In this week’s episode of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast, Steve looks at how emotions effect teaching and learning and explores resources and ideas that can be helpful in dealing with emotional needs.
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Steve [Intro]: 00:25 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. For over three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to learn with educators at all levels, both nationally and internationally. I invite you to listen as I explore my thoughts and learning on a variety of topics connected to teaching, learning, and leading with some of the best and brightest educators from around the globe. Thanks for listening in.
Steve: 00:53 Teachers’ Emotional needs. “Teachers Are Anxious and Overwhelmed. They Need Social Emotional Learning Now More Than Ever.” That’s the title of an article by Christina Cipriano and Marc Brackett from the Yale center for emotional intelligence. You’ll find the link in the lead in to this blog. In March, they surveyed 5,000 teachers asking them for their three most frequent emotions.
Steve: 01:27 The five most frequent emotions that were mentioned were anxious, fearful, worried, overwhelmed, and sad. Anxiety was the most frequently mentioned emotion. An interesting part of their article is that in 2017, a similar survey of the top five emotions were reported as frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed, tired, and happy. In 2017, teachers reported not feeling supported by their administration around challenges related to meeting all of their students’ learning needs, high stakes testing, and in ever changing curriculum as well as work life balance. Prior to the pandemic, 85% of teachers reported an imbalance in work life time and that that imbalance was affecting their teaching. Additionally, approximately 30% of teachers were leaving the profession during the first five years of teaching. So prior to the pandemic, teachers were already burning out.
Steve: 03:03 And all the new expectations that came with distance learning and the ever evolving demands of teachers’ own families, it’s no surprise that these researchers found 95% of the feelings that were reported recently were rooted in anxiety. The research done by the Yale center for emotional intelligence identifies how emotions drive effective teaching and learning, decision-making, classroom and school climate and educator wellbeing. So first of all, emotions affect our attention memory and learning. Positive emotions promote greater engagement. Prolonged negative emotions from stress diminish our ability to be effective educators and undermine student learning. Emotions also influence our decision making. When stressed areas of our brains that are responsible for decision making can become hijacked, where pleasant emotions can increase our mental flexibility and creativity, which are key to solving critical problems and making critical decisions. Emotions impact our relationships. How we feel and how we interpret the feelings of others influences the messages that we send both non-verbally and within our voice tones. This can influence a teacher’s ability to build relationships with students and with parents.
Steve: 04:49 And during the virtual learning time, our ability to build strong relationships with parents and families has become an increasing importance. Our emotions influence our health and wellbeing. How we feel influences both our physical and mental health. As educators, we need the ability to regulate unpleasant emotions and experiences. This is critical for the development of persistence, which is highly needed in building our resilience. And lastly, our emotions impact our performance. Chronic stress is shown to be a link to decrease teacher motivation and engagement. As educators, we need to be models of healthy self regulations for our students and their families. The researchers identify two important steps us to have as a focus. One is to assist teachers in developing emotional skills. With those skills, teachers tend to report less burnout and greater job satisfaction, keys to being successful in impacting student learning. And secondly, we needed administrators who have developed emotional skills because they then show fewer negative emotions and more positive ones.
Steve: 06:32 Teachers are more likely to build relationships with such administrators. Those teachers are likely to have stronger relationships with their students, which are critical to their students’ success. When we find out how people are feeling and how they want to feel, that gap between those two provides information to drive decisions, changes, programs that we might look to implement. When the researchers asked the teachers what they needed to have a greater emotional balance, they said that they needed more time to make the adjustments to virtual learning and ways to make virtual learning fun and engaging for their students. They also expressed a need for honesty, respect, kindness, flexibility, and patience from school administrators. I have written and recorded earlier podcast about the value of knowing – K N O W I N G, knowing our students, knowing our colleagues, administrators knowing teachers, knowing parents as critical to creating the emotional environment that’s necessary to maximize learning. This school year creates a a unique experience because in the past year, when the quarantine happened, teachers had already spent substantial time with their students and so relationships and expectations were in place.
