As selfless people pleasers, teachers don’t often put their needs first, and with so much focus on other aspects of education, administrators, and leadership also overlook educator well-being. However, with the rapidly rising number of educators looking to leave the profession, it has become glaringly obvious that educator mental health must be prioritized.
In this episode, Educator Mental Health, we linked up with Mandy Froehlich to explore obstacles teachers face when seeking help, possible solutions to better support them, and effective strategies for holistic self-care.
Here are the key ideas we took away from this episode:
- “In order to have a healthy classroom, you must have healthy teachers,” Froehlich explains. It’s imperative to recognize that conversations about mental health can no longer be an afterthought as they might’ve been in the past. She notes that when she worked as an elementary school teacher, she was instructed to evade conversations about mental health–such practices are unfair and can be extremely harmful to educators.
- Educators face difficulties such as personal and/or professional adversity, demoralization, burnout, harassment, and/or difficult student behavior, which can cause them to emotionally disengage from their roles. Shortly after, they begin making the transition out of education. Froehlich believes that an environment where teachers feel supported by their administration and the community at large can assist in mitigating the mass exodus of teachers.
- Superintendents play a significant role in educator well-being. Those that are quick to respond to the needs of their teachers enjoy better outcomes. As a consultant, Froehlich often assesses how easy it is for educators to access the resources they need such as therapy that’s covered by health insurance. She has observed that many institutions need to make resources affordable and easy to locate.
- Teachers can also help themselves by diving deeper into self-care which goes far beyond bubble baths and chocolates. Froehlich notes that self-care should encompass spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual needs. She believes it should provide a space to slow down and acknowledge life’s issues. Effective self-care should build us up so we can handle life’s challenges more easily.
Although educators take on a lot of responsibility, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge their humanity. In a people-centered role that requires them to give so much of themselves, they may suffer from burnout, especially those that have trouble setting and maintaining boundaries. Froehlich hopes to change this through her books and consulting work to help educators re-engage with their important work.