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Mental Health | Professional Development | Teaching Strategies | May 30, 2024

Teachers’ Mental Health: 8 Ways Principals Can Provide Support

Teachers' mental health is a critical element of retention. Principals can help teachers success in their roles. In this article, learn eight ways that administrators can support faculty and staff.

The Challenges of Teaching

When I was completing my undergraduate work, the number of teachers who would leave the teaching field within the first five years was widely discussed by professors and students. When people approach me for advice about entering education, I tell them how much I have enjoyed my career.

However, I also emphasize that a person has to love teaching, or they may not be happy on a long-term basis. Teaching is challenging work. Teachers focus their energy on meeting the needs of their students while trying to balance their lives at home. When you add in the pressure that comes from various sources, such as trying to achieve a good letter grade for your school, it is not hard to see how teachers find themselves in need of emotional first aid.

Ways Principals Can Provide Teacher Support

Principals and school leaders can help reduce the pressure on teachers and provide the emotional first aid that teachers need to stay and to succeed in their roles. Here are some things that principals can do to support their teachers’ mental health.

Build a Culture of Trust

This is sound advice for any school or organization. For this reason, people have written books on the importance of trust in the workplace. It is a challenge to stay emotionally healthy while working as a teacher in general, but adding in a toxic work environment makes it nearly impossible. I can attest to this from an experience I had at the beginning of my career. A culture of trust does not just appear—it has to be established over time. Letting your staff know that this is a priority is a good first step in providing teacher support.

Know When Enough Is Enough

If administrators are not careful, they can bury their teachers under a mountain of paperwork, all in the name of accountability. While I value accountability, too, I still want my teachers to prioritize planning lessons that meet the needs of their students over clerical tasks that I ask them to complete. Assess your current practices and reflect on whether you can take anything off your teachers’ plates.

Implement Morale Boosters

Yes, they can be cheesy and sometimes lame, but these little activities also tend to make people smile. I can remember a principal of mine who called a staff meeting only to let us play board games for an hour. At my current school, a local gas station donated a soft drink for every staff member. What you choose to do will depend on your school and setting, but I think you will find many morale boosters take little time and funding at the same time that they are beneficial teacher support strategies.

Prioritize Goals

School improvement goals can be overwhelming. No matter how good a school is, you can always write a goal to get better. To help keep your teachers fresh, prioritize all the goals on your plan and place emphasis on one or, at most, two of them.

FSP_TeachersMentalHealth-8WaysPrincipalsHelp-650x520-2Let Your Teachers Be People

One of the challenges of being a teacher is that the school day takes up nearly all the “business hours” of the day. Teachers still have aging parents they take care of and kids who have appointments. Not to mention that they themselves sometimes need to go to the eye doctor or visit the dentist. It is stressful if you think your boss is going to be upset with you because you need a day off. Administrators want their teachers in the classroom because that is what gets the best results, but we also need to stop and remember that our teachers are people, too.

Set a Good Example

Just as with other areas of professionalism, principals should model the behavior they expect from their teachers. Tell your teachers that this weekend you are going to take an entire day to not do anything that has to do with school, then do it. Exercise, hobbies, pets, day trips, and pleasure reading are all great ways to defragment yourself. Pick a couple of these to try and then tell your staff about your success.

Form a Social Committee

Most schools have some sort of social committee to plan baby showers and staff events. If this committee is already in place, add emotional health as an agenda item at your next meeting. You are likely to gain some insights about how your staff feels and how you can provide teacher support.

Be Ready to Listen

Principals often form strong bonds with their faculty. This helps when a principal has to offer constructive criticism that will help a teacher reach their full potential. These bonds can also set a principal up to be a safe person for their teachers. Being a safe person means that a teacher may want to tell you about how they are going through a divorce or having trouble with a son or a daughter. Though some may argue that it is not appropriate to engage in such conversations with subordinates, I believe it is inevitable. While I never seek out personal details about my teachers’ lives, I am always ready to listen if they need me to. I think getting things off their chests helps them focus more on teaching.

With these 8 strategies, principals can provide teacher support and help teachers’ mental health. Happy teachers are essential for successful schools and for the success of our students.


Author Bio:

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Andrew Hawk, Principal

Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for two decades. He started as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He completed his bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. Andrew has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. Andrew has worked as a resource room teacher and also has taught in a self-contained...

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