A healthier and happier teacher makes a healthy future! On Teachers’ Day 2022, let’s spare a moment to salute the resilience and commitment that all teachers have towards nurturing not just smart, but compassionate children year after year. But in this pursuit, people often forget the importance of mental health of teachers.
A teacher goes through several stressors. At the outset, their work may seem easy, repeating lessons each year, but look closer, and you will know there’s a lot more they have to handle. Planning assignments, assessment, communicating with parents, managing the different backgrounds and learning levels in one class, keeping a tab on every child’s education, social as well as emotional development – all these keep a teacher on her toes.
Factors affecting mental health of teachers
According to renowned psychiatrist Dr Samir Parikh, the key pressure on teachers is sometimes how their success is measured in context to young people they work with.
“And you can’t always have a hundred-on-hundred performance. Nobody has that. Teachers are under a lot of pressure,” he asserts.
Here are a few reasons why:
1. Teachers shape lives
Knowing that the onus of shaping up a life and a person’s ideas and perceptions to a large extent, can be stressful. It’s a matter of responsibility, which a good teacher always takes seriously.
2. Change in relationships
Over time, the teacher-student-relationship as well as the parent-teacher relationship has gone through a change. Especially in times when the number of helicopter parents are increasing, teachers are under a lot more pressure to deliver their best. The Covid-19 pandemic, which shifted teaching to a virtual activity, also had its bearings on the student-teacher relationship. The work-from-home culture also took a hit on the mental health of teachers.
3. Long working hours
Unlike common belief, teachers don’t have short working hours. They start their day early and work extends beyond school hours on most days. This also underlines the need for proper sleeping working hours to reduce stress.
“There’s paperwork, actual work and then they look after mentoring and guidance. There are so many aspects beyond teaching one or two subjects,” says Dr Parikh.
4. Personal life
Like for most professionals, even teachers have their own life. But if their role as an educator starts eating into personal time, it can impact their mental health. Balancing between the two worlds can be tough sometimes.
5. Lack of ‘me time’
In the hustle bustle of everyday life, meeting deadlines, preparing assignments, innovating ways to teach children, being there for family and attending to social commitments, teachers can feel a deep sense of lack of time for self. This can lead to burnout symptoms, and affect mental well-being.
Mental health tips for teachers
Dr Parikh suggests some basic tips for teachers to stay calm, cool and happy!
1. Be organised
Being organised and effective time management will reduce stress by a huge margin. Plan your day and lessons in advance.
2. Carry minimum work at home
Teachers often leave checking papers and assignments for home, but this should be avoided as far as possible. “Even if a teacher carry work home, there should be a time window within which she should wrap it up,” suggests Dr Parikh.
3. Avoid being over-critical of yourself
Teachers are habitual of wanting to push the boundaries and keep upskilling and upgrading to stay relevant to changing times, technology and styles of teaching. But being extremely self-critical will only lead to more pressure on mental health of teachers.
4. Maintain good relationships at workplace and at home
This always works. A happy and jolly environment with positive people around you will always help to reduce stress. Communicate with people, share your concerns and don’t hesitate in asking for help.
Also, investing in personal relationships will help a long way in getting the emotional support you need to sail through a job as demanding as a teacher.
5. Healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle, including the right diet, at least bare minimum exercise and a calming activity such as meditation, can play an important role in improving the state of mental health of teachers.