As the pandemic progresses, it is putting more and more pressure on school staff. Many teachers are juggling an ever-increasing amount of balls, and the pressure for staff to be flexible and resilient in the face of this adversity is at an all-time high.
Staff are spending vast amounts of energy ensuring that students feel safe, but many are struggling to keep their reserves of self-care topped up.
Coronavirus: How to support teacher mental health
So how can schools support staff mental health during a second lockdown period when options are limited? There are some relatively simple things schools can do.
1. Make time for exercise
Exercise is a massive factor influencing mental health and with the closure of gyms, swimming pools and the evenings getting darker, the options can be limited. Opening up your school fitness suite for staff or creating a mini-fitness suite in a spare room could be a fantastic way to boost staff morale. As long as the ventilation is good, the equipment can be wiped down between use, and a simple booking system is set up, then this could be a good way for staff to de-stress before or after school. Or simply offering other PE equipment and resources to staff, and organising other activities, could be useful, too.
2. Bring staff together
Bringing staff together can be really tricky at the moment due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, this is the most important time that staff need to feel a sense of belonging and be able to share experiences and, most importantly, have a laugh among colleagues. Hosting an online staff quiz could be a good way to feel connected. There will always be a colleague with an unexpected vast amount of knowledge about a random topic and this will lead to all sorts of entertainment. In our last staff quiz, we had a whole round on penguins.
3. Online book club
Another way to bring staff together could be by offering an online book club. Lots of staff enjoy reading, but struggle to find the time to look after themselves and lose themselves in a book. Knowing that there is a regular meeting of people who enjoy similar themes can be something to look forward to and connect staff together.
4. Facilitate time outside
Spending time outside in nature is also a fantastic way to ground yourself if you are struggling with anxiety or depression, and schools should try and facilitate time outdoors both in lesson time and outside of the school day. The predictability and calmness of nature can be a wonderful way to stay present. There are some beautifully coloured leaves on trees at the moment and going to immerse yourself in them can help to remember that some things haven’t been changed or altered by Covid. The mental health benefits of walking with a friend may provide comfort during these tricky times.
Amy Sayer is a secondary school teacher and author of Supporting Staff Mental health In Your School