TEA’s Highly Mobile and At-Risk Student Programs Division conducted a Virtual Listening Tour with nine school districts during Spring 2020 to better understand the complex needs and challenges experienced by educators, to identify training and guidance needs, and to cultivate innovative strategies and solutions that can be shared with all schools. Division staff also studied national best practices and guidance provided by multiple organizations that promote well-being in schools. Based on this, TEA issued its SY 20-21 Educator Wellness: Equipping Staff to Return to School Guidance (8/20/20). According to the guidance, ”Supporting the social and emotional well-being and resilience of staff is critical for creating a positive school climate.”

The guidance includes a number of best practices, strategies and resources, starting with school districts convening a mental health/well-being team to develop a multi-tiered system of support plan focusing on promoting staff wellness, followed by assessing staff well-being prior to the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, using that data to build a school culture that promotes wellness and resiliency throughout the school year, and equipping staff with the most relevant professional development and training needed for the unique challenges posed by the circumstances this school year.

Additional recommendations include:

  • Emphasize that wellness and resiliency for everyone in the school community should remain at the forefront of all decisions;
  • Establish systemwide approaches to address secondary traumatic stress, provide educator tips for coping with compassion fatigue, and design ways to support stress reduction;
  • Communicate plans, activities, and reentry practices to keep employees and students safe to reduce anxieties; and to commit to creating a culture of open and honest feedback, transparency, and vulnerability in which staff members can safely express individual needs and concerns;
  • Remain open and honest with staff about any pivots that campuses may have to make during the school year;
  • Include clear communication of re-entry activities and practices intended to keep staff and students safe, and creating ongoing opportunities for staff to provide feedback and express concerns;
  • Expect that staff members will also be experiencing anxiety, distress and trauma that will impact their emotional wellbeing, and that when staff is appropriately equipped and supported to address the needs of their students, they will likely experience less burnout and/or secondary traumatic stress;
  • Survey staff to highlight specific training and professional development needs;
  • Select and plan training that supports the wellbeing of educators as they prepare to support their students when school reopens for the 2020-2021 school year. When designing or selecting training, focus on practical, research-based strategies, tools, and tips that educators can immediately implement in both remote and in-person settings; and
  • Provide educators with research-based and practical tips on brain breaks, mindfulness exercises, deep breathing and movement exercises, stress relief and calming activities, de-escalation, classroom management, calming zones, emotional self-regulation, behavior co-regulation and relationship-building strategies.