School Challenge: Addressing Educational Professionals’ Stress and Anxiety During the Coronavirus Crisis
What Is the Challenge?
Educators across the globe face so many unknowns that leave many feeling overwhelmed, fearful, and emotionally fragile. Perhaps also restless, helpless, disconnected from students and communities—with more time to sit with their emotions.
Amidst this uncertainty, teachers can draw on multiple tools that help them to pause, be with, and redirect those emotions. Researchers remind us that our stress-management skills ultimately help our students (and those around us) stay calmer.
With so much uncertainty, how can educators learn to navigate difficult emotions so that they can approach students, families, and communities with a greater sense of peace, purpose, and compassion?
Why Is It Important?
Teachers’ toxic stress can influence students’ stress levels, but working together, students and teachers can create healing environments.
- Researchers found that students’ cortisol levels (indicating stress) were higher in classrooms where teachers experienced more burnout, or feelings of emotional exhaustion.
- Another study suggests that some students demonstrated fewer gains in executive functions when their teachers reported high levels of stress.
- Stress may be contagious, but a sense of peace and groundedness can be contagious, too. Researcher Bessel van der Kolk claims that a brain-disease model doesn’t acknowledge 1) our capacity to heal one another; 2) our ability to use language to share our experiences and find meaning; 3) our ability to regulate our own bodies through breath, movement, and touch; and 4) our drive to change social conditions and create environments where both children and adults can thrive. Resilience is a dynamic process that reflects positive adaptation and even growth in the face of stress and trauma.
Our ability to heal from trauma is crucial in light of our work with the students who need us. With this in mind we’ve created a general list of evidence-based approaches for fostering educator resilience and a practice collection for stress-management.