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5 ways for teachers to keep the mind healthy and cope with change

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Change is stressful, even when it’s positive. So, in the face of a global pandemic, it’s understandable that teachers might be struggling emotionally. Especially when COVID-19 could profoundly change education forever. Accordingly, while things like results and pupil needs remain important, teachers must also protect their own wellbeing.

But while educators are making every effort to remain positive — and understand the need to do so in front of pupils — achieving and maintaining an upbeat state of mind can be difficult. Here are five ways teachers can stay optimistic in the face of change, and continue to remain positive once we come out the other side.

Acknowledge that things are difficult

When it is unexpected, a sudden disruption to our normal routine is hard to adjust to. While ongoing change may be inevitable, coping with it can sometimes be tricky.

Mindfulness isn’t about pretending everything is okay when it isn’t (escape coping). In fact, according to Professor Hugh C. H. Koch, being able to acknowledge and share our emotions is useful when it comes to dealing with extreme change. The trick is to find a way to manage these feelings, rather than overthinking them. Talking with colleagues can help teachers to deal with these feelings in a more collaborative and interconnected way.

Find time to breathe

Before the pandemic, 8 out of 10 teachers believed that workload was contributing to high levels of stress in schools. But even without the additional pressure now faced by teachers, this wider issue could lead to burnout.

Today, it’s more important than ever that teachers find time to look after their mental wellbeing. One of the easiest ways to do this is just to breathe.

Slowing down their breathing helps teachers to decompress the stress that is building in their bodies. So, when minds are chaotic, breathing exercises can focus thoughts and regulate anxiety. Just having a short walk around the school, or even enjoying a quick cup of coffee can also help teachers to catch their breath and reset their energy levels in the short term.

What do you think needs to be done to help improve teacher wellbeing now, and throughout the school year? Tell us in this year’s The State of Technology in Education survey.

Visualise what is needed to make things better

Teachers can always take positive steps to improve their own set of circumstances. Through such ‘control coping’, teachers take a positive and proactive approach to manage their feelings and make the best of things.

To do this, teachers should think about any active steps they can take, discuss these with colleagues and friends, and work collaboratively with others to address the practical details and timescales. Teachers could also create a personal mission statement outlining the things they need to make their situations better. Then they can set realistic goals and create action plans to put these into practice.

By talking about what can be done — and taking steps to make this happen — teachers will not only empower themselves, but also their schools.

Recognise that this will be over

Things are undoubtedly hard right now, and a return to the old way of doing things will be slow. Schools will never stop evolving, but change has been accelerated. Nevertheless, it’s essential to acknowledge that this virus-period will be over.

By imagining what the world will look like when it is, teachers can ensure that the pandemic doesn’t define them. And, by talking about how we will all emerge from this situation, educators can start to forward-plan.

What could and should the future of education look like? For example, now schools are more confident using Zoom and Microsoft Teams, will remote teaching become part of a new way of doing things? And, if so, what other technology will be needed to facilitate this long-term?

What do you think the new normal in education technology will look like? Tell us in this year’s The State of Technology in Education survey.

Share the wellbeing journey with pupils

Being gentle and generous with themselves can help educators to stay positive during this period of uncertainty.

Teachers are not going through this alone – they know that their pupils are also finding life stressful. By applying some of these mindfulness techniques in the classroom, teachers can look after their mental health, and boost the wellbeing of their students.

For example, the Mental Health Foundation has created resources to help teachers start conversations about their experiences. Mark Kerr, a former Primary Head from the North East of England, also believes that teachers and pupils can do ‘strong sitting’ exercises together. This can take less than a minute or be done for longer periods. ‘Drop Everything and Read’ sessions also allow teachers to ease off the gas when they need it most.

How are you coping with change? Do you have any tips on how to improve the wellbeing of teachers?

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The State of Technology in Education Report 2019/20

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