As teachers, many times the outside influences in our lives certainly have an effect on our psyche and how we speak to ourselves. However, sometimes it’s our inner voices that have a direct effect on our reactions and how we move about our journey. This could be due to the way that we were raised or self-talk that we have just learned over the years. There are also things that happen in our personal lives that change our mindset. Whatever the case, often we are our own worst enemy and this is something that we need to collectively work on because plainly stated when it comes to our teacher mental health, we have to.
We need to constantly tell ourselves that one cannot control how other people act or react to a situation, but can only control how personal actions or reactions to a situation.
Teaching isn’t easy and we certainly know in the last few years the landscape of what it means to be an educator has changed dramatically. We aren’t teaching the same students that educators were dealing with 30, 20, even 10 years ago. We went from having the role of an educator to now a plethora of other helpers to try to meet the needs of each and every student in our classroom. More and more is expected of us, but at no time was asking what WE needed to be able to accomplish all of those things. The mental health of teacher is too often ignored.
I think most are just attested to the fact that we do, in fact, want to do what we can to help every single one of our students achieve to their greatest abilities, but we can’t be getting dumped on more and more and more without taking a step back to figure out how we could do all of those things in an effective way. There are a lot of naysayers out there saying things like there is simply not enough hours in the day or “I just don’t have the ability to do all of these things”. While there is some truth in that, that’s the new normal for education. We are caregivers, social workers, parents, life coaches, and anything in-between ALONG with those responsibilities that include teaching our children knowledge. This isn’t going to change anytime soon. We can wait for adequate teacher mental health training, or we can start tomorrow with little tweaks WE can make in the classroom to help keep our psyche on the right path.
There are certain things we can do for teacher self-care, but as I said before, we need to change how we react and interact with these situations in our schools. As teachers, we need to be organized…and I’m not talking about having your copies done a day ahead of time. We need to know our students on an individual level to figure out what is going to make him or her tick, what is going to set them off, and what will make sure that they achieve at the greatest possible level. That level is not going to be the same for every single student, but we need to make sure that we’re lifting up our struggling students as well as challenging our more advanced ones. This is not easy to do by any means, but it’s the world that we live in and if we can find a way to balance this along with all of our other responsibilities as teachers (being coaches, family members, and everything else), think about how much less stressed, more productive, and more satisfied we will all be…and how improved your teacher mental health will be.
The Best Change for MY teacher mental health
The greatest change I ever made in the classroom to help alleviate some of the stress was by adopting the student-centered model. As you know, Student-Centered World teaches teachers how to successfully execute that model in the classroom. When I was able to walk into a room and everything was prepared for my students, I was able to literally speak to every single one of them in a meaningful way during class while I knew every other student was doing what they needed to do to achieve their highest level. This created such a sense of accomplishment and a relaxed feeling on my part in the classroom. Is every single class perfect? No, of course not. Are there discipline issues that pop-up? Of course, there are…we’re teaching kids, it’s not going to be perfect…but knowing that most of the time it would be and that these interruptions were the exception and not the norm created an entirely different vibe in my room. Even my students would talk about how laid-back my classroom always felt and that they could do better there.
Having this run effectively takes a little extra preparation out of class, but when you’re able to enjoy your craft with your students, it changes everything. No longer will you enter class flustered, wondering if your lecture is going to be received well or in a way that your students understand. No longer do you have that unfortunate surprising moment after an assessment when many students didn’t do well because, of course, nobody had any questions when you asked. By making your classroom learner-centered, you will be able to find out one-on-one what students were struggling with and will be able to adapt your class every single day for what they need more of (and in some cases less of).
We know that teaching is a balance between being prepared and also winging it when the tide changes suddenly. Student-centered learning naturally does that and it also naturally differentiates for every single student in your room. What other method of instruction do you know that does that?
You’ve heard from your administrators before that they want to see more in the hands of the students in your classroom, but that itself becomes extremely stressful when you’re not sure how to do that. You may think that you understand student-led learning, but I know for a fact when I first started I didn’t. My boss told me to create a student-centered learning environment, but I didn’t know what that meant and there was nothing out there that actually explain how to do it…but I saw the merit in it when I saw how engaged my students became when I gave a little bit of choice and what their activities were going to be, so I stuck with it. Personally, it took me five years to figure it out, but by the time I really nailed down a system, I had students who constantly we’re coming back into my class tell me how they had gotten more out of my class than any other class. They would come to me and tell me after they had moved on that they missed my class and that I need to train their new teacher on my method of instruction because it was so amazing for them. Even students who resisted at first because they were very traditional and expected lecture came around once they bought in and saw their classmates buy into it.
This takes away the stress of teaching
As I said, not every day is rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes I would come up with an activity for the kids to pick from and they didn’t like it. so it didn’t go so well. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you’ve tried things before that you didn’t like either. Our students are human too, and we need to remember that. It’s not a failure because you tried something and it didn’t work. It just didn’t work. You just have to find something different. Education is a trickle-down effect: how you’re treated by your superior is a direct correlation to how you perform and then treat others. If your students feel like they’re respected in your classroom and are given some autonomy, watch how your classroom management issues start to disappear. Change is scary, especially if you’ve been teaching the same way for a long time. One of the biggest backlashes I get from people about why they don’t want to switch to a student-centered classroom is because, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. While I don’t disagree with that, are you sure it’s not broken? Is every single student in your class achieving at their absolute peak level for them? Are they coming to school, excited to be there, and trying their very best (and taking risks in their learning because of it)? It truly only takes a change of mindset to make tweaks to your classroom that make all the difference in the world.