Expert Q&A: Focusing on Teacher Well-Being Benefits Students

Today I am talking to Dave Arnold, teacher and one of the founders of Teachers On Call. Dave is the founder of Big Picture Learning and is known as a thought leader in the area of education reform. He is the author of “Kids Need to Read” and the lead teacher in 3 of the schools that Teach for America recruits. He was a recipient of Teacher of the Year award from the American Federation of Teachers and a number of other awards. Dave is a frequent speaker at national conferences and is also a teacher mentor at the Big Picture Learning Schools.

Aaron Pogliano, graduate student in the University of Richmond’s School of Education, has written a paper that explores a new approach to improving teacher well-being. The goal of this approach was to create a culture in which teachers were able to focus on their main goals, and not be burdened by trying to meet the needs of students who don’t seem to be putting in the effort to learn.

From their first day on the job to the last, teachers have one of the most difficult jobs in America. They are expected to be the top educators in the classroom, instruct students on the law, and manage their behavior. Across the nation, teachers are forced to deal with unruly classroom behavior, uninterested students, and depressed teachers….

Donna Houseman has been assisting young children, teachers, and caregivers in developing emotional intelligence for over 35 years. Her work with teachers at various phases of their careers at the Houseman Institute has yielded significant insights into how adults can model emotional regulation for children and how adult capability in regulating emotions may be increased. When instructors are given chances for professional development that concentrate on their own well-being, this is passed on to their pupils in the form of self-regulation, which has long-term advantages for young children.


Maureen Kelleher of Brightbeam spoke with Houseman recently to learn more about how adults can maintain their cool while still helping young children develop the emotional and cognitive skills they’ll need for a lifetime of success. Their discussion has been condensed and edited for clarity and length.


Tell me about the work you’re doing with teachers to help them improve their emotional control so they can better assist their young pupils.

It’s important to be a strong supporter of the instructor because we assist them realize that we all have emotions and that our body frequently speak before our minds do. We begin by helping instructors become more aware of their body in order to assist them become more conscious of their emotions. What’s going on? Is it true that my heart is racing? Is it possible that I’m breaking out in a cold sweat? Is it possible that I’m flushed?

They may then reflect on how they are now feeling. They are better able to communicate their emotions in productive ways as they become more aware of them. Then they may consider what is causing these feelings and what they can do to assist themselves in this circumstance.

The kid absorbs everything that the instructor does, including how the teacher deals with emotions and how the teacher responds to the child. The kid is observing the instructor and learns how to cope with very intense emotions. Not just from what the instructor says — the substance of their words — but also from the tone of voice and the pace with which the teacher speaks.

What sort of feedback do you get from instructors when you work with them?

Teachers are often telling me how much they like this. It is not only assisting them in their work with children and assisting them in becoming much better teachers, but it is also assisting them in their personal relationships. You know, their relationships with their partners, their families, and their friends. As a result, it’s a victory both professionally and emotionally for them.

Is there any evidence to support this common-sense notion that if instructors remain emotionally connected in their relationships with kids, they would use less punishment on males, particularly Black and brown boys?

I’m not aware of any recent study on the subject, but I can share our experience with Houseman Institute. Over the years, we’ve taught children of all cultures and races, and we’ve seen a significant reduction in prescribed opinions about a child when we help teachers learn how to tune in to what’s going on for the child by understanding what’s behind the behavior and the emotion that’s prompting the behavior. They grow more empathetic as a result of their increased knowledge of the kid. The kid is happier, the instructor is happier, and the implicit views that teachers previously had are diminished.

It’s also likely to encourage greater problem-solving creativity and cooperation.

Much more, since including the youngsters in the problem-solving process is a crucial component. [Check out the MakePeace Table on the Houseman Institute’s website for additional information.]


As a result, the issue of how to teach this information to parents arises. How can you create that uniformity among parents, instructors, and students so that everyone uses these skills?

Yes. You know, you’ve mentioned prejudice before. I’ve discovered that instructors may be biased when it comes to parents enrolling their children in [preschool, for lengthy hours]. We must address this — and solve it jointly — in order to comprehend the needs of parents and the decisions they make. That is not a conclusion we have reached. We recognize that individuals must make decisions, and that instructors must be helpful rather than judgmental, therefore we’re assisting the teacher in understanding the parent’s requirements.

