In the past few weeks, I’ve read several articles on social media about teacher wellness or self-care rooms in U.S. schools.
The abundance of these articles makes me wonder whether it’s timing (schools are back in session in North America) or trending.
I wanted to take a deeper dive into teacher wellness rooms to see why schools are jumping on this bandwagon.
First of all, here is a bit of research on teacher stress as a backgrounder:
- teachers experience as much stress as paramedics and police officers (Johnson, Cooper, Cartwright, Donald, Taylor & Millet, 2005).
- 80% of Canadian teachers feel their stress levels have increased over the last 5 years (Froese-Germain, 2014).
- students are negatively affected by teacher stress and burn-out (Arens & Morin, 2016)
- the chronic use of empathy and depletion of emotional resources are strongly associated with emotional exhaustion and/or professional burnout for teachers (Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter, 2001).
One way that teachers can deal with occupational stress is by practicing self-care. The definition that I like to use from Newell & MacNeil (2016):
“Self-care is the skills and strategies used to maintain personal, familial, emotional, and spiritual needs while attending to the needs and demands of others".
Without self-care, teachers are at risk of emotional exhaustion and/or professional burnout.
Teachers are very busy people with numerous responsibilities inside and outside of the classroom. Finding time to practice self-care is one of the frequent concerns that teachers raise.
Initially, self-care was thought to be the sole responsibility of teachers however as Cherkowski & Walker (2018) argue, it is a personal, interpersonal and organizational responsibility. I see these wellness rooms as a way for teachers to practice self-care while at work but more importantly, school leaders are demonstrating that they value teachers AND their well-being! (When I was a college faculty, there were many days when I would have used a wellness room!)
Do wellness rooms work?
Evidence to support these initiatives should be gathered but here are some findings provided by the Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools program:
Click on the links below for some examples of wellness rooms in schools:
If you would like to more details on how to implement a wellness room at your own school, there are many suggestions here: https://thrivingschools.kaiserpermanente.org/school-employees/breakroom/
Whether it’s called a wellness room, serenity room or self-care room, let’s give a shout out to school leaders who are placing a high value on teacher well-being. I hope that this trend will start spreading. If you have one of these rooms at your school, please let me know. I would love to write about your experience.
Thanks for reading. Patrice
Arens, A.K. & Morin, A.J. (2016). Relations between teachers’ emotional exhaustion and students’ educational outcomes. Journal of Education Psychology. 108(6), 800-813
Cherkowski, S., & Walker, K. (2018). Teacher Wellbeing. Noticing, Nurturing, Sustaining and Flourishing in Schools. Word & Deed Publishing, ON
Johnson, S., Cooper, C., Cartwright, S., Donald, I., Taylor, P., & Millet, C. (2005). The experience of work-related stress across occupations. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 20(2), 178-187
Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397-422. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.397
Newell, J & MacNeil, G. (2010). Professional Burnout, Vicarious Trauma, Secondary Traumatic Stress, and Compassion Fatigue: A Review of Theoretical Terms, Risk Factors, and Preventive Methods for Clinicians and Researchers. Best Practices in Mental Health, Vol. 6 (2) Lyccum Books
Patrice Palmer has more than 23 years’ experience as an ESL teacher, trainer and writer in Canada and spent seven amazing years in Hong Kong. Her experience with professional burn-out in 2015 prompted her to reflect on her own lack of self-care and adopt positive psychology interventions which she now shares with other educators and administrators. Patrice's new book Teacher Self-Care Manual: Simple Strategies for Stressed Teachers by Alphabet Publishing will be available October 2019. http://bit.ly/2OC2Gmd
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