Building Resilient Classrooms: The Crucial Role of Social-Emotional Support for Educators

Recognizing the vital role that support plays in fostering teacher wellbeing and professional development, educators are increasingly turning to teacher support groups as invaluable platforms for collaboration, mentorship and shared learning experiences. These support networks serve as sanctuaries where educators can exchange ideas, seek guidance and find solace in the camaraderie of like-minded peers. In this article, we delve into the significance of teacher support groups, exploring their benefits, structure and impact on individual growth and the broader educational community.

Teachers, the backbone of any education system, are facing increasing levels of stress, burnout and mental health challenges. It's time we recognize the pressing need for dedicated mental health support for educators. Now, more than ever, heightened by a post-Covid world, teachers are asked to stand in as parents, behavior therapists and emotional healers. 

Teachers frequently lack the emotional availability, training and support necessary to feel competent in caring for the social and emotional wellbeing of their pupils. This, on top of their already difficult job of educating a class of diverse learners, often brings them to the breaking point. While many schools integrate social-emotional learning into staff meetings and professional development days, creating an environment for trust and support between administrators and teachers is paramount to a positive school environment. 

We’ve come to understand that a large part of what kids need to learn in school does not fall under the 3 Rs, but rather social appropriateness, anxiety management and executive functioning. The spotlight on the needs of mental health roles in schools is expanding by leaps and bounds. In 2024, our jobs are incomplete in offering our kids the opportunities for emotional expression and not offering our staff the same.


Support for Teachers

Effective mental health support for teachers begins with creating a culture of wellbeing within schools, where educators feel supported, valued and empowered to prioritize their mental health. This can involve initiatives such as providing access to counseling services, promoting work-life balance, offering professional development on stress management and resilience, and fostering a sense of community and collaboration among staff members.

The Well Being In School Environment (WISE) program, launched in Washington, DC, provides mental health care to every adult in the school, concentrating recruitment efforts on teachers and administrators, rather than students. At school leadership meetings, clinicians are introduced and services are promoted. This helps address the two main barriers that prevent teachers from seeking therapy: the stigma associated with it and the uncertainty of what to anticipate. The obstacle of cost is also eliminated. School administrators cover the cost of a clinician’s services one day each week, believing that this preventive measure would save the expense of employee burnout and attrition. 


Teacher Support Groups

To this end and in recognition of the significant challenges facing educators today, both in and out of the classroom, our school launched a Teachers Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Support Group. This group aims to provide a safe, confidential space where educators come together to share experiences, discuss challenges and access resources to support their own social-emotional wellbeing. The group is intentionally not a professional development platform but rather an opportunity for faculty members to share. The group is moderated by a mental health professional who ensures the efficacy of the group’s purpose.

The group’s objectives are the following:

a) Provide a supportive community, where teachers can connect with peers facing similar challenges and share strategies for coping with stress, burnout and other social-emotional concerns.

b) Promote self-reflection and awareness, helping teachers identify and understand their own emotions, strengths and areas for growth.

c) Equip teachers with tools and strategies to build resilience and effectively manage stress, adversity and uncertainty both in their personal and professional lives.

d) Offer workshops, discussions and resources focused on developing social-emotional skills such as empathy, communication, conflict resolution and mindfulness, which can enhance both personal wellbeing and classroom dynamics.

This support group operates through biweekly in-person meetings scheduled at an allotted time available to all faculty. These meetings feature professionally facilitated discussions covering various topics pertinent to social-emotional wellbeing, including stress management, self-care practices, relationship building and cultivating a positive school culture. Additionally, the group periodically hosts guest speakers and workshops to provide expertise on relevant subjects. Resource sharing is encouraged among members to exchange articles, books, podcasts, apps and other tools related to social-emotional learning and teacher self-care. Confidentiality is emphasized to create a safe environment where participants can freely share their experiences and concerns without fear of judgment or fear of backlash from school administrators. 

Regular evaluations are conducted to assess the effectiveness of the support group in meeting the needs of participants and achieving its objectives. Feedback is solicited from group members through surveys, focus groups and informal discussions, and adjustments are made based on the feedback we receive. To date, teachers have reported feeling calmer when faced with difficult students. They report having acquired tools to manage their own anxiety and an increased frustration tolerance. 

Teacher support groups serve as invaluable tools within the educational community. Offering a sanctuary for educators to express feelings, share experiences and seek guidance fosters personal and professional growth. Teacher SEL groups create solidarity and camaraderie among teachers facing similar challenges. 

As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of education, it is imperative to recognize the significance of these support networks in promoting teacher wellbeing and ultimately enhancing student success. Teacher support groups are not merely forums for discussion; they are lifelines that nurture the spirit of teaching and learning. By investing in the creation and sustenance of these communities, we invest in the wellbeing of educators, the success of students and the future of education as a whole. It is through unity, collaboration and support that we can truly transform our schools into vibrant centers of learning and inspiration.

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HaYidion Jewish Educator Pipeline cover image
Jewish Educator Pipeline
Spring 2024
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