When a parent arrives angry or upset, the instructor is reminded not to take it personally. Teachers must recognize that the parent is going through a difficult time and that you are there to support them. If you meet them where they are emotionally, you will only exacerbate the situation and cause it to erupt.

That’s fantastic. And I’m curious whether any of the methods you’ve been using to calm down your emotions would be tough to use in a pandemic situation, so tell me what has changed and what hasn’t in terms of strategies.

In a pandemic situation, you may consider returning to school, for example. One thing instructors should keep in mind is that they and their kids will be returning to school with a lot of mixed feelings. They won’t be able to solve the issue that everyone is worried about: learning loss, unless they can address it. They must be able to begin to cope with these feelings.

This must be integrated throughout science, reading, and math classes. Teachers must be completely at ease with this. This may come to the surface in a secure, controlled setting when a teacher is in charge of his or her own emotions, and instructors might say, “We can speak about these sentiments and assist you with them.” This begins to bring the children together and calm them down. It’s not being swept under the carpet; instead, it’s being addressed publicly. Kids understand, “I’m not alone in feeling nervous,” or “I’m not alone in feeling concerned,” or whatever emotion they’re experiencing.

It evens the playing field for everyone, and emotions begin to be minimized and managed, freeing up all of that energy for them to begin to learn. When the kid is dysregulated up up and personal, I may remark, “Let’s take a big breath together.” They are aware of me, are there with me, and are observing. They become aware of the rhythm because otherwise, a child’s breathing may become extremely fast, which is something we don’t want them to do.

It’s best if youngsters can be in the same room, smell and touch each other, and truly see the emotions on each other’s faces up close.

However, if they are unable to do so (because to the fact that they are still virtual), the next best thing is to address emotions with visuals and encourage youngsters to show us their sentiments and ask what they see in cards with facial expressions, for example. While it comes to breathing, we may do it online by saying, “Let’s count to three when we’re taking a deep breath.” I’ll say things like, “Let’s imagine we’re smelling a very nice flower… and then we’ll blow out a candle.”

So, let’s go back a little farther. Many instructors are still on summer vacation, which is a good thing. Teachers are tired from the previous year, which is understandable. Do you have any self-care suggestions for teachers for the rest of the summer to ensure they are in good shape when school starts again in the fall?

Absolutely. One of the things we’ve developed at the Institute is a stress-reduction program for teachers. There are four types of courses available. They’re interactive, but they’re not in real time. Teachers may watch the classes at their leisure, learning to breathe and doing various relaxation exercises. They assist kids in gaining a better understanding of their emotions and how to deal with them. This is a critical first step in coping with these powerful emotions and developing strategies that will help instructors feel better.

How can laying these emotional roots pave the way for executive function development?

Emotional and cognitive circuits in the brain are linked, thus strengthening the emotional circuits will also improve the cognitive circuits. Emotion is a child’s first language, regardless of ethnicity or culture. They’ve honed their ability to read people’s emotions. When you improve the emotional abilities we’ve been discussing, messages are sent to the cognitive circuits. When emotions are controlled and handled, intellect becomes more accessible. Executive functioning abilities such as attention, listening, and problem solving become more accessible as energy becomes available.

The Department of Defense approached me a few years ago and asked if I could assist them with developing a curriculum. We placed them in a classroom with our three-year-olds, who were studying physics. They were discussing the laws of gravity, motion, and friction. These two large men stood there for perhaps 10 or 15 minutes before returning to the conference room and exclaiming, “Outstanding.”

“Can you help me comprehend what you think is outstanding?” I said, since I had no idea what they meant.

We’ve never seen such young youngsters pay attention, focus, and comprehend such complicated events. What are you doing with these children?

This is an illustration of what may happen when kids learn to properly control their emotions.

Getty Images contributed this image. Canva-licensed signature.

Despite what your principal may say, a focus on teacher well-being can help students overcome the challenges they face and realize their full potential. A new study from North Carolina State University has found that when school leaders prioritize teacher well-being, students are more likely to succeed in the classroom.. Read more about study. com expert q&a salary quora and let us know what you think.

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This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • emotional support for teachers during covid
  • how to support teachers during covid
  • supporting teachers during pandemic
  • teachers’ well-being
  • mental health support for teachers during covid

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