Principal - May/June 2021 - 47

Negat i ve emot i ons compromi se a
teacher's physi cal and emot i onal heal t h.
anxious, fearful, worried, overwhelmed, and sad.
Negative emotions compromise
a teacher's physical and emotional
health. Teachers who are distressed
have difficulty relating to others,
focusing their attention, making decisions, and recalling facts. The surveys
made it clear: We need to be worried
about our teaching corps.

Creating a Supportive Climate
Now more than ever, principals
need to help teachers put their own
oxygen masks on before they assist
others. A healthy school climate in
which teachers are heard, supported,
and empowered is most important.
Principals need to lead with teacher
emotions in mind and become familiar
with actions that nurture resilience.
To start, ask your staff, " How are
you managing stress? " to create a
baseline of self-care needs. Use this
information to begin development of
a school self-care plan that nurtures
community resilience and communicates that you're in this together.
Encouraging each staff member to
develop a self-care plan after sharing
the school community plan also lets
staff know that you mean business.
Investigate practices that foster
resilience, and create routines and
calendar check-in reminders to
support them. Be intentional about
encouraging laughter or compassion.
Bryan Sexton, director of the Duke
Center for Healthcare Safety and
Quality, calls these moments " bite-size
resiliency. " Opening a staff meeting by
sharing a funny story you heard from
a student, texting a quick message of

gratitude to a colleague, or writing down three good things
are examples.
Gerry Brooks, former principal of Liberty Elementary
School in Lexington, Kentucky, is education's Jimmy Fallon or
James Corden; he posts hilarious YouTube videos about the
work we do. A favorite of mine when providing professional
development on resilience is " Social Stories for Teachers, " a
humorous video that can help start serious conversations
about creating community self-care plans. Laughter floods
our bodies with happy hormones.
Relationships are important to health and well-being. But
relationships with colleagues are especially vital, because
compassion and empathy are built-in. Encourage each staff
member to create a self-care plan and lead by example.
Make sure each teacher is matched with a self-care partner
at school or somewhere in the district to serve as personal
(emotional) trainers for one another. They can check in to
see how self-care plans are progressing.

Practicing Mindfulness
The concept of mindfulness was first introduced to
Western medical practitioners in 1970 by Jon Kabat-Zinn
at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Since
then, multiple studies have shown that the practice of
mindfulness not only improves memory, cognitive function,
concentration, and physical health, but also reduces
anxiety, distress, and implicit bias. Mindfulness helps to
cultivate moment-to-​m oment awareness of thoughts,
feelings, and surroundings.
Mindfulness not only gives us control over our emotions,
but also increases our capacity to think clearly and examine mistaken judgments. Organizations such as the Space
Between community offer professional development in
mindfulness practice tailored to educators. It's a solution
that is worth the time to investigate as you create your selfcare plan to improve teacher well-being-and it might even
address other lingering inequities in our school systems.
Victoria E. Romero is an educational consultant and
co-author of Building Resilience in Students Impacted by
Adverse Childhood Experiences with Ricky Robertson and
Amber Nicole Warner.

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