Amid Pandemic Stress, An Online Course Supports The Mental Health Of CT Teachers | Connecticut Public Radio

Amid Pandemic Stress, An Online Course Supports The Mental Health Of CT Teachers

Nov 17, 2020

Shifting back and forth between in-person and remote learning has been tough, according to Alisha Price. She teaches social studies and literacy at Hallen School in Bridgeport.

“I am an educator, so I love being with my kids. I love being at work. If I had a choice, I would much rather be in school,” she said. “I think that we’re going to have to work extra hard to just try to make sure that we keep students engaged. Managing their emotions and their feelings is going to be a task.”

Everyone agrees teaching and learning are stressful in a pandemic.

Teachers have to stay flexible as rising COVID cases lead some Connecticut school districts back to full-remote learning. Other districts are continuing in hybrid, and some remain open for full in-person learning.

As many as 25,000 educators have turned to an online course called “Social and Emotional Learning in Times of Uncertainty and Stress.” The 10-hour course is free to educators in Connecticut, thanks to a grant from Dalio Education. Teachers, principals and school staff learn to understand their own feelings, plus coping strategies to support students.

Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Marc Brackett is director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, which developed the course in collaboration with the state Department of Education and other agencies. He says there are several reasons teachers need to pay attention to stress, the first of which is that it’s just not good for your health.

“The second is something that’s relevant to education in particular, which is that stress is contagious,” he said. “And so we say a stressed-out leader is a stressed-out school, a stressed-out teacher is a stressed-out classroom. And so we want to be mindful that our children in our classrooms are observing our teachers’ facial expressions, body language, vocal tone, the words that are coming out, and if it looks frenetic and it feels scary, kids will take on those feelings.”

Brackett says emotionally skilled educators are less likely to burn out on the job and more likely to create engaging learning experiences for their students -- whether in person or online.

Diane Orson hosts “Cutline, Mental Health During COVID-19” on CPTV Thursday, Nov. 19, at 8 p.m., taking a closer look at our collective mental health during the pandemic.