Relationships and Connectedness are Critical
In 2018, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and New Teacher Center conducted a study on educator emotions in the workplace. We asked questions regarding school culture and climate and health indicators (diet, exercise, sleep, depression, alcohol/drug use, etc.). We learned the top 3 emotions in spring 2018 were overwhelm, stress, and frustration. However, we also learned that connected, positive relationships among teachers, with administrators, and with and among students, served a protective factor for educator's overall health and wellbeing.
In spring 2020, Yale CEI conducted a similar survey, and learned that anxiety, stress, and worry, and fear were the top emotions for educators. Since we know that relationships are a protective factor for health and wellbeing, we need to consider how to foster relationships in our future-forward planning.
As districts moved to distance learning, I heard from many teachers with whom I work that what they miss the most are their colleagues--the casual conversations in the hallways, laughter, after school get-togethers, and the varied ways educators naturally support one another. Online staff meetings most certainly take care of business at hand, yet relationships and connectedness seem to be left up to individual teachers--even in contexts where district and school leaders had been regularly attending to the SEL needs of their staff. Yet, now, more than ever, it’s critical to cultivate relationships among staff members and with administrators.
In a recent PDK survey of Educators Rising high school students, the same request held true. Students WANT to be connected to their peers and teachers and they want social and emotional supports--especially to deal with anxiety, fear, and lack of motivation. They want interactions that are both structured and supportive to their individual and class needs as well guidance and practice in how to move from using distractions--listening to music, watching tv, doing hobbies--to more self-care activities and emotional regulation strategies that will cultivate resilience, mental-physical-emotional health and wellbeing during these uncertain times.
As we deliberate on how to reconfigure schooling in the fall, most likely using blended-learning, staggered times, distancing protocols...it is critical to also address our human need for connection and supportive relationships with peers, diverse groups, teachers, and counselors in ways that meet students' academic, emotional, and social needs and that strengthen SEL skills that foster resilience, motivation, and ensure our overall health and wellbeing.