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How teachers’ responsibilities have expanded throughout the pandemic

Over the last two years, classrooms around the world have dramatically changed. School closures and remote learning have become common as school districts have tried to walk the line between continuing educational programs and protecting the health of their teachers and students.
 
Unfortunately, the burden to make school “normal” has fallen too heavily on teachers. Educators do everything they can to engage with and support students, often at the expense of their own health. 
 

Managing increased expectations

Teachers managing increased expectationsAccording to the National Educational Association, 28% of educators are more likely to leave their profession because of how their responsibilities have changed during the pandemic. During this time, the typical role of a teacher has shifted in numerous ways.
 
Teachers have been required to work remotely or teach a combination of in-person and remote classes. This has not only upset daily schedules and routines for both teachers and students but it has also made it more challenging for teachers to maintain clear boundaries between work and home life. Although it’s been two years since the pandemic started, many teachers may still be experiencing grief over the loss of the typical school routine and concern for the well-being of their students. 
 
Having their own children learning at home makes working remotely even more difficult for educators. Most kids need direction on projects as well as access to someone who can answer questions as they process new information. In many cases, parents are taking on the role of part-time teacher for their own kids while also trying to work a full-time teaching job.
 
For many teachers, the daily demands of their life have increased so much that there isn’t time for them to properly rest or take care of their own needs. Without necessary downtime, they may have less energy and optimism when challenges or issues with their students arise.
 
It’s important for educators to realize that they are not alone — teachers everywhere are experiencing intense pressure during this time. COVID-19 has had a massive impact on the education system and has complicated schooling on a global level. If you are a teacher, you are not failing your students if you find yourself struggling to handle it all.
 

Acting as a therapist

Teachers acting as therapistsTeachers care deeply for their students and can clearly see the impact that all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic — including social distancing restrictions — have had on students and their families. Because teachers love the work they do, their natural instinct is to do whatever they can to mitigate the stress students are experiencing, grant them emotional support and make their lives easier. But it’s important to remember that educators are not trained therapists.
 
Because emotions are transferable, teachers and students who experience stress can reinforce symptoms in each other unintentionally. Similar to what teachers are experiencing, many students are also coping with grief, fear and anxiety.
 
Teachers can, of course, offer students much-needed support but they need to be careful to not overextend themselves. To protect their own health, they must remember what is — and what is not — their job. For instance, it is a teacher’s job to help students learn math and give them encouragement and support in the process. It is not a teacher’s job to act as a student’s parent, doctor, coach or mental health counselor.
 

Taking simple steps

Of course when it comes to learning, teachers cannot fully step away and leave students on their own without support. Thankfully, there are some simple steps teachers can take to protect their health and well-being while ensuring students have the support they need to thrive — even during a pandemic.

Self-care. Before pouring energy and care into others, teachers need to make sure they have those resources within themselves. A good start to self-care is to create healthier work/life boundaries. Small changes such as blocking off time to spend in nature or going to bed 30 minutes earlier really do add up.

Emotional regulation. One of the best things teachers can do for themselves is to find a healthy way to express and release emotions. Talking to a therapist, journaling or spending even a few minutes outside can significantly increase mental wellness.
 
Clear communication. Setting and communicating clear expectations is another way teachers can reduce stress and make learning — whether it is done in the classroom, from home or both — more manageable for everyone. Writing and sharing a document with students that outlines expectations and goals can alleviate confusion and anxiety while helping everyone stay focused.
 
Openness and honesty. Although it may not be easy, being honest and open about mental health can be helpful to other teachers and students. Openness equips others to recognize signs of poor health in themselves and encourages them to learn about what they can do in response. Being honest about the challenges teachers are facing will also help schools better understand what their teachers need so they can offer adequate support and resources.
 

Giving yourself the support you need

Over the course of the pandemic, the responsibilities of being a teacher have expanded and shifted in a myriad of ways. The pressure of dealing with personal stress while trying to meet student needs has strained the physical and emotional resources of educators around the world.
 
As the pandemic continues to evolve and impact schools everywhere, it’s essential for teachers to do whatever they can to protect themselves from mental and physical burnout. As a teacher, you can only give to your students what you’ve already given to yourself. 
 

About the Author

Ginger Abbot special education

Ginger Abbot is an education and lifestyle writer with a passion for learning. Read more of her work on Classrooms.com, where she serves as Editor when she’s not freelancing.

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