Steve: 08:21 For many teachers, they’ll be starting this new school year with new students virtually and having to look for ways to build those relationships. Building knowing will be a critical element. CASEL, the collaborative for academic social and emotional learning, has produced a roadmap for educators to explore in designing the reopening of schools. I’ve placed a link to that roadmap in the lead-in to this podcast. They describe the need for a personal connection and relationships in order to be a culturally responsive educator and to create the opening for engagement in learning. They’ve provided an outline for a suggested five minute chat with each student individually, suggesting that these chats could happen face to face or virtual. The purpose of the chat is to hear students’ experiences and perspectives so that we can know them and that we can be responsive to their needs and learning from them can benefit decisions that we make about instruction.
Steve: 10:01 I’ve also included the link for you to the chat outline. Their outline suggests five steps. Initiate, open, personalize, invite feedback, and close. In the initiation, you provide a reason for setting up the chat – letting the student know and inviting them to take part. In the opening, you share your enthusiasm for having the opportunity to interact individually with the student. Personalizing it has you asked students questions that allow them to provide you with information. And inviting feedback, you’re asking the student to make suggestions that might be important to your decisions about how to structure a classroom or how to structure your virtual instruction. In the closing, you’re looking to close on an optimistic note. Now for elementary teachers, there should be an opportunity to have this chat with each of your students. Those of you at the secondary level may find that you need to work as a team.
Steve: 11:16 So the middle school team might divide students up so that each teacher makes calls to a different group of the students and a middle school or high school structure with an advisory, this would be a great opening advisory activity. Having each student get that individual call, provide that individual feedback, just has I think awesome opportunities. As I read through the chat, it dawned on me that the same structure might be used for school leaders to look at how they’re connecting with staff members. Again, a principal in a smaller school might make a call to each teacher individually, perhaps the principal and assistant principal and maybe the instructional coach splitting up the the call list. In a larger school, this could be spread out to more leaders, including the department heads. The critical element would be that each person received that call and had the opportunity to share their experiences. Let’s consider how the same five steps would would apply. Initiating, could be done through a an email that went out to staff members, asking them to register a time that they would be available and explain the reason for wanting to have the one on one conversations.
Steve: 12:59 In the opening, you’d be looking to share your pleasure that one, they put the time aside to have this conversation with you and your interest in in getting a personal connection with folks to start the year. As you begin to personalize further with them as an individual, you might ask a question like what have the summer months been for you? What might you say is your biggest source of pleasure right now? Your source of stress right now? Key here is allowing people to share as much as what they want to share without without pushing back. Probably best to also hold back from sharing your experiences and make this mostly a time of listening. In inviting feedback you might ask, what do you think that we should learn from the quarantine time that ended this past year? What are your thoughts on how the leadership team might best support you as teachers, might best support you as a teacher? Look to close on an upbeat, positive note. What’s the most positive thing that’s come out of the quarantine time for you?
Steve: 14:27 What message do you want your students to get? In sharing your own optimism that knowing the support and collegiality of the staff, you’re sure that we can create a environment where we as a team will support each other? CASEL shared a a few additional considerations while you’re having the chat. And I think these apply both to chats with students as well as with teachers. Kind of keep a probe happening from time to time with a statement like, “tell me more about that.” Communicate care and your own calm, emotional stances is important. Your expectations that we as a school will be successful because of the way we will support each other. It’s important to validate the emotions that that people share. So being empathetic. I had several teachers throughout the quarantine share with me that they extremely valued the empathy that they received from their administrators.
Steve: 15:43 You want to keep this conversation solution focused. So even if you don’t have a solution to a problem that the teacher currently raises, being able to communicate that that we will tackle that that issue. And again, close out on your own upbeat positiveness as you wind down the conversation. Perhaps thanking them for sharing the information that they’ve shared with you, because it will be helpful in making the countless decisions that need to be made in the coming weeks. My coaching connections in the recent past weeks with school leaders and instructional coaches really highlights the difficulty in planning for the start of a school year with so many unknowns being present. A focus on teacher, student, parent, and your own emotional wellbeing should continuously be on the top of any agenda. I wish you well. Thanks for listening.
Steve [Outro]: 17:02 Thanks again for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean. And please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.