How to Take Care of Your Mental Health Teaching through COVID

Amanda Martin
Amanda Martin
Elementary school music teacher; M.A.Ed. In Curriculum and Instruction
A tired teacher sits at his desk, relaxing with his eyes closed and hands behind his head.

How has COVID Impacted Teacher Mental Health? How has This Impacted the Classroom?

With the start of the pandemic in the United States in 2020, teachers had to quickly adapt to new, and some unknown, teaching methods. In most cases, this became delivering instruction virtually through various platforms not previously used in the classroom. To some this may sound like an easy task, but this was one of the biggest undertakings for educators in the history of education.

Virtual instruction presents many challenges for classroom teaching. Teachers use a vast array of activities and materials to differentiate teaching concepts rather than the more traditional note and lecture style of teaching from the past. Unless prepared beforehand and sent home, students do not have access to those tangible materials or manipulatives to enhance instruction when learning remotely; therefore, the introduction or continuation of concept development virtually creates an entirely new challenge that most teachers had never encountered before the pandemic.

Teachers had to develop materials that could be sent home or develop a brand-new means of presenting content that created meaningful learning experiences while students learned from home. Because of this, teachers’ mental health was directly impacted as there was an immense amount of pressure to ensure that students continued to learn despite the challenges of the pandemic.

Additionally, the pandemic in and of itself brought stressors to the entire nation. Worries about contracting the illness, spreading it to immunocompromised loved ones, and so on were on many people’s minds. Teachers felt this added stress as decisions were made to move from virtual instruction to back inside the classroom with school safety such as social distancing, mask requirements, and cleaning procedures in place.

Teachers were conflicted over not returning to the classroom out of concern for their students regressing academically as virtual instruction is not the best learning option for some. Other teachers felt immense stress or worry over returning to the classroom because of fears of contracting the virus, teaching around social distancing challenges, keeping the classroom clean and sanitized, and so on. The load that teachers had to carry on a normal basis doubled due to COVID.

Why is Mental Health Important for Teachers?

It is so vital for teachers to maintain a healthy mindset as their performance in the classroom literally depends on it (just as students rely on their teachers to bring their all each day!). Depressed, or anxious teachers usually do not create an entirely happy, productive classrooms. It actually has the opposite effect as students feed off of the energy the teacher puts out. In return, happy teachers produce more exciting and effective environments that allow students to enjoy the classroom experience and improve academically. Healthy teachers equal healthy classrooms, which all educators should desire for their students.

Strategies for Supporting Your Mental Health While Teaching

Ask for Help

Teachers have many things on their plates each and every day. It may be a good idea to lessen the load on yourself by asking for help! You can do this by asking teammates to split the workload in some manner and collaborating through sharing lessons, resources, and materials, or even team teaching when allowed. In education, it essential to work smarter, not harder.

Learn to Say No

To keep the main focus the main focus, teachers must learn to say no sometimes. They cannot do everything for everyone all of the time and maintain high performance in the classroom. Teachers should set boundaries so they are not being pulled in too many directions all at once. By doing this, teachers can maintain their morale in the classroom and keep students engaged in learning more efficiently.

Visit Nature

Nature has many benefits for your overall health. Get outside! Go for a walk, sit on a park bench, breathe in some fresh air, etc. These activities and the change of scenery alone will almost instantly improve your mindset and put you in a better mood!

This is an excellent activity both in and out of the classroom because your students will love it, too. Anytime you or your students get stuck or need a refresh, take a break and take a quick trip outside into nature. It can make nearly everyone a little happier!

Spend Time with Family and Friends

One of the best ways to improve your mental health is to be around the people you love and the people who love you. Laughter and time spent having fun will give you all of those happy feelings, distract you from work stress, and reset your mind to have better focus and performance when returning to the classroom.

Participate in a Hobby

It is essential to have things to look forward to outside the classroom to take care of your mental health teaching through COVID. This may look like joining a recreational sport, painting, crafting, or any other hobby that you find joy in. These types of activities will lower your stress levels and give your mind a break from its daily routine and worries.

The effectiveness of teachers is directly related to the state of their mental health. Students need mentally healthy teachers in order to reach their full potential in learning within the classroom.

Teachers must find ways to reduce stressors to bring their all each day for the betterment of their students. Challenge yourself to do something fun each week to refresh your mind and set yourself up for success in and out of the classroom.

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