The Covid-19 pandemic has created uncertainty around the world. In order for us to continue to engage, work, educate, and be educated, we have all adopted virtual ways of doing things. In the field of education, the online medium is today’s reality. While students have been forced to transition to online classes as a fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, there is a team of teachers and educators working doubly hard to sustain the momentum, learn new technological skills, new mediums to teach and engage children from their homes, while they themselves are learning how to manage working from home. In the past couple of months, teachers have been expected to seamlessly adapt and manage multiple tasks.
A double burden
Technology is the buzzword for any student during the Covid era. But teachers have the added burden of understanding how to use technology in the right manner. They have to handle the challenge of children’s poor attention spans, low or irregular attendance, patchy internet and power connectivity, and highly demanding parents who both scrutinise and criticise the way teachers conduct their classes from home. Students have been known to taunt teachers who are still new to the tech format, while teachers are struggling to manage the needs of those students who don’t have internet access, along with their own household chores and expectations of family members.
In such a situation, it is absolutely critical for educators to have sound mental health in order to be in the best position to create a positive and healthy learning environment for their students. School managements must play a key role in supporting their teachers, especially at this time. Some of the ways they can help their teachers is through specialised resources such as workshops and support programmes aimed at training teachers how to minimise stress before it becomes overwhelming.
Moreover, increased awareness about common mental health issues can also improve outcomes.
Support groups can benefit teachers immensely by opening strong communication channels, through which teachers can share best practices and resources. This will enable them to gain insights into prioritising and organising themselves, and interact with their peer group about common concerns.
How teachers can cope with stress
Teachers and educators can follow certain best practices in their daily schedule to cope with anxiety and stress.
Control what you can and let go of the rest
While it is not possible to determine when this pandemic might come to an end, there are some things which can be managed. This includes making a schedule, prioritising things, being mindful of the kind of media you consume, trying to filter news and messages, and taking steps to build up your resilience. By focusing on what can be achieved, it will be possible to strike a balance and actively avoid situations that increase anxiety and stress.
Indulge in self care and be kind to yourself
Do not let your health take a back seat. Try to take out some time for yourself — daily exercise, healthy eating, meditation, and doing things you love. This will ensure that you do not get bogged down by anxiety and are able to maintain equilibrium. Use the breaks between classes to move around the house, or just do some basic stretching. A fit and healthy body forms the bedrock of mental wellness. As teachers, you are always talking to students about being compassionate and positive. This is the time to turn that lesson inward and focus on self-love. Understand that the entire world is in this together, and feeling anxious during this time is perfectly natural. Do not hesitate to reach out to a qualified mental health professional if you need support.
Set reasonable expectations and goals
Modes of learning and teaching methodologies have drastically changed due to online classes. But instead of getting overwhelmed by the change, set small and realistic goals for yourself and others, and avoid being berating yourself if these are not fulfilled at the end of the day.
Communicate your feelings
Talk to people who are close to you. Let your colleagues know how you feel, they may also be going through the same. By being transparent about how you feel, and by acknowledging and accounting for your feelings, you can come to terms with your anxiety.
Create a dedicated workspace
This can work well as a psychological trick in helping you to be productive. It can also allow you to disconnect from work when you are done for the day in a better way. Many of us tend to fall into the trap of extended working hours while we are working from home. A dedicated workspace will send out a clear message to not only others, but also your internal system about when it is time to stop working.
Teachers play a formative role in the development of students, and it is crucial for them to be in sound mental health. When they are overburdened and stretched, it can create a ripple effect. Their wellness during the pandemic and after the lockdown will require comprehensive action.
The author is the Chairperson of The Live Love Laugh Foundation