5 Ways Administrators Can Support Teacher Well-Being
With teachers being asked to take on more responsibilities than they’ve ever handled before — especially during remote and hybrid learning — adult social and emotional learning and self-care have never been so important. As school principals and assistant principals, we believe administrators need to celebrate teachers’ successes, catch them when they fall and usher them through this time of great uncertainty.
It starts with self-awareness, or knowing when teachers should be focusing on the positive and filling themselves back up versus always helping to fill up everyone else’s bucket. Selfless and empathetic by nature, teachers need more support than ever in this goal — and who better to provide it than the administrators they work and interact with on a daily basis?
Many schools and districts are implementing social and emotional learning curriculums for students, but they don’t always understand their staff’s own SEL needs. Administrators can turn this tide and begin using SEL to support teacher well-being.
5 ways to help with staff SEL
Gauge where teachers are. With the 7 Mindsets SEL curriculum as our cornerstone, we’ve developed formalized structures that include beginning-of-the-year teacher surveys. The surveys help us gauge the levels of trust within our organizational structure, the relationships among the different stakeholders, and teachers’ perceptions of their own capabilities — all areas that affect our teachers’ social and emotional health. We look at that data, study it as a district team and then put interventions in place to address areas where those perceptions are a little lower than we’d like. At the end of the year, teachers retake the survey. This helps us understand whether the interventions were successful and how to plan out the next steps.
Provide safe talk spaces. It’s important to have intentional talk spaces where teachers can express themselves without fear of being judged. For example, we create an agenda item for faculty/professional learning community meetings to check in with teachers to see how they’re doing and how they’re coping. And we give space for teachers to talk about how things are affecting them not only professionally but also personally, both of which can have a substantial impact on their social and emotional health.
Lead with your eyes wide open. As administrators, one of the most important things we do is just talk to our teachers. We get to know them so well that when their smiles aren’t as bright as usual, we can ask, “Hey, what’s going on? How can I help you? Do you need a minute? Let me cover your class for a second while you just get some fresh air.” Or we’ll do a morning walk just to do a temperature check. The goal is to make sure everyone made it to work OK and that they’re in good spirits and ready to tackle the day.
Set some boundaries. At the beginning of the last school year, we knew that we needed to empower teachers to set boundaries when it came time to how long they were working each day and how much work they were taking home. To be their best selves as we transition back to campus for our students and for one another, teachers need to take care of themselves and their families at home. If they aren’t doing that, we aren’t going to get the best from our teachers or staff members on campus.
Provide professional development on self-care. When school started last year, we held a professional development session on adult self-care and recognizing when this needs to happen. We hope to continue this type of professional learning in the years to come. We’re all in the same boat; we’re all trying to get through this together. We want teachers to know that it’s OK to feel the way they do, so we provided some coping mechanisms to use when those feelings or frustrations arise.
Administrators should practice self-care too
As administrators, it’s very easy to fall into the cycle of constantly supporting and helping, so we schedule certain times throughout the week and protect those times. We communicate those times to staff members so they don’t feel ignored then, and we hopefully are modeling a self-care routine they’ll replicate. It’s all about setting aside time to unplug from everything and then protecting those times.
Candice Ross is the principal at Chilton Elementary School in Chilton Independent School District in Texas. Monica Saldivar is the assistant principal at Bluebonnet Elementary School in Lockhart Independent School District in Texas. Christy Tolbert is the assistant principal at Kings Manor Elementary School in New Caney Independent School District in Texas. All three use the 7 Mindsets SEL curriculum.