We’ve all heard the adage that “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” It is important as educators to take care of yourself to help put your best foot forward for you and your students. 93% of teachers report high levels of daily, job-related stress. Because of this, it is important to consider recommendations to decrease stress for you and your classroom. Introducing evidence-based mindfulness practice(s) into your classroom can have positive effects on both you and your students. The Oxford dictionary defines mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Mindfulness Benefits for Students
Mindfulness Benefits for Teachers
10 Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness in the Classroom
Mindfulness is not a new concept; but modern-day research suggests this ‘enhanced self-awareness’ diminishes stress and anxiety and, in turn, reduces the risk of developing cancer, disease, and psychopathology. It is useful to practice mindfulness as a tool for general physical and mental health. To create a calmer, mindful classroom, consider incorporating the suggested techniques below:
Click here to learn six additional ideas to help create a more positive, mindful classroom.
Tools for Building Classroom Mindfulness
As educators, it may feel like you are in a constant stressed state. Consider these resources to help combat stress and anxiety for you and your students.
Teaching is a profession with a high amount of daily stress. This high amount of stress can lead to both physical and mental health problems and that can eventually lead to burnout. With almost half of teachers leaving the profession within five years of employment, it’s important to learn how to recognize what burnout is and consider how your school can make small changes to help prevent teachers from burning out.
What is Teacher Burnout? Burnout can be defined as “a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.”
The Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL) is a 30 item self-report measure of the positive and negative effects of working with people who have experienced extremely stressful events.
The ProQol contains three subscales measuring Compassion Fatigue, Burnout and Compassion Satisfaction.
Click here to take the ProQOL quiz and assess your professional fatigue, burnout and satisfaction.
Causes for Teacher Burnout
Burnout Signs and Symptoms
Click here to view a Teacher Burnout Infographic.
How to Avoid Burnout
Strategies to Help Reduce Burnout
To be able to care for others, you must first take care of yourself. It’s like the advice we’re given on airplanes: put on your own oxygen mask before trying to help someone else. Taking care of yourself is a valid goal on its own, and it helps you support the people in your life.
Teachers and caregivers who pay attention to their own physical and emotional health are better able to handle the challenges of supporting someone with mental illness. They adapt to changes, build strong relationships and recover from setbacks. The ups and downs in your family member’s illness can have a huge impact on you. Improving your relationship with yourself by maintaining your physical and mental health makes you more resilient, helping you weather hard times and enjoy good ones. Here are some suggestions for personalizing your self-care strategy.
Understand How Stress Affects You
Stress affects your entire body, physically and mentally. Some common physical signs of stress include:
Begin by identifying how stress feels to you. Then identify what events or situations cause you to feel that way. (i.e. feeling stressed by grocery shopping with your spouse when they’re symptomatic). Once you know which situations cause you stress, you’ll be prepared to avoid it and to cope with it when it happens.
Protect Your Physical Health
Improving your physical wellbeing is one of the most comprehensive ways you can support your mental health. You’ll have an easier time maintaining good mental habits when your body is a strong, resilient foundation.
When you’re a teacher it can be incredibly hard to find time for yourself, and even when you do, you may feel distracted by thoughts of what you “should” be doing instead. Learning to make time for yourself without feeling you’re neglecting others is critical.
Any amount of time you take for yourself is important. Being out of “teacher mode” for as little as five minutes in the middle of a day can be a meaningful reminder of who you are in a larger sense. It can help keep you from becoming consumed by your responsibilities. Start small; think about activities you enjoyed before becoming a teacher and try to work them back into your life. If you once enjoyed days out with friends, try to schedule a standing monthly lunch with them. Once scheduled, it becomes part of your routine and no one has to work extra to make it happen each month.
The point is not what you do or how often you do it, but that you do take the time to care for yourself. It’s impossible to take good care of anyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself first.
Practice Good Mental Habits
You may feel you don’t have the time to stay in touch with friends or start new friendships. Focus on the long-term. If you can meet up with a friend once a month, or go to a community event at your local library once every two months, it still helps keep you connected. It also gives you the chance to connect with people on multiple levels. Being a teacher is an important part of your life, but it’s not the whole story.
On June 26, 2014, Act 71 was signed into law in Pennsylvania. This law, which added section 1526 of the School Code, 24 PS § 15-1526, specifically requires school entities to: (1) adopt a youth suicide awareness and prevention policy; and (2) provide ongoing professional development in youth suicide awareness and prevention for professional educators in building serving students in grades 6-12. Additionally, section 1526 specifically permits school entities to incorporate curriculum on this topic into their instructional programs pursuant to their youth suicide awareness and prevention polices.
NOTE: This webpage contains resources, including links to websites, created by a variety of outside organizations. The resources are provided for the user’s convenience, and inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by the Pennsylvania Department of Education of any views, products or services offered or expressed in them.
Student Led Programs
Professional Development, Curriculum and Resources
The Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools by National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) assists high schools and school districts in designing and implementing strategies to prevent suicide and promote behavioral health.
To view a multifaceted suicide prevention program, click on the toolkit sections below:
Click here to access the high school kit promotional flyer.
Click here to view additional suicide prevention efforts in the Youth Suicide Prevention School-Based Guide from the Mental Health Institute in the College of Behavioral & Community Sciences at the University of South Florida and the Department of Child & Family Studies.
After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools by Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) assists schools in implementing a coordinated response to the suicide death of a student. Originally developed in 2011, the second edition includes new information and tools that middle and high schools can use to help the school community cope and reduce suicide risk. The toolkit was developed in collaboration with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and in consultation with national experts, including school-based administrators and staff, clinicians, researchers and crisis response professionals. It is designed primarily for administrators and staff but can also be useful for parents and communities. To view effective comprehensive steps about how to respond in the immediate aftermath of a suicide death of a student, click on the toolkit sections below: