Supporting Educators During Stressful Times:
Immediate and Long-Term Considerations for Systems Changes and Individual Wellbeing
“This is not a recovery year. It is a survival year.”
Libby Bonesteel, Superintendent, Montpelier Roxbury Public Schools, The Washington Post, 12/5/21
Asking school staff to focus on recovery right now is akin to asking someone with a sports injury to run a marathon. But running only a short distance while injured can cause further damage to even the most elite athletes.
Educators, our schools’ most valuable resource, are struggling and suffering. This is not due to any fault or weakness on their part, but to the current reality that systems and practices are not meeting the significant needs of students and the educators who support them. These systemic issues magnify educator stress, which in turn impacts student outcomes. Educator stress is linked to lower levels of academic performance and social adjustment, disrupted relationships with students and parents/guardians/caregivers, and increased likelihood of bias affecting discipline decision-making.¹ ² Conversely, educator well-being and resilience are linked to higher student achievement and feelings of inclusion, less disruptive behavior, improved school climate, lower rates of teacher absenteeism, and district savings in turnover and physical/mental health costs. ² ³
It is essential that districts/schools provide educators with interventions and supports to help mitigate the “injury” caused by the ongoing realities of teaching during this “survival year” in an extended pandemic. The stages of healing and recovery from a sports injury provide a helpful analogy:
- Rest and protect the injury. Prevent further harm to allow the process of healing to begin.
- Provide supports for healing – the process of regeneration and repair.
- Focus on recovery – the process of regaining former strength and ability.
In response to anecdotal and survey feedback from district/school staff, state partners, mental health clinicians, and caregivers, the Vermont BEST Project/VTPBIS State Team has assembled the below user-friendly, actionable resources that can be used immediately to provide relief, build capacity, and strengthen systems. This is not meant to be one more thing to pile on your plate! The links below will help you jump to resources as you need them. If you need any support implementing any of the suggested actions, VTPBIS TAs and VTPBIS coaches can help. If you have any questions, please contact Rebecca Lallier.
- Immediate actions
- Resources for systems (quick to implement)
- Resources for systems (longer term)
- Resources for individuals:
- Quick, useful reminders
- Rescue resources to reset your nervous system in the moment
- Advocating for yourself and your colleagues
- Supportive practices
- Data Collection Resources
- Additional Resources
¹ Greenberg, M. T., Brown, J. L., & Abenavoli, R. M. (2016, September 1). Teacher Stress: Health Effects on Teachers, Students and Schools – RWJF. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2016/07/teacher-stress-and-health.html
² Cave, M. (2019, November 12). Teach By Design—Don’t Discipline Hangry: 3 Steps to a Better Classroom. PBISApps. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.pbisapps.org/articles/dont-discipline-hangry-3-steps-to-a-better-classroom
³ Carroll A, York A, Fynes-Clinton S, Sanders-O’Connor E, Flynn L, Bower JM, Forrest K and Ziaei M (2021) The Downstream Effects of Teacher Well-Being Programs: Improvements in Teachers’ Stress, Cognition and Well-Being Benefit Their Students. Front. Psychol. 12:689628. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.689628