showing up for our children and being the figure of familiarity and comfort that our children look up to.
As we move into the future and the gradual reopening of schools starts to take effect, teaching staff are going to have to adjust again to another way of working, to a new working environment and building emotional resilience is going to be vital in ensuring that all employees in the education sector can continue to cope within their job role and avoid the pitfalls of mental illness that come with reaching a state of burnout and acute stress.