This article is part of a series highlighting the presentations given at the 2021 eLumaNation Summit, held virtually September 30 – October 1, 2021.
David Adams, MEd is the Chief Executive Officer of the Urban Assembly, an organization he has served in multiple roles since he joined in 2014 as the Director of Social-Emotional Learning. David created the Resilient Scholars Program (RSP), a unique approach to integrating SEL into curriculum and classroom practices across the UA network, and led the expansion of the Urban Assembly into a model provider of school support, with an emphasis on innovation and equity in public education. In 2021, David received the Champion of Equity Award from the American Consortium for Equity in Education. David sits on the board of CASEL and is an author of The Educator’s Practical Guide to Emotional Intelligence, and a co-author of the textbook, Challenges to Integrating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Programs in Organizations. He is a Civil Affairs Officer in the Army Reserve and holds an MEd in Educational Psychology from Fordham University.
We were honored to have David join us at eLumaNation 2021 to speak about Social-Emotional Learning and Teacher Wellbeing in the Context of School Reopening.
When one thinks about the current state of education, four things likely come to mind.
- Hybrid/remote learning
- Learning loss
- Mental health challenges
- Educator shortages and burnout
(Things like mask wars, PPE, infrastructure challenges, etc. might also come to mind; I would argue that those contribute to educator shortages and burnout.)
The work of an educator has never been easy; however, the last 18 months have pushed an already overworked, underappreciated workforce to the breaking point.
As a former teacher, when I think of burnout, it was something we felt a few weeks before winter break, the week or two before spring break, and (let’s be honest) the last month of school. That’s why the data on teacher burnout weeks into the 2021-2022 school year is extremely troubling. Troubling, but not surprising.
Given that we are not going to wave a magic wand and come up with a solution to the four challenges listed above, the overarching concern regarding burnout needs to be addressed so that we can address learning loss, mental health challenges, and the ping pong between in person, hybrid, and remote learning.
In his talk, Mr. Adams shared a strategy that can be used by educators to bring a sense of mindfulness and wellbeing in to their lives. Truthfully, this strategy is also great for any overworked parent, exhausted caregiver, or individual just trying to navigate this new “normal.”
Map: What emotions am I feeling that do not serve me?
Match: What emotions would be helpful? What is my goal?
Meaning: Why is this occurring?
Move: How will we sustain or move these emotions?
Mr. Adams modeled his thinking with an example of a teacher feeling burnt out:
Map: Feeling burnt out, irritable in the classroom.
Match: I would like to feel engaged in the classroom.
Meaning: I’m feeling burnt out and irritable because I am teaching students all day long and then have to do my lesson planning, grading, and communication with parents and my principal at night- on top of taking care of my own family.
Move: I can focus on self-care, setting boundaries, and talking to myself the way I would talk to others.
How I present myself as a teacher can help my students be more effective.
In a study conducted by Dr. Patricia Jennings of the University of Virginia, 224 teachers at 36 urban elementary schools in New York City went through training on mindfulness and mapping emotions.
By focusing on mindfulness- the ability to stay focused on one’s present experience with nonjudgmental awareness, teacher wellbeing increased. As a result, student outcomes increased. You can read more about Dr. Jennings’ study here.
An additional study by education economist Isaac Opper, Ph.D. found that teachers’ wellbeing has two to three times the impact of any other school program when it comes to student achievement. So, with that in mind, why are we not prioritizing teacher mental health and wellbeing?
In closing Mr. Adams shared a powerful quote, which I will borrow.
By investing in our teachers, we are investing in our students.David Adams, MEd
Let’s give this thought more than lip service- let’s invest in our educators and their mental health. The future, our future, depends on it.
Learn more about the great work of the Urban Assembly.
Jennings, P. A., Brown, J. L., Frank, J. L., Doyle, S., Oh, Y., Davis, R., . . . Greenberg, M. T. (2017). Impacts of the CARE for teachers program on teachers’ social and emotional competence and classroom interactions. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(7), 1010-1028.