Educators knew this school year would be a challenge after two years interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with students, parents, and community members frustrated by disruptions to academic routines, teachers have been on the receiving end of angst, even as they have struggled to maintain their own lives.
“Teachers anticipated that anxiety and anger would manifest itself in many ways, but didn’t realize how much they would bear the brunt of it this year,” said Rosecrance Chicagoland Director Matthew Quinn. “Educators talk about being ‘May tired’ sometimes, and they were saying that already in September.”
Teachers became de facto therapists this year, helping students regain academic progress and develop social and emotional learning skills that lapsed during time away. In addition, school staff faced threats and actual instances of violence, ranging from shootings to destructive social media trends. These all have taken away from educators’ time need for self and family care.
To help school staff navigate the rest of the unsettling year, community members and educators are encouraged to rethink expectations. While academics are important, growth and resiliency in other areas of development may be more important. Remembering that all youth are going through the same struggles should also put people at ease.
Quinn also reminds educators to recognize their own limits. If excelling as a teacher through these times comes at the cost of important relationships, it may be time to ask for help. Developing a supportive circle is an important part of this. The network could be peers, trusted friends, or even a behavioral health professional.
Throughout the day, find a few minutes to refocus. Grounding and emotional regulation techniques are proven ways to give the mind a break from stress, even if it’s only a couple minutes between classes.
Educators who are struggling to cope with the stress also can seek counseling. Structured individual or group therapy is a proven option that introduces participants to practical coping skills. Rosecrance offers outpatient groups that can strengthen these abilities and help build a supportive community.
Last, remember resilience. Lessons and skills learned through the pandemic will be valuable the future when other life challenges occur.