How to Support Your Teachers
Written by: Melissa DaSilva LICSW
The school year is well underway and the thrill of a new year is starting to ware off. Students are now feeling comfortable with their new friends and teachers. I have found that as this early fusing occurs, students start sharing more intimate details with their teachers as they become more comfortable. Most teachers take this as a badge of honor that they are the safe person for the student to reach out to, but such responsibility can also be overwhelming. Many teachers, especially new teachers, don’t know what to do with these sensitive topics or feelings. Sometimes, their automatic thought is to try and fix the problem for the child as fast as possible. Here are some tips that can help you support your teachers and staff as a school owner when and before this situation occurs.
1. During orientation or during one of the first staff meetings at the beginning of the school year, be sure to lay out what the teachers’ responsibilities are – whether to report abuse or to neglect them. Explain the protocol of your school, including who to tell and how to document the disclosure. Have a discussion about what the experience is like if Child Services need to be called. This can be a very intimidating experience for the teacher if they have never experienced something like it before.
2. Give your teachers and staff a safe place to vent and discuss their frustrations and concerns. This can be your HR department, a staff-only lunchroom or a special meeting place. Make sure that they are aware that no venting and complaining about students should occur in the halls or within earshot of the students. Teaching can be extremely hard, and teachers need to be felt heard and understood. Some schools have offered to have a therapist or a consultant to come to the school to meet with teachers during free time to give them the opportunity to talk about their problems and brainstorm without fear of retribution. If your school is interested in this service, East Coast Mental Wellness can assist you.
3. Provide trainings during Professional Development Days around boundary setting with students. Teachers, especially the newer ones, when feeling isolated tend to gravitate towards creating a close relationship with students. These relationships are typically created out of care for the student and need to want to help them but can send mixed messages to the student, their peers and families. It’s important to teach teachers and staff about the appearance of impropriety. Learning good boundaries skills can save teachers, staff and the school from a ruined reputation. Train teachers to build appropriate or healthy relationships with students.
4. Teach teachers to use the “Take a Break” tool. Many schools teach students about how to TAB in and TAB out of class when they are feeling frustrated or unable to participate in class. This can also be a good tool for teachers to use. Have teachers create a buddy system with another teacher in the area. When teachers start feeling frustrated with the class or overwhelmed, they can swap with a buddy teacher for a few minutes. Teachers don’t want to show students that they are losing their cool. It is important for students to see a role model of someone who can use coping skills when they are feeling frustrated. This teaching buddy can also be someone to brainstorm ways to avoid feeling overwhelmed or frustrated in the future with.
Teaching is a difficult job and burnout can occur very quickly. After working in the school system for years, I have found that the more support teachers feel from the top, the better they are at performing their jobs. Because I truly believe this East Coast Mental Wellness is offering several new trainings that can be beneficial to teachers to help them deal adequately with their students, I’m recommending it for you. If you should be interested in booking something for an upcoming staff meeting or Profession Development day, please follow this link. https://www.eastcoastmentalwellness.com/services/pdtrainings/