Teachers work extremely hard to support their students not just academically, but mentally and emotionally as well – but who is supporting our teachers? What happens when teachers are drained and reach breaking point?
In this revealing talk, Sydney Jensen explores how teachers are at risk of secondary trauma (the idea that they absorb the emotional weight of their students’ experiences) and discusses how schools can support everyone’s health and wellness. Watch the 9-minute video below:
South African students face difficult situations every day. Hunger, abuse, poverty, and homelessness are just some of the situations our youth face daily. And while admin and lesson planning take up a great deal of teachers’ time, it’s the reality of these situations that go home with them.
Secondary trauma, compassion fatigue, and depression are real mental health concerns for our teachers. They need to be able to talk to someone who can offer them support, so that they can better support their students while looking after their own mental health. We recognise this need for support for police officers and nurses, but we’re sorely neglecting our teachers.
Not every school can afford to employ trained professionals for their staff, though. So what can be done?
Here are some creative ways to support teachers:
Organise a weekly meetup with staff to discuss things that are going well, and not so well with them. Providing a space to be heard will help teachers to offload to their colleagues who no doubt experience the same heaviness. This creates a support network amongst staff.
Dual guidance counsellor
Some schools are able to employ a counsellor for students, but what about someone that can listen to both students and staff? Making the effort to employ such a person will greatly ease the stresses of students and teachers. They should also be able to check in with those closest to the affected individuals to see how they’re coping and to offer support.
Not between pupils and in class, though. Teachers can spend 5 minutes a day (or week) writing a note to a fellow staff member offering support and encouragement. Often, simply telling someone that you recognise what they’re going through and what they’re doing for others is a great help.
Teachers have it tough, and in times of need we need to be able to come together as a community and support each other.