In the wake of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, schools across the country are taking a hard look at their security procedures. Metal detectors, armed guards, and bulletproof glass are no longer novelties—they are becoming the norm. Despite these precautions, there is one thing that school officials may be overlooking that can seriously increase school safety: addressing the stress of educators of color.

Opened in 1978, the Guilford Avenue School has been an important part of the Dallas, Texas neighborhood. It was built to serve the low-income population of the area, and was named after Robert E. Lee High School’s first African-American principal, James Guilford. Just over one decade after opening, Guilford was closed due to poor testing scores and a state law that required local school boards to have a minimum of 200 teachers in each building, which the Guilford did not have. When the school was closed, community members were furious, and many protested the decision. The school was reopened the following year, and eventually it earned its name back.

More than inadequate pay, stress is the main reason why public school teachers are fired. I remember the first time I went to my kindergarten class. I had 22 students, and 15 of them spoke Spanish. I felt bad that I couldn’t meet their needs – no one had prepared me for the linguistic and cultural diversity of my first class. I did what I could to help them, and my students did well in the end, but the truth is, it wasn’t me. I was depressed, stressed and scared. Given what I experienced then, I can’t imagine how educators feel today in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant economic and emotional crises as efforts continue to safely reopen schools.

While the Biden administration is expanding access to vaccines and providing funds to address local budget shortfalls and hire more teachers, school counselors and nurses, mental health and anxiety are real – especially for educators and students of color, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic in many ways. Families of color may not have access to vaccines due to new variants of the coronavirus; the resulting economic crisis is putting severe pressure on communities of color; the struggle for racial justice continues.

Students and teachers of color face not only the consequences of the pandemic, but also complex current events such as the trial of Derek Chauvin, where they relive the details of George Floyd’s murder. What happens outside the classroom has a significant impact on Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) in the classroom, alongside issues of school climate and unfair school discipline.

It is good that the Biden administration is providing resources to get schools and districts back to work safely. But the success of reintegration and recovery will depend to some extent on the mental health and psychological well-being of teachers. Burnout in teachers due to increased stress is a reality; we could lose many teachers, especially BIPOC teachers, if this issue is not addressed.

According to a recent study by the RAND Corporation, 55 percent of a sample of former public school teachers resigned in the two years before the pandemic, and the rest left after March 2020. For some teachers in the study, the pandemic exacerbated already high stress levels, including working longer hours and being in unfamiliar and remote environments. In the RAND study, more black teachers left the profession during the pandemic than before – 11 percent versus 7 percent.

In general, IPCB teachers experience high levels of work stress. For example, a recent study by George Mason University found that racism among black teachers leads to high levels of stress and has a negative impact on their mental well-being. Similarly, in a study conducted by The Education Trust, black and Latino teachers indicated that while their racial background had a positive impact on their work with students, it caused them additional stress at work (e.g., lack of authority, microaggressions), hindering their professional development.

Many organizations, such as. B. Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools program, have developed wellness programs for teachers that address stress with self-help techniques. There are many wellness programs that can serve as a resource for BIPOC teachers in school districts. In Los Angeles, for example, BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health) provides mental health and wellness resources to the black community. Local non-profits like BEAM can partner with school districts to provide mental health and wellness support to BIPOC teachers, reducing their stress and keeping them around longer.

President Biden’s plan to reopen schools should include ways to create a culture of self-help for educators-especially those who work in high-need communities and those who face systemic racism and oppression directly-to help students overcome the same challenges. Places where teachers can share their experiences, emotions, and strategies for dealing with difficult situations can reduce burnout – and we can learn from clinicians. For example, in a 2015 study of physicians, participants were given protected time (one hour of paid time every two weeks) to engage in mindfulness, reflection, and sharing activities. By the end of the study, physicians’ emotional exhaustion and overall burnout had decreased significantly.

More than inadequate pay, stress is the main reason why public school teachers are fired. I remember the first time I went to my kindergarten class. I had 22 students, and 15 of them spoke Spanish. I felt bad that I couldn’t meet their needs – no one had prepared me for the linguistic and cultural diversity of my first class. I did what I could to help them, and my students did well in the end, but the truth is, it wasn’t me. I was depressed, stressed and scared. Given what I experienced then, I can’t imagine how educators feel today in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant economic and emotional crises while efforts continue to safely reopen schools.

While the Biden administration is expanding access to vaccines and providing funds to address local budget shortfalls and hire more teachers, school counselors and nurses, mental health and anxiety are real – especially for educators and students of color, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic in many ways. Families of color may not have access to vaccines due to new variants of the coronavirus; the resulting economic crisis is putting severe pressure on communities of color; the struggle for racial justice continues.

Students and teachers of color face not only the consequences of the pandemic, but also complex current events such as the trial of Derek Chauvin, where they relive the details of George Floyd’s murder. What happens outside the classroom has a significant impact on Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) in the classroom, alongside issues of school climate and unfair school discipline.

It is good that the Biden administration is providing resources to get schools and districts back to work safely. But the success of reintegration and recovery will depend to some extent on the mental health and psychological well-being of teachers. Burnout in teachers due to increased stress is a reality; we could lose many teachers, especially BIPOC teachers, if this issue is not addressed.

According to a recent study by the RAND Corporation, 55% of a sample of former public education teachers resigned in the two years before the pandemic, while the rest left after March 2020. For some teachers in the study, the pandemic exacerbated already high stress levels, including working longer hours and being in unfamiliar and remote environments. In the RAND study, more black teachers left the profession during the pandemic than before – 11 percent versus 7 percent.

In general, IPCB teachers experience high levels of work stress. For example, a recent study by George Mason University found that racism among black teachers leads to high levels of stress and has a negative impact on their mental well-being. In a study by The Education Trust, black and Latino teachers reported that their racial background had a positive impact on their work with students, but that it caused additional stress in the workplace (e.g., lack of authority, microaggression), which hindered their professional development.

Many organizations, such as. B. Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools program, have developed wellness programs for teachers that address stress with self-help techniques. There are many wellness programs that can serve as a resource for BIPOC teachers in school districts. In Los Angeles, for example, BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health) provides mental health and wellness resources to the black community. Local non-profits like BEAM can partner with school districts to provide mental health and wellness support to BIPOC teachers, reducing their stress and keeping them around longer.

President Biden’s plan to reopen schools should include ways to create a culture of self-help for educators-especially those who work in high-need communities and those who face systemic racism and oppression directly-to help students overcome the same challenges. Places where teachers can share their experiences, emotions, and strategies for dealing with difficult situations can reduce burnout – and we can learn from clinicians. For example, in a 2015 study of physicians, participants were given protected time (one hour of paid time every two weeks) to engage in mindfulness, reflection, and sharing activities. By the end of the study, physicians’ emotional exhaustion and overall burnout had decreased significantly.

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Research shows that teacher stress decreases as confidence and preparation increase. Teachers should be given funding to participate in self-care sessions, including mindfulness training, counseling and coaching. Most importantly, teachers need ongoing and integrated professional development to meet the many challenges of face-to-face teaching.

Therefore, the pressure on teachers – especially those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds – must be addressed if schools are to successfully reopen. As advocates, we can help by asking the Biden administration to make this happen.

This document was originally published on The Hill.

Photo by @kvakazyabra, authorized by Twenty20.

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