Teachers are amazing people. In no other career field will you find such dedicated, selfless, highly educated people working super extended hours solely for the relatively thankless benefit to those we value most.
Educators work an average of 50 hours a week, including 12 non-paid hours related to school activities, according to the National Education Association (NEA).
During a regular school year, all teachers experience a variety of emotions (both high and low), stress, burnout and sickness but, day after day, they keep going. Teachers are the lifeblood of this nation.
So, how do we keep them mentally, emotionally and physically healthy? Below are 10 ways to keep those pillars of our community moving in the right direction month after month. Some are just for administrators, some are ideas for the PTO, and some any parent or student can participate in as well in the coming school year.
1. Feed them.
There’s an old saying, “If you don’t feed the teachers, they will eat the students.” The namesake of this website is based on the length of time most teachers get for a lunch break. Bring snacks to the teachers lounge and announce it on the intercom. Ask different grade levels to provide the breakfast for the staff during meetings. Stash granola bars or fruit, anonymously, in their mailboxes. An army runs on its stomach. Teachers are no different.
2. Listen to them and acknowledge their words.
In a schoolhouse, the teacher’s job is where the rubber meets the road. If a teacher has an idea, concern or complaint, it’s worth a dedicated listen. Good teachers are not complainers. They want what’s best for their students. If you do too, you will listen.
Whole schools have been shut down during flu season due to rampant spreading of germs. Ensure your custodial staff is cleaning all surfaces where these bugs spread. Also ensure the restrooms, doorknobs, handrails and the cafeteria are being cleaned well too.
4. Protect your teachers against germs and bacteria.
Have the PTO raise money for prevention kits for the teachers. These kits can include hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, drinking water, immune boosting elixirs and tissues. You can get as creative as you would like. These kits show them you care about their health.
5. Provide valuable, requested professional development.
After analyzing school achievement data with your teachers, provide a survey to them and have them choose which type of professional development would best serve the students. This PD can be provided by in-house experts, district trainers or an outside hire. This provides all teachers with a voice in steering the school.
6. Start an exercise group.
Motivate your staff to get moving by beginning an exercise group with goals everyone can reach. Friendly competitions can be held with final winners being recognized with small prizes. This practice gives your teachers an opportunity to build bonds with others and it can really boost morale.
7. Initiate a pre-planning, team-building activity.
Plan a short hike and a picnic. Hire guides for an outdoor adventure. Go zip-lining. Have a cookout with a horseshoe and corn hole competition. Any activity where the team can reunite outdoors and get motivated for the coming year is a successful outing.
8. Celebrate with them.
Celebrate births, birthdays (don’t forget the summer birthdays), work anniversaries, weddings, graduations and other milestones in the lives of your staff. You never know who may need the acknowledgment or pick-me-up.
9. Give them frequent feedback and encouragement.
We all appreciate a pat on the back. Teachers also appreciate valuable feedback on their teaching practices or valuable ideas for lessons and activities. Your experience and thoughtful communication can keep them motivated and fresh. Nothing leads to burnout faster than working in isolation.
10. Say thank you.
No two words are more important to express. Give them thanks for their gargantuan effort. Thank them for their energy. Thank them for coming to school when you knew they were worn out. Thank them for wiping away a child’s tear. Thank them for praising and lifting up that one child who has had a bad day. Thank them for changing lives daily.
There are many more ways to keep teachers mentally, emotionally and physically healthy. I look forward to reading your comments and learning more from you.