In the global pandemic, schooling has entered uncharted territory. During this time, it is important that teachers look after themselves. Here, academics Rebecca Collie and Andrew Martin share two evidence-backed strategies that can help support teachers’ wellbeing.
Teachers’ wellbeing is not only a vital outcome in itself, it is a means to other vital outcomes, such as students’ learning and wellbeing.
In our research among teachers, we have found that those who experience more positive relationships with students and colleagues tend to report greater wellbeing at work and in broader life (Collie et al., 2016). Efforts to develop and maintain strong social connections are therefore crucial, particularly in times where we are likely to experience less social interaction than usual.
Given the changes required to slow the spread of COVID-19, it is important that we engage in physical distancing, while maintaining social connectedness. This might involve meetings and chats with colleagues or students using online platforms like Zoom or Skype, or via online learning management systems; phone calls with family; or playing a game online with friends.
Tried and true strategies for building social support with colleagues are likely to still be helpful. For example, help seeking from colleagues, peers, and mentors has been shown to be a helpful strategy for teachers to navigate work challenges (Castro et al., 2010).
COVID-19 can be definitely categorised as a new, changing, and uncertain situation for all. It is safe to say that adaptability is needed even more now than ever. For teachers this may involve, for example:
- Adjusting thinking and attitudes about how students learn online and how technology can be harnessed in teaching like never before;
- Adjusting behaviours by seeking out people to support any technical needs for remote teaching; and,
- Adjusting emotions by reining in possible anxiety or frustration as new technologies are navigated and as different students engage with remote learning in different ways.
Our research has shown that teachers who are more adaptable report greater wellbeing at work. Based on work around professional growth (Clarke & Hollingsworth, 2002), we recently proposed some actions that might help teachers to boost their adaptability by:
- Thinking of a recent situation that required adaptability (e.g., adjusting an assessment for online marking);
- Reflecting on how you adjusted your thinking, behaviour, or emotions to deal with the situation and whether you could do this differently in future (e.g., what different resources could I use next time? Where else could I go for support with this?); and,
- Experimenting with these ideas when a similar situation arises. (Collie & Martin, 2016).
References: Castro, A. J., Kelly, J., & Shih, M. (2010). Resilience strategies for new teachers in high-needs areas. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26(3), 622-629.
Clarke, D., & Hollingsworth, H. (2002). Elaborating a model of teacher professional growth. Teaching and teacher education, 18(8), 947-967.
Collie, R. J., & Martin, A. J. (2016). Adaptability: An important capacity for effective teachers. Educational Practice and Theory, 38(1), 27-39.
This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Teacher magazine and has been reproduced with the permission of the Australian Council for Educational Research. To read the full article and to read more articles like this visit www.teachermagazine.com.au.