Helping Teachers Manage their Mental Health during the Pandemic

An insight by Hayley Trenchard and Rajveen Kaur

As we enter a new phase of the pandemic in Malaysia, teachers across the country continue to provide remote learning for their students, while facing vaccine coordination, managing anxious parents, and facing a rotation-based classroom for the future. They continue to ensure that children get the education they deserve in a changing environment, teachers have been asked to change their methods and to embrace technology in an unprecedented way. Fighting lack of data, devices, crowded homes, thinning patience and multiple distractions, teachers are depended upon to keep our children learning. But at what cost?

Teachers are used to working in predictable and social working environments, with structure and routine. Many go into the field because they love working with children, but after months of school closure, isolation, an unpredictable work environment, the merging of personal life and professional and the stress of online teaching, is now taking its toll. It is a pattern that is repeated across the world. Research conducted in Romania in 2020 found “technostress” was a source of burnout and negativity for teachers. Similarly, in Canada, research found that during the country's lockdown period, ‘teachers [were] experiencing a mental health crisis’.

Ten mental health and well-being tips for teachers | UNICEF Europe and Central Asia

As the pandemic wears on, how can we ensure that all those in education are looking after their mental well-being?

Research conducted before the pandemic in Terengganu found that mental distress amongst teachers was best avoided by looking at 3 main variables –

  1. reducing work demand
  2. increasing personal control over work
  3. creating social support mechanisms.

With the first 2 variables looking difficult to alter against the backdrop of  COVID-19, it could be time for school leaders to look at the third variable and invest time in their teacher’s social connections. Finding opportunities for staff to communicate with each other, and creatively and collaboratively problem solve together, might be the best tonic for teachers.

Only 41 per cent of young Indians seek support for mental health problems: UNICEF | Parenting News,The Indian Express

As the expectations of our teachers grow, we must make sure that our professionals are looked after so our children get the education they deserve. It is time for school leaders to think again about how their teachers are connecting with each other socially to create impactful support systems.

LeapEd has been pioneering safe online spaces for teachers to meet, discuss and collaborate since March 2020. All our sessions use case studies and scenarios that are relevant to teachers' own online classrooms, and strategies shared do not add to the workload, but help teachers solve their own immediate concerns. As Gennie stated in her workshop feedback, it was a “good session with the team, I felt so much better today I'm not alone at least”.

We are delighted to have our programmes recognised last month when LeapEd was invited to move on to the second phase of the Social Impact Challenge Accelerator (SICA) organised by the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC). In the programme that aims to amplify the impact of Malaysian social ventures, we entered the MyUNICEF Impact Challenge with an innovative programme that targets mental health literacy by building a community of resilient teachers. From a total of 184 applications for the 4 impact challenges, we joined 25 other programmes that seek to amplify their impact.

MyUNICEF Impact Challenge

If you would like to find out how we can facilitate online learning communities for your organisation that will help professionals connect and improve their practice, reach out to us.