Bridging Self Care and Community Care in Schools
In the last few years, schools have intensified their focus on teacher initiatives to address stress, anxiety, burnout, and nationwide teacher shortages. Solutions have revolved around self-care, or strategies to help teachers. For wellness programs to be effective, we need to embrace both self-care and community care.
In the last few years, schools have intensified their focus on teacher initiatives to address stress, anxiety, burnout, and nationwide teacher shortages. Solutions have primarily focused on self-care, including meditation, relaxation, and physical activity.
Self-care practices are individual efforts towards wellness. These practices help us to feel grounded and centered in the moment, while supporting our long-term mental health.
While self-care is no doubt important to our health and wellbeing, educators do not exist in a vacuum and the widespread focus on self-care has eclipsed a vital part of the conversation: community care.
We are a social species. We crave connection with others, and the majority of us depend on our relationships to meet our psychological needs. Studies on the effects of loneliness and social isolation document the damage that lack of community care has on our health.
Community care recognizes our interconnectedness. Simply put, it means that we look out for one another. Science shows that social support and connection is linked to beneficial health effects, including increased happiness, longevity, and mitigating PTSD symptoms.
By embracing community care, we take an active interest in and use our resources to better the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of all community members. We recognize that the needs of one often reflect the needs of many and cocreate systems that help us thrive.
Caring for School Communities
When we approach wellness through a lens of simply self care and put the ownness of health on teachers, we perpetuate harmful inequities of health and wellness that have been built into school systems. This approach means wellness initiatives remain superficial at best, and positions us further from addressing the health of our school communities as a whole.
For wellness programs to be effective, we need to embrace both self-care and community care. Self-care programs provide strategies to help educators prevent burnout, connect with joy, manage stress, and support the strength and stamina to show up fully. Ideally, these programs are designed for the unique care needs of schools, trauma-informed, and accessible for every body.
Simultaneously, we must move beyond self-care to community care.
This means deepening the ways we relate to one another and creating systems where faculty can thrive. Strategies for community care in schools for educators and school leaders include:
- Acknowledging the challenges of working within the education system and hold space for the emotions
- Understanding that people have personal and professional lives
- Recognizing trauma and inequities
- Leading and teaching mindfully, with an understanding of how our thoughts, feelings, and actions impact ourselves and others
- Allocating time, energy, and resources to cocreate supportive school systems that prioritize health and well-being
It’s time we shift from a model of individual to collective in our school communities. We may not be able to change how the system has been, but we do have a choice in how it will continue to be.
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