Some Connecticut school districts are starting in a week and the pressure is mounting for school teachers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Some teachers say the stress is taking a physical toll.
The plan for returning to school varies by districts, with some doing all-distance learning, some will have a hybrid model and others will be all in person and teachers say they’re feeling an overwhelming sense of stress.
“The anxiety -- it’s really overwhelming,” Katie Smuckler, a Bridgeport school teacher, said.
Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you
“I really worry about the collective grief that is not being addressed that teachers are experiencing right now,” Leslie Blatteau, a New Haven teacher, said.
Teachers say are grieving the loss of normalcy and there’s also a tremendous amount of uncertainty about what the school year look like and whether schools will reopen and then need to abruptly close.
“Tears are shed all over the state and I really worry about the collective grief that is not being addressed that teachers are experiencing right now,” Blatteausaid.
She is planning her curriculum this year for all-distance learning and grieving the loss of the traditional teaching system she’s come to know over the last 13 years.
“I’m heartbroken that the job that I love is no longer the job that I love,” she said.
Teachers are also faced with trying to engage students who are learning at home while keeping themselves and their students in the classroom safe.
They said they are worried about ventilation and keeping six feet apart and in masks all day.
Mental health professionals say all of these feeling are completely normal and it’s important for teachers to be patient with themselves.
“When students initially feel overwhelmed by a topic or an area they’re not able to demonstrate mastery of, what do educators typically do? They say, ‘Let’s chunk it down into small parts, let’s build mastery in small levels and maybe today it seems overwhelming, but by next week you’ll probably have a little bit more capability here,’” Dr. James O’Dea, vice president of behavorial health at Hartford Healthcare said.
O’Dea recommends you focus on keeping your daily routine, make sure you’re eating well, get enough sleep and don’t get into bad habits to cope with your day.
He also recommends relying on other teachers or guidance staff. If it becomes overwhelming, reach out for professional help.
He said it’s important to find healthy ways to deal with stress.
“I think that is a very difficult set, or can be a challenging set of circumstances because you just having to manage your own issues but in doing that effectively it translates a sense of confidence and capability and competence to the students that are in your charge,” O’Dea said.
Connecticut’s education commissioner, Miguel Cardona, said safety is the state’s top priority and every decision is being made through the lense of public health.