The Importance of Teacher Wellness

If you ask any dedicated teacher, they will be the first to tell you that their number one priority while on the job is always the safety and well-being of their students. It’s no question that teachers are constantly giving so much of themselves to their students. Though it’s easy to call this honorable and heroic, we need to ask ourselves an important question: is this healthy or sustainable? 

 

daisies in a stone vaseResearch says it isn’t. According to Learning Forward, teacher wellness has an impact not only on educators as individuals but also on the overall well-being of the young minds they care for. Teacher wellness has been related to consistency and steadiness in schools, teaching effectiveness, and student achievement. Unhealthy teachers can lead to anxious, unhealthy students. Whether we mean to or not, teachers often transmit their own state of mind in the classroom. This is why teacher wellness is absolutely necessary and imperative for everyone.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines wellness as  “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This means we can be free of viruses and infections and still not be healthy humans. How many of us carry our anxieties with us into the classroom? How many of us find the stress of teaching makes us tense and nervous around our students? Are we modeling “being healthy humans” to our students?

So many school leaders express concern about the mental and emotional health of students. One practical step they can take would be to start with the teachers. School leaders can have a greater impact on student wellness by ensuring the wellness of the faculty because, ultimately, faculty models and facilitates healthy practices daily for their students.

Wellness for teachers can be broken down into eight dimensions: emotional, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual, occupational, and financial. For schools to reach desirable outcomes, teachers should feel supported in all areas.  While all eight dimensions of wellness are crucial for healthy, happy, effective teachers, emotional wellness is particularly important because it has a direct impact on students throughout each school day.

A recent study from 2018 concluded that it is important for educators to truly learn mindfulness authentically in order for them to more effectively demonstrate mindfulness to their students. Obviously, the teachers also benefit from such practices.  Teachers who become mindful role models and believe in the practice are likely to have a significant impact on students, especially those who show resistance at first. Cultivating mindfulness with children is enhanced by the creation of a mindful school culture, which starts with the creation of a mindful faculty and staff to facilitate this type of culture.

stacked rocksSome administrators have already recognized the benefits of practicing mindfulness and are already modeling it for teachers and students. When I was fulfilling a leave replacement at the junior high school I attended as a preteen, the principal would devote a short period of time to a “mindfulness moment” at the end of morning announcements. At first, students didn’t take it seriously. They cracked jokes, attempted to hold in bursts of laughter, and poked fun at their friends who seemed to really be trying to get into it. What else would you expect from seventh and eighth graders?! I did notice that as time went on and the unfamiliarity of it faded away, many students and staff (myself included) found it to be relaxing and helpful. Modeling mindfulness and healthy emotional habits start at the top. This principal was paving the way to a more healthy staff and student body. 

 

As I reflect on my own teaching experience, I am certain that if my school-building leadership placed a larger emphasis on teacher wellness, I wouldn’t have left. After only 4 years in the field, I became burned out with nothing left to give. The stress not only affected my emotional health, but also my physical health, so much so that I had to make the very difficult decision to leave teaching. This is why I am a passionate advocate for increasing awareness around teacher wellness. It’s crucial for teacher wellness to become a priority, now more than ever. 

 

This starts with you, dear teacher. Advocate for yourselves, share these articles with your administrators. And give yourself permission to take a minute to breathe, every single day.


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1 Comment

  1. […] living. Haul out your giant planners or your digital apps and carve out space for your own health. We’ve already discussed how important wellness is for teachers and students. Make self-care part of your planning as you write weekly lesson plans because it’s absolutely a […]

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