Authored by Dr Peter Bateman, Executive Director, Association of International Schools in Africa
Like many of you, I have become increasingly aware of the impact the pandemic is having on the health and wellbeing of our community of schools. Earlier this week I listened to the experiences of one of our AISA member school heads who told our group of the anxiety of being sick with COVID-19 and the impact this had on their family members, and in the broader school community. One of the learnings I came away with is that this anxiety overlays and compounds the ongoing stress associated with being an educator at this challenging time.
I decided I should explore further this notion of stress and its impact on wellbeing in our schools. What are the key stressors being experienced by AISA educators, school leaders and co-professionals? Are these stress points the same for everyone? And at what point does the ongoing nature of this stress reach traumatic proportions – be that experienced directly or vicariously?
As I was exploring these questions, I came across an excellent report from an organisation called, quite simply, “Education Support”. This organisation has been supporting educators in the UK for 140 years. Recently they commissioned a study entitled “Covid-19 and the classroom: Working in education during the coronavirus pandemic. The impact on education professionals’ mental health and wellbeing”. You can download the full report here.
Although the report explores the impact of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of education professionals in the UK, I can see many similar issues and concerns being raised in international schools here in the AISA region. If we are to deal effectively with the ongoing stress associated with COVID-19 and design (research-based) interventions that focus on mitigating the impact of this on our school community’s wellbeing, it makes sense to identify what those stressors are.
Some AISA schools are still operating in remote learning mode. Take a look below at the issues UK educators, senior leaders, and co-professionals have weighing on their mind. Is this also your experience?
For another group of AISA schools, teaching and learning has resumed on campus, albeit in a variety of intermediary ways. For UK educational professionals in these schools, the report suggests that the following are the key stressors. As you browse the data, I wonder if these issues are also playing on your mind?
As many of you are aware, AISA is supporting our education professionals in a variety of ways. One of the most instructive for me are the conversations happening in our online Communities of Practice. It does not take much ‘reading between the lines’ to see that many people are exhausted with the new way of working (be that online, on campus or a multimodal approach). Our ability to prioritise self-care in order to preserve energy must now become an active and ongoing process as this situation continues over the longer term.
As a starting point, the folks at Education Support suggest that raising awareness of these issues is critical. Become aware of the symptoms of stress (and trauma) for yourself since if you recognise there is a problem, it is easier to deal with it. Then it also becomes easier to establish ways to look after yourself and to access support. I believe AISA can play a role in assisting schools in helping raise awareness. AISA has a number of programmes running to support wellbeing in our schools. To find out more, please visit the wellbeing page on the AISA Website. Then each AISA school needs to develop the counselling or other services that your community needs. Let me give the last word to Sineád McBrearty, the chief executive of Education Support:
“We know that the mental health and wellbeing of teachers and pupils is closely inter-connected, and many teachers are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their pupils and schools’ capacity to provide support. We would urge teachers struggling to seek support.”
Stay Well and Stay Connected.
The Association of International Schools in Africa is dedicated to serving its members throughout Africa during this challenging time. Please let us know if you require additional or specific information, resources and or support, and we will endeavour to assist you as soon as possible.