Five tips for teachers for dealing with Covid 19 stress

As a teacher, there is a lot of extra work right now to make sure Covid 19 rules are adhered to in school. New research from charity Education Support shows stress levels have been increasing among teachers since going back to school this autumn.

In October, 84 per cent of teachers described themselves as stressed, compared to 62 per cent in July.

Teachers said things like organising and maintaining pupil bubbles, the possibility of testing positive for Covid-19, and concerns over pupils’ learning loss and behavioural issues were some of the main causes of extra pressure.

The report interviewed over 3,000 teachers and senior leaders in July and a further 1,000 in October.

BBC Teach has been speaking to two professionals for their advice on how to manage this additional strain. Georgia France is head of Year 7 and a PE teacher at Forest Gate Community School in London.

Suzy Reading is a chartered psychologist and author. These are their top tips for dealing with the work-related stress of Covid 19.

Georgia France, head of Year 7 and a PE teacher at Forest Gate Community School

1. Work together

It is really helpful to feel like you are part of a team right now.

If you and your colleagues can pull together, things might feel less daunting.

Suzy Reading says: “Collaborating gives an opportunity for a variety of voices to be heard… cultivating a feeling of shared experience: we're not alone, but in it together.”

Georgia France says: "By working together we're able to come up with the most effective strategies we can.

"One thing that’s key is having consistency across the board - making sure every member of staff is singing from the same song sheet.

"The most important thing is to remember we’re all in it together. It’s new for everyone."

Georgia says this theme of working together includes the pupils: "Making sure students understand why: why we’ve got a one-way system, why they’re coming to school at different times, and at lunch time.

"By understanding why, the students can adapt more easily."

What you are doing is not going unnoticed, and it is really appreciated

2. Keep a routine

Georgia says: "I had to self-isolate for a few days recently whilst waiting for a test result.

"I was so frustrated as I wanted to be in school, but I was able to teach remotely and join staff meetings.

"I found it important to keep a routine and some normality.

"For pupils, routine is key and it is vital that they know what to expect in every lesson, and every day whilst they are at school.

"This can be as simple as having the same routine at the start of every lesson.

"This helps pupils to know exactly what they should be doing."

Keeping a routine for yourself can include things like preparing your meals or clothes the night before, finishing at a set time each day, and taking time out to relax every day - even if it’s just for ten minutes.

Suzy says: "Routines are crucial, especially in times of uncertainty.

"If we can create a sense of rhythm and regularity in our day, that helps us cope.

"Also, rituals in our day reduce the amount of decisions we have to make - it reduces the mental load."

"We’re doing what we need to do to ensure our students continue to thrive"

3. Keep talking

Georgia says: "If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed speak to other people.

"Let people know how you’re feeling. You’re not the only person who may be feeling down.

Suzy says: "It’s important to be heard and understood and validated.

"Let your family members know how you’re feeling - it gives them an inkling as to how they can best support you.

"I’d also encourage teachers to reach out and check in with each other, even if it is just a quick chat in the staffroom.

"When we hear peers reflect back the same thoughts and feelings, it helps us to feel ‘it’s not just me’.

"There’s a sense of mutual support. And let people further up the chain at work know how you’re feeling too."

"We’re doing what we need to do to ensure our students continue to thrive."

Georgia adds: "It’s about having an open environment where everyone is willing to help everyone, and where you know that you can talk to other members of staff in your department and across the school.

"We have a close-knit team in PE, so we sometimes catch up over WhatsApp.

"We are all in one bubble so we meet in the sports hall and have a chat at work - we make time for each other.

"It’s a challenging time for us but we’re doing it in the best interest of kids up and down the country."

"It’s important to be heard," Suzy Reading says

4. Take strength from your pupils - they’re the reason you’re doing this

Georgia says: "Students need us and we need them.

"There’s a lot to get used to but it’s nice to be back in school doing what we’re meant to be doing.

"When they weren’t here in March we lost a part of that.

"The most challenging thing for me... is trying to stay at the front of the classroom when you want to get out there and have those face-to-face interactions."

But Georgia takes strength from how well her pupils have adapted to this: "They know they’re still getting a good education."

Suzy says: "Teaching is a calling, a true vocation, so remembering why you’re doing what you’re doing can be very galvanising.

"It’s about connecting with a deeper purpose and how valued you are.

"Teachers play such an important role in kids’ lives."

The most important thing is remember we’re all in it together. It’s new for everyone

5. Take time for self-care

Suzy says: "Try to reframe self-care as health care, and prioritise it right now.

"Make time for something soothing for the nervous system on an everyday basis, like healthy boundaries and clocking off.

Georgia says: "I play basketball usually but the restrictions have prevented this so, for now, I do regular fitness sessions at school and at home and go for long walks at the weekend."

Suzy adds: "Make sure you prioritise sleep, rest, deep breathing... or try using touch, massage or scent.

"You could try gentle stretches or a guided meditation.

"It is so challenging to be there physically and emotionally for your students through such a long period of uncertainty.

"What you are doing is not going unnoticed, and it is really appreciated."

Further support links

If you're a teacher who is stressed or worried about anything you can call
Education Support's free and confidential 24/7 emotional support helpline on 08000 562 561.

There is also advice on Covid 19 and schools from Mental Health Foundation

Education Support: Wellbeing Index 2020

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