How has Teacher Wellness and Satisfaction Been Impacted by the Pandemic?
The impact of the pandemic has taken a toll on educators. Since the onset of the COVID pandemic, teachers have been tasked with learning extensive technology skills to transition students from face-to-face to online learning within a matter of weeks as campuses begin to close across the county.
Additionally, many teachers have battled COVID over the last two years, and some have lost family members along the way and still are expected to show up and support students daily with instruction. Many teachers have still not healed from the trauma they experienced because of the pandemic and returned to schools with the increasing demands of teaching with little or no social-emotional support.
Teachers have expressed feeling overwhelmed, underappreciated, and not supported and are voicing their opinions at higher levels than they ever have before. The pandemic has significantly affected the mental health and wellness of educators (Jalongo, 2021). Due to the impact of the pandemic and higher demands in education, school districts are struggling with the leaving of many teachers.
Many educators no longer find joy in teaching. Some of them also are not bothered by the thought of possibly losing their state licenses or credentials to teach when they decide to resign from their teaching positions in the middle of a school year. Teachers cite student discipline, standardized assessments, excessive professional development, extensive lesson planning, the lack of support from administrators, and trauma they have experienced from the pandemic as reasons for resigning from education.
According to Flores & Swennen (2020), the lasting effects of COVID on our educators will be unknown for years to come. This is why teacher health and wellness is vital in how to find joy in teaching again.
Why is Teacher Wellness Important?
Teachers need clear concrete expectations for their current role to better prioritize their well-being. Self-care is not selfish, and without self-preservation, many educators are experiencing burnout before they can plan for or think about retirement. Teaching is a demanding job, though rewarding, and can take a mental and physical toll on educators over the years, but lately it seems that burnout is happening even more frequently.
Without having adequate time to rest, eat a well-balanced diet, and get the appropriate amount of exercise, teachers are subject to illnesses and depression. Many school districts offer free mental health and wellness support services to educators to address their social-emotional needs. If the goal is to educate children and prepare them for the future, educators must take care of themselves now and leaders must ensure systems are established to intentionally take care of teachers.
Teachers must also feel empowered to take care of themselves without feeling that they will be ridiculed or reprimanded for needing extra time off. Without adequate and highly qualified teaching staff, our society will suffer the ill effects for many generations. It is in the best interest of educational leaders to promote teacher wellness and provide opportunities for teachers to identify their needs and develop action plans for teachers to survive current demanding times in education.
Ways to Find Joy in Teaching Again
Educators choose teaching careers to make a difference. Many teachers have personal testimonies of their childhood and want to help other students prepare for a better future. Teachers must never lose sight of their “why” and the experiences that pushed them to the field of education to become a teacher.
Simon Sinek (2009) refers to the importance of remembering one’s “why” in many of his teachings and literature. When leaders provide a safe space for teachers to share their “why”, develop action plans around their passion, and empower them, teachers will begin to reignite a fire for their purpose. Another way to find joy in teaching again is to remember that educators prepare the next great thinkers, doers, and risk-takers. Educators must never forget the student sitting in their class today could be their heart surgeon tomorrow.
Finally, finding joy comes from the inner core of educators by appreciating that teaching is a lifelong journey and a calling to serve the students today in effort to impact the greater community. Being a servant leader is the best way to perceive the current state of education. Teachers must know that their service to children is necessary and instrumental to shaping our society for the future.
The power of education and advancement of our students lies collectively within every educator that chooses to stay in the teaching profession. School districts must be intentional about supporting teachers to ensure the longevity of all educators and sustainability for the field of education.
Flores, M. A., & Swennen, A. (2020). The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on teacher education. European Journal of Teacher Education, 43(4), 453-456.
Jalongo, M. R. (2021). The effects of COVID-19 on early childhood education and care: Research and resources for children, families, teachers, and teacher educators. Early Childhood Education Journal, 49(5), 763-774.
Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. Penguin.