In my work as an educational consultant, I travel to many new places and meet educators from all over the world—teachers, administrators, specialists and staff. Once, while presenting to a group of new teachers, I focused on self-care for teachers and social emotional learning. The administrators said, “Nice, but let’s get on to the real learning.”
Social Emotional Learning Is Real Learning
Social Emotional Learning IS the real learning. It begins with us as educators, with nurturing our own well-being.
The connection between educator well-being and student learning is vital. Research clearly shows that by prioritizing teacher well-being, we are directly prioritizing student well-being and academic outcomes. When teachers practice mindfulness, their students’ achievement increases. Deprioritizing teachers is deprioritizing students’ well-being as well as their academic outcomes!
Getting the Research Out There
Realizing that this research has to get out to the larger community, I want to empower educators to be champions of the own self-care and well-being. I just finished reading Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, by Dr. Kristin Neff. She has made self-compassion her life’s work, researching it extensively, as well as teaching and writing about it.
I am learning that in order for us as educators to improve social-emotional and academic outcomes for our students and communities, we need to strengthen the social-emotional skills first. Take the first step for your own self-care. Taking these steps will start us on the path that will have ripple effects in classrooms, and schools and communities.
Educators are some the hardest working creatures on this planet. And we as teachers have been neglecting self-care for as long as there have been schools. By the nature of being a teacher, it is as if we are programmed to eventually suffer from compassion fatigue. I can’t count the days when I could not get to the restroom even and ended up dehydrated from lack of drinking water or tea. Why do many of us struggle to address basic health needs like working out, to eat breakfast, to take time to eat a salad and to socialize?
Trauma-informed teaching practices
Why do we neglect ourselves? As educators, we are by nature idealistic and altruistic. We tend to neglect ourselves because we are constantly focused on the needs of others. If we want to generate joy and connection in the classroom, we have to genuinely care for our students, and authentic care does not emerge in a vacuum. Self-care is the best and only way to build up enough emotional strength and joy to engage meaningfully with your students.
By caring for yourself, you can better care for your students and community. So take time to breath; take a walk in the forest, in a park, in the mountains, or in a field. Check out these practices for self-care featured on my TeachersPayTeachers store: “Aurora Education.”