Lately our wonderful project and business partner Children University asked us to organise a webinar for teachers. The focus was on preventing burnout, especially in the pandemic. We love to teach about work life balance so we were excited to get stuck in.
We decided to brush up on the current research on burnout in educators before the session, especially in terms of the impact of COVID-19, and found some truly eye opening results. Surveys carried out in Europe, the US, and around world have yielded some alarming headlines:
- “More teachers plan to quit as COVID stress overwhelms educators” (https://www.cnbc.com/)
- “Teacher burnout could erode instructional quality, stymie working parents and hinder the reopening of the economy”. (https://www.nytimes.com/)
- “Teacher Pandemic Burnout: One Year Later, Exhaustion is Real” (https://belatina.com/)
The core issues uncovered were:
- physical exhaustion and a lack of appreciation. Teachers reported feeling low on energy and unable to concentrate.
- Compassion stress and fatigue. The sheer volume of work and responsibility can erode an individual’s capacity for patience and compassion. Teachers were expected to be on call to answer emails nearly 24/7, and be prepared to adapt to unexpected changes throughout the year, oftentimes without much support from their school districts or communities
- A core value of teaching, i.e. interaction and connection with students, was lost, while administrative work increased. Many teachers lost their sense of purpose and passion for teaching and ended up quitting.
- Isolation from other colleagues and the wider school community impacted negatively on the mental energy and creativity of teachers. Teachers were forced to adapt their entire curriculum to be delivered remotely, while also contending with low levels of student engagement. This led to increased stress and even health problems.
At M-Powered, we work a lot with educators and feel strongly about supporting them in their work and so we decided to build a FREE summer challenge in response to these worrying trends. The challenge will encourage and support teachers to learn about and rejuvenate their four key energies: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Together with our wonderful colleagues, we are working on five webinars that will focus on safeguarding your energy and practical tips for preventing burnout. M-Powered trainers will lead you through the process, but these sessions will also feature a yoga and breathing instructor, therapist, and creativity trainer.
So, educators! Don’t miss out on this fantastic opportunity to connect with colleagues, recalibrate after a stressful year, and learn how to protect your work life balance. Sign up for free HERE
We designed this programme to do what we can to support educators during this difficult time. However, we feel strongly that there is much more that can be done in educational institutions and at government level to safeguard educators. Because this isn’t just about individual teachers. The health and wellbeing of our teachers has a direct impact on students, and therefore on the future of society as a whole.
We therefore want to highlight some key priorities that we would like to see change in our education system, for the betterment of both educators and students.
1. Burnout is not a failure
Schools should fight the notion that burnout is a life or job failure. Burnout is simply the inevitable consequence of a system that is fundamentally unsustainable. Desiree Dickerson, an academic mental-health consultant from Spain, says that internalizing burnout as failure “is inaccurate and harmful”. She says that, in these uncertain times, it is essential that educational systems focus on both the core pillars of mental health – sleep, good nutrition, exercising, and socialising in a safe way – but also on creating open and supportive spaces where educators can express the grief, loss, uncertainty, worry and fear that so many are feeling right now.
2. Help teachers to detach from stress
To properly support teachers and understand their key stressors, it is important to first understand what they are experiencing. From there, a plan can be put in place to tackle those pressure points specifically. This can mean building coping strategies or developing competencies around stress management. In our work-life balance workbook, we provide a step-by-step guide to running a workshop with your team to co-design a tailored Work Life Balance policy for your organisation.
3. Conversations about mental health should not be taboo
One good thing that has come from the pandemic is that it has taught us that everyone struggles with their mental health from time to time, and that it should be ok to talk about this. However, the stigma is not completely eliminated. In many groups, mentioning that you are in therapy, for example, is seen as a weakness or failure. We must change this mind-set. If anything, therapy is the opposite of weakness. It actually builds self-awareness and inner strength, and is a great way to develop resilience.
We have just had the first webinar of our series, and it was a wonderful event with more than 340 teachers! They were very open about expressing their emotions and some very difficult topics. But within all the stress and difficulty, we also felt optimism, a lot of gratitude, and compassion. Teachers are great! And that is why it is so important to support them.
This webinar was part of the Horizon 2020 project Partnerships for Pathways to Higher Education and Science Engagement in Regional Clusters of Open Schooling – Phereclos) which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 824630