Beyond the Blackboard: The Silent Struggle of Educators and Mental Health
Written by: Sabeeha Azmi
In the active and lively world of education, where the focus is often shined on shaping the minds of the next generation, the mental health and well-being of educators are easily overlooked and unnoticed. Teachers, lecturers, and other professionals within education play an essential role in moulding the future of our nations, but the demands and the pressure of their profession could take a toll on their mental well-being.
The field of teaching is a noble profession that requires dedication, passion, and resilience as educators are not only responsible for conveying knowledge but also for creating a supportive and positive learning environment. However, underneath the smiles and enthusiasm for educating young minds, professionals face constant pressure to meet academic standards, navigate administrative tasks, and engage diverse listeners which could all lead to developing and experiencing stress, anxiety, and burnout. These mental health concerns faced by educators are often a silent struggle as their needs often take a backseat when compared with their students and administrative duties and needs.
One of the main stressors educators face is the ever-increasing workload. Professionals endure long working hours, planning lessons, grading assignments, and tests, and planning and executing extracurricular tasks and activities which can leave them feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. There is also the pressure of having to adjust and adapt to new methods of teaching and technologies which further exacerbates their stress. Staying relevant and up to date in a continuously evolving educational field is quite a challenge.
Another contribution to educators’ mental health is the investment in the well-being of their students. Professionals aim to make a difference in the lives of their students and this can lead them to develop a heightened sense of responsibility. Hence, when students experience setbacks or challenges with learning, there is a chance that educators could internalise the impact of this which could then affect their own mental health and well-being. There is emotional labour involved in teaching and this can be draining and without appropriate support, professionals could find it difficult to cope with emotionally.
In general, society does not seem to give the appreciation and applause that teachers deserve. Educators, therefore, due to a lack of recognition for the time and effort they put into teaching could feel deeply undervalued and underappreciated. Education is a field that requires and demands continuous adaptation and learning. Thus not providing adequate support systems and sufficient resources to educators could seriously affect professionals’ mental well-being.
An educator’s emotional and mental well-being is essential to the quality of education they can provide. When educators’ mental health needs are met, they can better engage in an enriching learning environment that fosters creativity in their students. However, when educators are stressed and burned out, they could struggle to build connections and deliver effective lessons which could hinder the overall educational experience. Therefore, educational institutions must prioritise proactive measures to acknowledge and address the mental health and well-being needs of educators. Institutions should aim to create a supportive work culture, provide professional development opportunities, implement wellness programs, and recognize and appreciate the effort put in by educators. These could all foster a mentally healthy environment for educators, encourage open communication about mental health and reduce the stigma attached to seeking support for mental well-being.
Here are some tips for educators to take better care of their mental health and well-being:
- Set realistic goals – it is important to note that you cannot do everything all at once. Focus on setting achievable goals and organise tasks according to priority to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Establish boundaries – set out clear boundaries for your work hours and personal time. With this, you can aim to avoid taking work home regularly, and allocate and clear some time for relaxation and self-care.
- Have a self-care routine – take some time to build a self-care routine with activities that you enjoy such as reading, watching TV shows, or any hobbies. Engaging in these activities could help you recharge.
- Professional community and seeking support – within your educational community foster a supportive network where professionals can share experiences which can create a sense of camaraderie and reduce feeling alone in your struggles.
- Educators play a crucial role in shaping and nurturing the minds of the future, therefore, it is important to ensure that their mental health is not neglected. As the world strives to build a brighter future through education, it is essential to shine a light on the professionals who have poured their hearts and dedicated their lives into building a positive, well-rounded, and educated society of individuals.