With the promise of summer break is in sight, you may find yourself already thinking of ways you can rejuvenate yourself, while also developing new skills and strategies for managing your stress once the next academic year begins.
It’s one reason we often hear people give for attending our Oregon Summer Intensive.
Held at the beautiful Still Meadow Retreat, just outside of Portland and in the shadow of magnificent Mt. Hood, this annual event provides teachers and counselors – and therapists and nurses and others who work with children – an opportunity for renewal on so many levels, beyond just learning the Yoga Calm curriculum and new ways of implementing it in their own classrooms (and clinics and homes).
There’s time for your own yoga practice, alone or in the daily groups led by Jim. There’s time for exploring the meadows, woods,and beautifully landscaped grounds of the retreat, or wandering along the creek. There’s time for enjoying a relaxing sauna or connecting with others around the firepit in the evening.
The lush setting provides a nurturing environment, where all are welcome to refresh and renew in body, mind, and spirit.
The Critical Need for Self-Care
Making the time for self-care is ever more critical these days, but perhaps especially for those in education. After all, teacher stress and burnout have been accelerating. The most recent data shows that nearly twice as many teachers are leaving the profession each year now compared to 10 years ago.
Some of this is due to retirement, of course, but much of it is rooted in stress. A 2017 survey from the Learning Policy Institute found that while about a third of teachers leave due to retirement, 55% say the main issue driving their choice is dissatisfaction with things like mandates, lack of administrative support, and working conditions.
Left unchecked, the stress can ultimately build to burnout, which, at least one commentator has noted, may be better understood as “work induced depression.” This can have effects beyond just the personal physical and mental burden.
“I spent many years observing classrooms, and what I saw blew my mind,” said [University of Virginia professor of education Patricia] Jennings, recalling a period earlier in her career when she helped young teachers improve their classroom management. “The teachers’ own stress levels and emotional reactivity were causing problems in their classrooms.” Emotionally exhausted teachers were more likely to overreact to minor student stumbles, and such reactions spiked student stress in turn, leading to more discipline issues, and so on, spiraling downward.
“You can’t learn when you’re stressed,” said Jennings. With adrenaline and cortisol coursing through your veins, you can’t think deeply about a problem, or immerse yourself in a book, which is partly why schools have been adding “social-emotional learning” lessons to help students cultivate empathy, resolve conflicts and manage their emotions. But, it’s hard to calm kids down with stressed-out teachers.
I believe that teacher and student stress underlie a lot of our problems with learning,” said Jennings. “If we want to improve our test scores, then let’s all calm down.”
Resilience Training for Teachers & Counselors
Hence, the growth of “resilience training” for teachers, recently explored in the article quoted above. Not only do yoga, meditation, and mindfulness provide tools for addressing teacher stress; it also makes educators better prepared to teach those skills to students.
Yet there are some who worry that this is a band-aid type of solution, doing nothing to address the actual workplace issues that are fueling teacher burnout.
“As we can see from the abysmal teacher attrition rates still going on, we need to do something more than just ask teachers to buck up and meditate,” said Jason Margolis, a Duquesne University professor of education.
We wholeheartedly agree. But as we’ve discussed before, a meaningful mindfulness practice doesn’t just stop with the immediate calm from self-regulation, breathing, and perspective. It’s about more than just feeling better.
It is a preparation for taking action and creating change.
More, something is clearly needed to help teachers in the moment – just as we need “emotional first aid” strategies to help a child trying to cope with the big emotions that can fuel “acting out.” Only once the crisis has been navigated can we begin to address the causes that got us to that point.
Join Us This June at Still Meadow Retreat
In support of all the teachers, counselors, and other helping professionals who turn to programs like Yoga Calm to support their own well-being, as well as their students’, we’ve been planning some exciting changes for our Summer Intensive. Some of the things we’re working on include
- A revamped core curriculum with some new tools and activities to help you be even more successful.
- More practical guidance on incorporating tools such as new card decks, visual schedules, posters and ways of promoting school-wide implementations like our new Empower program.
- A special afternoon conference and dinner with our certified instructors with a focus on working with mental health, trauma, preschool, tweens, disabled and other populations, and a Q&A session where you can get specific advice on using Yoga Calm in your work, as well as more detailed information on topics of interest.
- A variety of guest instructors, including Yoga Calm national training manager Kathy Flaminio and Dr. Rob Roeser, a professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University.
Meantime, save the dates: June 22 – 25! We hope to see you there!