Emotional Well-Being of Teachers during the Pandemic
Just a few months ago, who would have thought that a global health crisis and an economic recession would bring our world to an absolute standstill? With many businesses closing down, and many companies facing substantial losses, not to mention many lives lost due to the pandemic, fear lurks in our minds like never before. Uncertainty, anxiety, depression, and even dopamine and serotonin have all become common terms. Mental health, well-being, depression, and anxiety are constantly trending on all social media sites, with many mental health professionals giving guidelines on staying sane during a pandemic.
If you are a school educator, you have been entrusted with a new task; to take online lectures or classes for your students. For some of you, this is new territory. By all means, it is essential to ensure that your own well-being is taken care of. There are many ways to take care of yourself, but we shall explore some common themes.
Know that you are valued:This might sound too basic, but it needs to be put out there. Teaching will always be a noble profession, a profession that requires you to be a caregiver, nurturer, and educator. Many people remember their teachers fondly even after years of their school and college life. The ‘tough love’ that you bestow upon them, is something that they are thankful for, even though they might not always show it.
Communicate: Stay in touch with your colleagues and your inner circle. Since this is a new situation for you, do consult your more experienced colleagues. The wisdom of such experience should be particularly useful in these times. Always have a line of open and honest communication with your headteacher, and make sure to talk about your needs and expectations. Communication is the key here. For example, if you’re experiencing internet difficulties right before an online session, do make sure that you are communicating instead of panicking. When you interact with your students, make sure you clearly express your desire for a structure and a discipline, even with the online classes.
Have other interests: You are not just a teacher. You might be a person who enjoys dancing, singing, pottery, painting, or just reading. Do make sure that you have enough time to explore your interests. Such hobbies will take away the stress of your new routine, and give you the space to relax and be free. This is a good time to devote time to your interests, and those interests don’t have to be Instagram or Facebook.
Develop a routine: Make sure that you have the time to exercise, meditate and sleep. Make sure that you have your meals on time. It has been studied that people who are physically active are happier, even if the activity is not related to exercise (Lathia et al, 2017)Even if there is a lockdown, make sure that you find time to exercise for at least thirty minutes every day. Many studies also prove the benefit of meditation on happiness, and self-compassion and mindfulness have found to be helpful. (Campos et al, 2016). There are many apps and YouTube channels dedicated to meditation. This might be a good time to make use of them. Sleep has also been linked to happiness and wellbeing (Dement et al, 1999). If you struggle with sleep, limit your screen time for all apps, drink plenty of water (there’s an app to remind you to drink water too!), and read. Reading before bed will also definitely help you get a goodnight’s sleep.
What can you do as a Head teacher?
In these times, it is essential that teachers should be listened to. As a headteacher, make sure that teachers are being heard. It is important to listen and act. Encouraging feedback will make your job and life easier as it will give you a first-hand account of the job. It will help you to understand the expectations of teachers, students, and parents. Make sure you check in with your teachers and incentivize them (with non-monetary or monetary rewards) and help them do their job better. It is important that you grant them the power to be more flexible in these times, and allow them to use their creativity to help engage with the students. Do remember to check in with the teachers every day or at least once a week, and also talk about stuff that is not related to work.
It is also important to note that these challenges are not permanent. The deadliest plagues and pandemics have eventually subsided, giving way for a new order of the world. The world is changing, but it is more important to know that it is more adaptable to go with it, instead of resisting it. Survival is not of the fittest, but of the most adaptable and more resilient.
Neha holds a degree in Organizational Psychology from Leeds University, UK. She also has completed her Master’s in Clinical Psychology from the Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune in 2015 and has worked as a school counselor, a research assistant, and an HR professional. Her research dissertation is on the topic ‘Generations at workplace’. She is a Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society (BPS), a member of the Division of Occupational Psychology (DOP), and is a qualified Occupational Test User (OTU) – Ability and Personality. Her research interest areas include emotional intelligence, well-being, bullying, generations at the workplace (generations X and Y), work values, and conscientiousness with respect to job satisfaction.
Campos D, Cebolla A, Quero S, Bretón-López J, Botella C, Soler J, et al. Meditation and happiness: Mindfulness and self-compassion may mediate the meditation–happiness relationship. Pers Individ Dif [Internet]. 2016 Apr; 93:80–5. Available from: http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0191886915005450
Dement, W. C., & Vaughan, C. (1999). The promise of sleep: A pioneer in sleep medicine explores the vital connection between health, happiness, and a good night’s sleep. Dell Publishing Co
N Lathia, GM Sandstrom, C Mascolo, PJ Rentfrow: Happier people live more active lives: using smartphones to link happiness and physical activity. PLoS One, 12 (2017), p. e0160589