Why so much stress?

For teachers to meet the needs of their students they must first meet their own needs.  One of the biggest needs that I have observed during this pandemic is the need to relieve stress at school.  I am the principal of an elementary school that has 25 certified teachers and 20 paraprofessionals.  All of these employees have stepped up to the plate and have shouldered new responsibilities and expectations without complaint.  Their concern for their students is enormous and I can see the stress on their faces.  I believe that the biggest mistake of my fellow administrators is not meeting the needs of your teachers on an emotional level.  In this article I will discuss the ways school administrators can support their teachers during this pandemic, not just in the classroom, but emotionally and physically.

Teacher Education

Educators spend 4+ years learning how to teach and earning their degree in education. Veteran teachers are successful in their classrooms because they are teaching in a way that is comfortable to them and has proved successful over time.  The key to this is that the learning happened over time.  Last March-April, teachers were expected to adjust all of their pedagogical styles on a moment’s notice.  Teachers were given weeks to adjust what it had taken years to develop.  Over the summer most teachers continued their education of virtual learning and how they would apply this to their classrooms.  When this pandemic began, my teachers spent 20+ hours learning about the learning platform Google Classroom.  This was a brief introduction to the PLATFORM.  This was not the time they spent on how to adapt lessons to be presented on this platform.  If you are interested in learning more about Google Classroom and some useful tools for virtual learning you can click here.

Learning to be a teacher took years, but today’s teachers were given months to learn to teach in a completely different way while the expectations for student progress did not change.  I don’t remember any classes on how to relieve stress at school.  We will still have state testing at the end of the year and the teachers know that they will be judged according to the scores these children make on those tests.  Some of our students do not have internet access, they do not have a computer, their parents work during the day and can only provide assistance in the evenings (when the teacher is no longer at school), and yet the teacher will be judged according to that child’s progress at the end of the year.

stress at schoolEducators are givers.  They regularly put their students and their students’ needs ahead of their own.  We have all heard about the teachers that spend hours at home working on their plans, grading papers, and worrying about their students.  But they cannot teach 24 hours a day and they cannot teach students that they have no way of contacting.  Teachers rely on the subtleties of body language to gauge understanding.  They ask follow-up questions and engage the students in discussions.  These usual ways to check for student understanding is impossible.  Imagine how stressful that is for a teacher.

Can they handle it?

I believe my teachers can handle the increased workload of teaching some students in class and some students virtually.  I have supported my teachers with professional development, classroom materials, and technology.  They have created their virtual classroom and adapted their lessons to be accessible to the in-person learner and the virtual learner, but the emotional stress that they are enduring is taking a toll on them.  I now have to begin the process of supporting them in ways that I have not had to deal with before.  I need to help my teachers relieve stress at school if they are going to be successful.

The stress my teachers are under is not just what is happening in their classroom.  They are enduring that along with all of the new stresses of daily life during this pandemic.  On a daily basis, they are worried about the possibility of catching COVID-19 and possibly being quarantined while still having to teach.  They worry about their family being exposed to what they are bringing home on a daily basis after working with a classroom full of children.  All of these stresses are in addition to the political and social issues that our country is going through.

Stress Relieving Basics

Teachers need help with relieving stress at school.  As an administrator, I need to keep their classroom needs in mind along with their physical and emotional needs.  Happy teachers are successful teachers and to assist them in relieving emotional stress will help them remain happy.  Healthline.com has some simple ways to address stress on a daily basis.

  • Exercise
  • Consider supplements
  • Use essential oils or light candles
  • Reduce caffeine intake
  • Journaling
  • Chew gum
  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Laugh
  • Learn to say no
  • Avoid procrastination
  • Yoga
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Positive physical contact
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Deep breathing
  • Spend time with a pet

Is there a doctor in the house?  I need stress relief.

Some of these suggestions can be done at school, but I wanted to take it a step further and provide specific time for my employees to engage in these activities to relieve stress at school.  Here are 4 ways that I planned to help my teachers and support local businesses.First, I contacted a local chiropractor who provides free spine assessments.  The chiropractor and her team spent the day at school and employees were scheduled to meet with them throughout the day. During the spine assessment, the chiropractor provided a brief stress relieving massage.  The employee was given the opportunity to review their spine assessment and schedule a follow up appointment with the chiropractor if they chose to.  The session with the chiropractor lasted approximately 5 minutes and we provided soothing music and a relaxed atmosphere.  This was beneficial in multiple ways.  The employees were given the opportunity to relieve stress at school.  They had a free health screening.  And the local chiropractor was provided the opportunity to increase their business.

Ding Dong…Avon calling

Another event that I planned was with an Avon representative.  The representative brought several products for self pampering.  Again the employees were scheduled into different sessions throughout the day.  During the session, the Avon representative had a diffuEssential Oil diffuserser emitting aromatherapy scents, provided different hand masks, and scalp massage.  It was very much like an Avon party that the representative would have in her home, but we did it in our lounge.  After the session, the employees were provided with information on how to purchase the products that were used during the session.  This was beneficial to our employees because it provided stress relief and beneficial to the Avon representative because she sold some of her products.

Relieving Stress is a Stretch

A third event was officiated by a yoga teacher.  I contacted a local gym that has yoga classes.  The yoga teacher volunteered 30 minutes of her time to lead a stretching session.  We cleared the cafeteria and asked all employees to bring a mat or towel to sit on.  The yoga teacher provided soothing music and led all employees in some very basic movements to stretch all of the major muscles in their body as they listened to the music.  The simple class was a stress reliever for the employees and great advertisement for the local gym and their classes.  Definitely a win, win situation.  Relieve stress with yoga

Do It Yourself!

Our final event was led by me.  I researched relaxation techniques and found that deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing was considered extremely beneficial in relieving stress.  This was something I wanted to share with my teachers because it was something they could do at home or at school.  Everyone brought their desk chair to the cafeteria.  I had the lights off and I borrowed an essential oil diffuser.  The essential oil I used in the diffuser was chamomile which is known to promote inner calm, reduces anxiety, and calms the nervous system.  As everyone settled in, quiet music played in the background.  I pulled up a video on Youtube called 12-minute meditation: Diaphragmatic Breathing.  Once everyone was ready, I played the video and we spent a short but very relaxing time relieving stress at school.  I shared the video link with everyone so they could access it if they want to at a later time.

Deep breathing

Administrators have the success of the entire school in their hands.  When working with teachers on making a child as successful as possible we consider all aspects of the child’s life and I feel that I must do the same thing for my teachers.  Listening to my employees and providing them with what they need to be successful will make our school environment positive and that is beneficial for the teachers and the students.  It is important to provide teachers with all of the tools they need to teach students effectively.  Those tools may be hardware, software, classroom materials, or professional development.  But in this day and time, those tools must include self-care and stress relief.  If you use some of my suggestions, you will not only help your employees relieve stress at school, but also support local businesses at the same time.