July 14, 2021

How teachers and administrators can address faculty fatigue

The last year and a half has been hard on teachers – we know; probably the understatement of the decade. 24% of teachers recently reported they were likely to leave the teaching profession by the end of the year, up significantly from the pre-pandemic attrition rate of 8%. Educators have been pushed and pulled in every direction, juggling a complete overhaul of classroom management while simultaneously adapting curriculum to fit a new platform and the needs of students they’ve never met in-person. Hedi Crumrine, a high school English teacher in New Hampshire described the experience in an interview with NPR; “It feels like we’re building the plane while we’re flying it.”

The strain and demand of this unprecedented year begs the question; how can teachers support the mental and emotional health of their students when their own mental and emotional health is suffering? 

Solutions to Faculty Fatigue

There are many approaches, strategies, and theories for how to best support teachers, but research shows that it’s really quite simple.  The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley found that “teachers who work in a school with an administrator with more developed emotion skills tend to experience fewer negative emotions and more positive emotions. These teachers also are likely to have better-quality relationships with their students.” Their research also found that teachers with more developed “emotion skills” are proven to report less burnout and greater job satisfaction. So, what are these emotion skills and how can we develop them?

As defined by the Harvard Division of Continuing Education, the four main components of Emotional Intelligence (EI) are:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Social awareness
  • Social skills

These skills may look familiar – CASEL Competencies, anyone? The importance of strengthening self-awareness, cultivating mindful social skills, and regulating emotions doesn’t just apply to students. In fact, studies have found that adults in leadership positions have a greater tendency to lose touch with their self-awareness and that loss only increases as they move up in the ranks. With self-awareness as the foundation of emotional intelligence, it’s key that we start there. Not feeling particularly aware of how self-aware you are? Try taking one of these quizzes to help.  

Action Steps Toward Emotional Intelligence 

1. Self-Awareness and Regulation through Mindfulness: When fostering self-awareness and self-regulation, many beneficial practices involve mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness and meditation are often confused or used interchangeably. There is some overlap between the two, but there are key, notable differences. Rather than trying to clear your mind and refocus your energy, mindfulness is simply taking time with yourself to draw your attention to the current moment, your thoughts, and your feelings without judgment or criticism. While engaging in mindful moments, you can build your EI by simply recognizing your emotions and naming them. This practice creates space for yourself to pause, consider (and maybe reconsider) your response, and ultimately temper your reactivity.

 2. Applying Mindfulness in Schools: Incorporating mindfulness into your daily life has been proven to reduce stress, improve working memory, increase relationship satisfaction, develop self-awareness, and much more. There are a plethora of mindfulness techniques out there, and most can be done by yourself, with students, or with the entire staff at your school. Taking 5-10 minutes at the beginning or end of a staff meeting or class period to engage in these mindful moments can nurture an uplifting culture at your school and communicate the importance of self-care. 

3. Social Skills Matter Too: Another action you can take to bolster your EI are to seek out feedback from colleagues, supervisors, family, and friends. Getting a gauge from the people around you on how they perceive your conflict-resolution skills, empathy, and response to difficult situations can provide valuable insight and opportunities to reflect on your self-perception.

4. Social Awareness & Literature: Similar to real-life relationships, fictional characters can also help us develop emotional intelligence. For example, reading literature with complex characters opens a window with a unique view of a variety of thoughts, motivations, actions, and feelings, helping you enhance your social awareness. 

As teachers and administrators look ahead to Fall 2021, a bit of self reflection can go a long way. We might consider that putting our own oxygen mask on first is what will enable us to best support and serve those around us.

For more information, check out these resources:

About The Social Institute

The Social Institute partners with schools nationwide to empower students, families, and educators to positively navigate social-emotional health, social media, and technology. Schools access our student-respected, turnkey curriculum through WinAtSocial.com, an interactive, gamified learning platform. With solutions for students, parents, and educators, we offer a systemic and comprehensive SEL program through a unique and positive approach. We are proud to serve public and independent partners such as Ravenscroft School, Woodward Academy, Oldfields School, All Saints Episcopal School, Lake Forest School District, Boston Public Schools, and more. For more information on how to empower your students to make high-character decisions online and off, please contact us.