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Educators need practical solutions to help ease stress and alleviate increasing teacher burnout that's causing teachers to leave their jobs.

How human connection calms teacher burnout

Educators need practical solutions to help ease stress and alleviate increasing teacher burnout

The power of human connection is a transformative element that is deeply wired into our collective DNA. With so many teachers experiencing burnout, I can’t help but recognize a strong link between human connection and the challenges facing teachers today.

Teachers care immensely for their students and cherish the in-person connection that exists in the classroom. But the stresses of the job are taking them away from connecting with students more meaningfully. Teachers feel exhausted and underappreciated, causing them to consider leaving their jobs altogether. A recent National Education Association survey found that “55% of educators are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than they had planned.”

While the NEA survey identifies staffing shortages and emotional fatigue as contributing factors, it also mentions that educators are requesting more mental support for their students than is presently available.

Modifying the Environment

Many schools have ramped up social and emotional learning models for students, from add-on curricula to tech-based tools to one-on-one conversations. But even with recent influxes of federal funding, it’s barely enough. Services provided by school counselors, for example, play a vital role in helping students work through challenges, but they are outnumbered 424:1 on average.

Students need more in-person attention—but so do the teachers. They’re tired of simple self-care suggestions to “take a spa day” or “find more time for yourself.” Teachers need practical solutions to help ease stress.

Developing an environment of care and nurturing that includes more human-to-human connections benefits well-being within the entire school ecosystem, which ultimately improves the environment for teachers.

There’s real power when school leaders initiate compassionate and well-informed dialogues about mental health. Using mental coaching platforms, it can be much easier for all members of the school community to get past the stigma of talking about mental health once the doors are open. Coaches foster deep conversations about real-life topics affecting students to help build coping mechanisms and life skills such as resiliency and mindfulness.

“When I come to schools or speak to certain students, it’s always about vulnerability, storytelling, being transparent, and allowing them to have a voice of their own,” says coach Nyeesha Williams. The same holds true when coaches like her address the rest of the school community as well.

What School Leaders Can Do Right Now

Although there are many systemic changes that will be needed to address teacher burnout, those take time to plan and implement. These practical steps can provide an immediate pathway to human connection, emotional health, and ultimately improved behavior and learning for the entire education community.

Spark the Conversation

Create a safe, supportive environment to allow students and educators to discuss mental health issues openly and honestly. Emphasize the importance of facilitating each individual’s social and emotional growth in ways that represent the diverse student body in your school or district.

Ideally, when possible, encourage having these conversations in person. Many social-emotional programs concentrate on the technology side when young people themselves report that they crave the human connection element.

Use Tech to Your Benefit

That’s not to say technology isn’t beneficial—it can be useful in supplementing real-life offerings, and it can even take work off teachers’ to-do lists in some cases. For example, it can be implemented during the school day in ways that don’t disrupt the core curriculum. It can offer an asynchronous toolkit of gamified learning activities or short videos with lessons attached. It can take the form of AI-powered chatbots that connect families and students with resources 24/7.

Bolster Education About Mental Health

From in-person coaches who can address teachers’ own struggles to experts in the types of traumas students experienced during the pandemic, professional development can be a valuable source of knowledge and strategies for better supporting themselves and their students. Just avoid anything that adds more responsibilities or time commitments.

Celebrate the Small Wins

When connecting with students or staff and experiencing positive exchanges, write down the successes. When you’re feeling frustrated, reflect on these to help your own state of mind. After all, you’re also experiencing a great deal of stress, and it does no one any good if you burn out too.

I truly believe that human connection is one of the most important factors to improving mental health and wellness for all stakeholders in a community. It represents a powerful choice that involves uncovering and sharing an innate aspect of ourselves—but it requires a healthy environment or it will stay buried under life’s pressures.

Schools are in a unique position to elevate mental health to the forefront for so many who truly need it—especially teachers. Let’s bring more real human connection to schools for the benefit of everyone involved.

Sonny Thadani is CEO and Co-Founder of Robin, a mental coaching platform that’s designed to support the digital shift and the future of learning through curated content, assessments and tools, and live virtual sessions. Sonny’s passion for education and mental health came after working with Sandy Hook Promise, an organization dedicated to improving the lives and mental well-being of students across the US.

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