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Educator Wellness: How Do We Move Beyond Self-Care

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

In collaboration with Lisa Stein, Education Consultant, Student Services, Prevention and Wellness Team.

I just need to get to June and then I can rest.
I feel this way every year and something has to change.
I’m not sure how much longer I can do this.

Does this feel familiar to you?

For educators, the end of May can feel like a sprint to the finish line. This makes sense; the school year coming to a close, graduations, field trips, getting in the last bits of learning before kids head home for the summer.

But ideally, the end of the school year shouldn’t feel like you don’t know how you can continue.

Educational leaders must move beyond the popular mantra of self-care. In order to create true wellness in our educational systems, we must create staff culture, environments, and systems that center wellness.

The DPI can help support this work through our Compassion Resilience Toolkit and related facilitator training. Recently, educators, student services professionals, and school leaders came together to focus on:

  • fostering positive environments for educators
  • building staff resilience
  • increasing organizational wellness.

Read on for some effective and sustainable approaches that support educator well-being and positive mental health.

Educators in a school community should be able to talk with colleagues free of stigma. Acknowledging and addressing needs together helps everyone feel heard and supported.

The human condition depends deeply on connection. Asking for help and advocating for our own needs allows others to share similar experiences so we don’t feel alone. Knowing and sharing the core values that brought you to the field can go a long way in promoting support between colleagues.

We can hold a mirror to each other’s experiences.

Very often the most difficult things we do as educators can be the most meaningful. The stories that challenge us can also be the heart-work that brought us into the field in the first place.

One educator described how coming together, slowing down, and stating wellness as a priority lessens her and her colleagues’ day to day stress.

Educators need to hear from leaders that staff wellness is important and that transforming workplace culture to support well-being is a priority.

Mental health is a team sport and when leaders prioritize staff wellness, everyone wins. Author and Educator Alex Shevrin Venet frames teacher wellness as an equity issue. Teacher burnout lowers student motivation and worsens student stress. In order to create a culture of safety and learning for learners, staff must be supported.

In her book, Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education, Shevrin Venet says, “Leaders can change school culture by modeling the unconditional care and equity-centered practice that you hope your teachers will use with their students.”

We know it’s hard, but setting boundaries and sticking to these boundaries can help you feel more empowered and effective.

One participant shared how difficult it was to make the decision to leave work at work – even for one evening. She explained that her mindset has always been to look for opportunities at home to get work tasks “caught up.” This feeling of “always on” can be a driver of compassion fatigue and is culturally present in many settings. What the educator found was that when she made a decision to set this boundary, it made her feel more refreshed and able to function compassionately the next day.

When we focus on the systemic factors that negatively impact our resilience and our work, we are better able to make decisions that benefit staff wellness.

Before you even do a thing, we want you to know that you are not alone. We at the DPI Division of Student Support, Prevention, and Wellness (SSPW) are here with resources and support for you. We have developed strategies to improve educational workplace systems and culture to support your wellness. We encourage you to advocate for wellness as a top priority for you and for your colleagues.

Find Out More!