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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Egelski

Teaching for the future

We all have different expectations of what our career will provide us. Some look for power and money. Some look for awards and accolades. Others look to fulfill a purpose and to be of service to others. For those who fall into the latter category, it can be difficult to balance how much to give of oneself and how much to preserve oneself. For teachers, this can be a constant battle.

A lot is expected of teachers. They’re expected to meet students’ educational, social, and emotional needs. They’re responsible for ensuring students’ safety and keeping parents appraised of their children’s progress/regression in all these areas. All while taking care of themselves and their family. These expectations intensified in the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers were required to constantly adapt to technological changes and to put themselves in uncomfortable (and sometimes unsafe) work conditions so they could provide students with the consistency they so lacked throughout the pandemic.

The mounting pressure on teachers during the pandemic has had severe consequences. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 27% of teachers surveyed reported clinical depression symptoms and 37% reported generalized anxiety symptoms.1 Additionally, more than half of those teachers reported thinking about either retiring or leaving the teaching profession.

So what can be done? Aside from policy changes and union advocacy, teachers can take steps to increase their agency and well-being. On an individual level, it is crucial teachers learn to prioritize themselves in order to sustain themselves. This involves learning to set boundaries at school, at home, and with themselves. It means taking care of themselves in meaningful ways (we’re talking beyond retail therapy). It’s important they find enriching activities to refill their cup, such as starting a gratitude practice or using deep breathing. Finally, it’s vital teachers meet themselves where they’re at every day. If they can extend the kindness, compassion, and care they do to their students to themselves, that could make all the difference.

Acceptance for the things that can be controlled and the ones that cannot will result in more inner peace.

Teaching can create a great sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. It also requires a great deal of stamina and grit. Learning how to set boundaries, take care of oneself, and accept what is will allow teachers to continue doing what they do best: educating the minds of the future.

Author: Jennifer Egelski, LMFT

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