“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” – Albert Pike
As a teacher-turned-therapist, I wonder how we can ignite a passion for teaching among the younger generation, those who are just beginning to explore their possible career paths. If I was just starting out, what would I want to know? I think I would want to know what to expect from this profession. I would want to know if this career path would be a good choice, not just for my bank account, but also for work-life balance and for my social, emotional and physical health and well-being. If I wanted to get really real, I might also investigate the hidden costs of this work.
My therapist training schooled me well in the risks of vicarious traumatization, compassion fatigue and general burnout that are so inherent in the therapy world. But I didn’t learn these words or about these risks in my teaching training. I didn’t know about them until I was deep in the trenches of classroom teaching.
Any educator is well aware of the multi-faceted, fast-paced and demanding work of the profession, including the stress and pressure of budget cuts, increased class sizes, expanding roles and unprecedented levels of responsibility. It’s a lot to juggle. Teachers are expected to do more than ever with less than ever, all while being enthusiastic and positive role models for the bright young minds they serve every day.
As the lists of teaching responsibilities grow, so too do the risks for teacher’s mental health and wellness. Without protection and a rock-solid plan for good self-care, teachers are highly vulnerable to unique mental health risks including burnout. While teachers nurture and care for their students every day, teachers also need nurturing and care. This starts with building and maintaining a proactive wellness approach to diminish teacher fatigue and prevent disabling stress and burnout.
As we consider this year’s theme and look toward the future, we can encourage and support our teachers, new and seasoned, to protect their mental health and wellness. We can support teachers in making themselves a priority. That might look like a sprinkling of self care throughout the busy school day, that might look like building and strengthening social connections or getting more sleep. That might look like exploring professional support from an objective listener whose sole focus is you and your needs.
Teachers give so much of themselves to their students. It is the noblest of professions. But teachers aren’t invincible and their gas tank isn’t bottomless. Teachers eventually must refuel and recharge. Taking good care of ourselves is not a luxury, but a necessity and a good lesson for the younger generation who are contemplating a career in this highly rewarding – and demanding – field.
Links to Teacher Well-Being & Self-Care Resources:
- Mindful Meditation for Teachers – www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/dec/06/two-simple-mindful-meditation-exercises-for-teachers
- Calm for Schools – https://www.calm.com/schools
- Article about Teacher Stress – http://theconversation.com/the-hidden-threat-of-teacher-stress-92676
- Self-Care for Teachers & Compassion Fatigue – http://heartandart.ca/?p=6143
– A graduate of Yorkville University’s Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology program, Cree Lambeck is a Registered Psychotherapist and Certified Teacher with personal exposure to the pressures of the teaching profession, as well as the complex psycho, social and educational needs of students and families. She offers specialized counselling for teachers, ensuring individuals are supported in a way that is grounded in respect and solidarity.