Teacher Mental Health & Energy
Efficiency, fidelity, and capacity are important words at Creatively Focused right now. These words are at the center of the mission to keep special education teachers in the industry and beating teacher burnout. Research into special education shows teachers feel isolated, lack resources, and generally do not feel valued. Contrary to belief the top reasons are not about money or benefits. I think it comes from a lack of energy.
Education professionals tasked with teaching are spending nearly all their energy on everything but teaching. Energy on adherence to health, safety, compliance and bracing for the unwanted change sure to come. Living in a constant state of reaction, takes energy. Reacting to constant change and political attacks on learning, takes energy. One can only keep up that pace so long before the energy to even care what color the grass on the other side is, is lost, it just must be better.
Putting oneself in a proactive state is one of the most energy efficient thing humans can do. Our thinking is clearer, and movement is predictive. This creates efficiencies in and around our daily approach to our lives, and our work. Even the most chaotic brains (mine) require and crave routine and structure. It keeps our brains thinking about the content, not the schedule.
This is the part where I tell you all about the solution and the “fix”. Well, it isn’t that easy. It takes energy to adjust. It takes energy to change the culture of a school from “We can weather this storm” to “What storm, we got this!” It takes energy and leadership to chart a course for special educators with a network of people, fidelity of resources, and systems that keep teachers in a proactive mind and not reactive. It takes leaders willing to change the way they approach leadership.
Addressing the mental health (energy) of teachers and rethinking how we structure, and shape their day is paramount in the battle against burnout. The energy teachers need to support students isn’t about adding more humans to the system, it is about addressing the system. Single sources of truth, clear due process timelines, and a network of people to lean on who share the same type of day can immediately put energy back where you need it.
School leadership shifting their leadership approach to retain teachers is a topic we all know needs to happen, but it takes courage and support (and energy!). Putting projects together to address real, systemic, fundamental change in collaboration with school leadership is why I love my job. I have stories to tell and thoughts in my head. Join me in the discussion on putting ideas into practice to support our special education teachers. See you soon.
By Daryl Vavrichek