Net Exchange Response
Title: Promoting & supporting teacher/ school staff wellness
Date Posted: 6/22/2015
Question: I moved from the Counseling Dept in our district to Staff Assistance otherwise known as an
internal Employee Assistance Program. I always had a hand in some staff “stuff”, now I am working
on teacher mental health. I have been putting out monthly newsletters to all of our staff on
“wellness” topics. I want something for the educational profession on, for lack of a better topic
line: Recharging your Emotional Batteries. There seems to be precious little on the support and/or
restoration of teacher MH that I can find. Most searches take me to teachers as they support student
MH. In my thinking, we often look at parent wellness for much of the key to a child’s emotional
composition but why not look at a teacher wellness? And if this is an area of study and I’m missing
the correct key search words, can you forward me links etc to where I can start to drill into this for
my newsletter? Thanks so much!!!
Response: It’s easy to overlook the psychological needs of staff. Yet, when school
staff don’t feel good about themselves, it is unlikely they will be effective in making students
feel good about themselves.
Summer provides a great opportunity to plan ways to (a) minimize practices that hurt and
(b) promote wellness for teachers and other school personnel, as well as for students and
their families. Here are a few thoughts and a guide to some resources.
It is important to start by identifying and changing bad routines. In this respect, we always
think about Milne’s description of Winnie the Pooh coming downstairs:
Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back
of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of
coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if
only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.
So take a deep breath and stop bumping.
Take some time to reflect on which routines are contributing to burnout. Identify bad routines that
need eliminating. Altering such routines recognizes the reality that certain demands at school
are major stressors and validates staff perceptions that the system needs to be improved.
Move on to think about how to ensure workloads are not staggering and daily problems are not
overwhelming. Identify the many school-related frustrations, large and small, that play a major role
in negatively affecting staff (and student) morale and mental health and lead to burnout.
The aims are to both (a) promote wellness and (b) address barriers to learning and
teaching.* To these ends, schools must strive to create a caring, learning environment in
which there is a strong collegial and support structure and meaningful ways to participate
in decision making. This calls for well-designed and implemented mechanisms for
inducting newcomers into the school in a welcoming and socially supportive way
transforming working conditions by creating appropriate teams of staff and students
who support, nurture, and learn from each other every day
transforming student and learning supports into a unified, comprehensive, and
equitable system for addressing barriers to learning and teaching and re-engaging
transforming inservice training into ongoing personalized staff development and
support from day one at a school
restructuring school governance to enable shared decision-making.
Resources: Over the years, some of the most accessed resources from our Center are those
covering staff burnout. We recommend starting with the Center article on School Staff
Then, use the
Center’s online clearinghouse Quick Find on Burnout to link to relevant resources listed
Make it happen. After doing some reading, take a good look at next year’s school
improvement and staff development plans. Is there a strong focus on both preventing burnout
and enhancing wellness? If current plans don’t reflect a substantive and nonmarginalized
concern for promoting well-being and addressing barriers to teaching and learning, now is
the time to redress this oversight. Staff who bring a mental health and motivational
perspective to schools can be asked to take a leadership role in planning and implementing
ways to make the essential systemic changes.
Submit a request or comment now.
UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools
Dept. of Psychology, P.O.Box 951563, Los Angeles, CA 90095.
email: Linda Taylor ~ web: http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu