The following blog post, by April Brunelle, was created in collaboration with TeachPlus.
Often the focus of the concept “Social-Emotional Learning” is geared towards our students. Most educators have acknowledged the fact that students have a challenging time learning to the best of their capacity when their social-emotional needs are not being met. What about the educators themselves? When do the educators get to process the secondary trauma that is often occurring throughout the day?
There is a large movement and discussion out there right now regarding inequitable funding for schools. YES, that impacts our students, and the students are the most important people in this equation.
Yet you cannot pour from an empty cup.
Who has been on the frontline of these inequities? Educators! Day in and day out, educators have been doing the work of trying to fill monetary gaps that lead to lack of resources (in some school districts!)
As a counselor, I have seen too many wonderful teachers use meeting times as venting sessions regarding student behavior. I have seen strong educators snap in frustration a little more quickly than normal, and a little more often than they used to.
Do I know that not everyone might have the time to squeeze in a counseling session? Yes. Do I know not everyone can financially swing the co-pays or cost? Yes.
I also know, there are probably some educators who have never tried counseling because of the stigma regarding mental health and receiving services. There are probably some educators who simply do not know where to take the first step. There are likely some educators who do not know that some of their colleagues are already going to counseling to process the challenges of being an educator today in 2020.
If time and money are obstacles for you, there are some ways around this. Try to go biweekly, or even monthly! Tele-counseling has also become an option. Talk to your colleagues about this. End the stigma, and be open.
Imagine having an open space, dedicated only to you, where you could articulate and process your thoughts, opinions, and feelings in a way that would not hurt or harm others. Counseling may not be for everyone, but sometimes it feels good to just get these things off your chest!
Simply put, every educator should have a counselor. My journey as a school counselor (that also goes to counseling myself!) started through an online search and reaching out to see who would be a good fit. On a bi-weekly basis, I am able to process the traumas, conflicts, and frustrations that can occur from the workplace. There are MANY good times, achievements, positive relationships, resources, and wonderful aspects about my school/workplace. These positives get shared too! You do not have to be drowning in a world of chaos to deserve a space to process the frustrations and possible primary or secondary traumas you might experience in the world of education. My hope is that taking the time every other week to process in a dedicated space will equate to less time trying to “process” with co-workers or family members, and create more positive conversations with these important people in my life.
The message is getting out. May was Mental Health Awareness month. Teachers Unions are increasing mental health related benefits for their members. The American Federation of Teachers Union has expanded their Trauma Counseling and Expanded Services to include expanded Trauma Care benefits. These benefits are recovery care, income replacement, death benefit, and an optional family coverage. Transforming Education in collaboration with Education First and TeachPlus held a wonderful zoom discussion for educators around the country entitled “You Got This!” where the entire discussion was focused on adult social emotional learning. What will you try this month to improve your awareness regarding your mental health?