Working in Schools During a Pandemic Requires GRAPES

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Working in Schools During a Pandemic

Teachers and school administrators are nearly at the end of their ropes. Many don’t recognize or seem to know the professional or emotional needs of teachers and school administrators. This is especially true while working in schools during a pandemic. Stress is affecting all stakeholders, including educators, students, parents, and community members. However, the educators are on the frontlines, and they need GRAPES.

Working in schools during a pandemic brings unexpected new demands on educators. Even before COVID, teaching was never an easy profession. During this trying time in our history, teaching and learning changed on the drop of a dime. Suddenly classes were virtual with nearly no preparation for professional development. Yet, teachers and school administrators had to think on their feet and make it work. It may not have been perfect, but teachers know they must have a plan A, B, and C. They work hard under pressure, but at some point, it all becomes too much to handle.

Teachers’ Emotional Needs

According to the article How to Support Teachers Emotional Needs Right Now, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) launched a survey to get an idea of teachers’ emotional lives during the pandemic. Over 5000 teachers in the U.S. responded to the study in March 2020. “The five most mentioned feelings were anxious, fearful, worried, overwhelmed, and sad. Anxiety, by far, was the most frequently mentioned emotion.”

In the same article, 2017 is mentioned, too. Again, over 5000 educators responded to the same questions. Then the top five emotions were frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed, tired, and happy. Of course, the responses were before COVID19, but you can see how the feelings are much more intense or worrisome. 

The emotions in 2020 are much more personal for educators. Both teachers and principals worry about their own health and the needs of their families. Teaching in a virtual setting or a hybrid is difficult. If you must work from home and your own children must learn from home, conflicts will occur. Your students need attention, but so do your own kids. How do you balance both? It’s impossible!

Decision-Making Without Teachers’ Input

Stress and burnout among educators was an issue before COVID. The pandemic intensified the problem. Decisions were made to return to schools despite an increase in the number of cases of the virus. Teachers were left out. Decision-makers seem to forget that teachers’ emotions, opinions, and experience matters. Educators still feel some kind of way about how politicians and district leaders ignored their pleas. Right now, the negative emotions will only increase the levels of chronic stress in teachers and school administrators. 

Not only do educators have to deal with being left out of the decision-making process, but they must also deal with hostile public relations. The perception and some headlines seem to portray teachers as not wanting to work. “Teachers need to do their jobs and return to the classroom!” How many times did we hear and see those words? We also heard from politicians if schools did not reopen, districts would lose federal funding.” Educators did not need additional and unnecessary pressure. What they need are GRAPES! Here is an explanation.

Working in schools during COVID19
Teaching during COVID19 is a game-changer.
Photo by Adam Niescioruk on

Grace and Resilience

First, teachers and school administrators need grace. What is grace? How do you provide dignity to educators? Grace, as a noun, means favor or goodwill. As a verb, grace means to favor or honor. All first responders and essential workers deserve dignity, including teachers. Educating the nation’s children is an honor and a tough job. Many cannot and will not do it. However, those that do the job make many sacrifices daily. They teach, but they also give, nurture, care, love, and go beyond the call of duty. Show an educator some grace by honoring the work they do daily.

The second part of GRAPES is resilience. In the field of education, school staff members need to be resilient. We cannot take everything personally because stress and disappointment will have their way with us. Educators can bounce back after being pulled in too many directions, overwhelmed, disrespected, and much more. 

Kicks Crew

Access and Patience

Next is access to the necessary resources and support. Give educators the funds, materials, technology, and professional development to be successful and provide the best quality education. Also, provide access to the social-emotional needs of the adults who work in schools. Make funding our schools a priority so that resources are plentiful and equitable.

Educators give and need patience. Parents are upset that virtual learning is not going as well as they’d like it. Students are squirmy and overwhelmed. Teachers are frustrated with virtual learning platforms, low bandwidth, unobtainable expectations, and a few other things. Everyone is tired of sitting in front of a screen for too many hours. Impatience turns into stress for all. 

Essential School Supplies!

Empathy and Support Systems

Teachers and principals need empathy, too. All non-teachers should put yourselves in their shoes. Wear their moccasins of an educator. Ask yourself, can you survive a week in a classroom with 25 or more students? If the answer is no, then give empathy to all those who teach your children. Many parents discovered how hard it is to work with their own children during the pandemic. Some parents even praised teachers for the job they do. Still, others feel teachers do not work hard enough. 

Lastly, teachers need a variety of supports. Working during a pandemic showed how vital teachers are to our country. Educators represent an essential market in the economy and in politics. We are an engine that helps to move many working parts in our nation’s systems. Support systems must be in place to deter the effects of stress and burnout bound to happen during and after this pandemic. 

Teacher Self-Care During a Pandemic

Provide grace, resilience, access, patience, empathy, and support to every educator you know and meet. Let’s make teachers feel seen and heard. Empower them to make decisions. Value their opinions, knowledge, and experience. Make working in schools during a pandemic less scary, Tell teachers they are worth every penny and more of their salaries. 

Now, educators, you must do some things for yourselves, too. You can only control the controllable. Carve out some time for self-care to maintain your mental health. During breaks from virtual classes, move your body by walking around your house or apartment. You need self-compassion, too. Set reasonable expectations for yourself and others. More importantly, reach out and communicate your mental health status. Do not stay silent when your suffering. Your livelihood is a priority, but your life is more important.


Additional Resources

How to Support Teachers’ Emotional Needs Right Now

Teachers Are Caring More Than Ever

Reflecting on Teacher Well-Being During A Pandemic

How to Support Teachers’ Emotional Needs Right Now

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