The Bulletin Board | Educators for Excellence

Educators for Excellence | August 2019

They say teaching is an art. 

But it is also a profession grounded in skill, science, data, research, and continuous improvement... and that just begins to describe this incredibly noble, complex, rigorous, and intellectually demanding profession.

Teaching also has high stakes considering the decisions we make every day have a direct impact on our students’ futures.

And the average teacher makes over 1,500 education decisions every school day. 

*lightning-fast number crunch

THAT’S FOUR DECISIONS EVERY MINUTE, decisions that directly affect if a child will learn. And that’s just during the school day, sans our extracurricular duties that our students rely on to build their futures.

On top of this is the emotional roller coaster that is celebrating our students’ triumphs and supporting them through crises. Whether it’s staying an hour after school so one of our students can master multiplication or comforting an 11-year-old afraid their parents will be deported, it takes its toll. 

Eh, so while we’re at it, let’s tally that toll: 61% of teachers report being always or often stressed at work, and 58% rated their mental health as “not good.” That matches up with you, readers, where last month 60% of you reported being excessively stressed.

But there is a lot we can do to lessen the stress while educating your students the best you can.

The first thing is to remember that “self-care is not selfish.”

You can’t take care of your students until you’ve taken care of yourself. Despite seemingly endless opportunities for professional development, teachers have paltry access to mental health resources and training. For example, while we have a litany of trainings on our path to certification, a recent report found that only in Alaska do more than half of teacher preparation programs include self-management skills like stress management

Per usual, teachers are taking on the work themselves to fill the void. Last year in Chicago, E4E teachers gathered together to reflect and plan how to prioritize their mental health. Watch their stories on how mental health has affected their teaching

And when you’re done with those, check out the Chalk Talk from Aisha Pervaiz, a middle school English Language Arts teacher and one of the E4E-Chicago members who attended the event. She explains how all teachers need a community like that to sustain their mental health. “Because, ultimately, the better we are for ourselves, the better we can be for our students.” 

Developing our own social-emotional skills would not only help us teach students these critical skills, but they could also help us stay in the profession we love. Work pressure contributes to the nearly one in ten teachers who leave the profession every year, most before retirement age. And for teachers in schools serving students in poverty, one of the most challenging situations, one in five teachers leave those schools every year, 50% higher rate than in more affluent schools.

But to truly address educators’ mental health means meaningfully addressing the systemic issues that make teaching so difficult in the first place.

To start, we need more opportunities for teacher-leader roles within schools to give educators a voice in decisionmaking and build more fulfilling careers, to build positive school cultures that actively monitor and address the mental health and wellness of students and teachers, and to increase teacher compensation to diminish educators’ economic insecurity.

Speaking of which, help us out with next month’s issue by answering this question: Do you support financial incentives, such as higher pay, for teachers working in hard-to-staff schools?

And in case you needed a reminder, you’re about to walk back into that classroom. Maybe take a gander at these self-care resources? Or, at the very least, take this last glimpse of summer to relax, crack open that cold cream soda - or something stronger (did we just hear a cork pop?), and think about all the things that make it worthwhile to be in this beautifully complex profession.

- The E4E Team


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