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  • Dr. Tia Barnes

Teacher Well-Being in the Midst of School Shootings

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

As a professor at a university, I am filled with anxiety as I complete my active shooter training video. I watch as the actors on screen work to block doors and keep students calm in the event that a nightmare occurs. My anxiety is heightened because school shootings have become more commonplace and in the wake of the recent shooting in Florida, discussions around teachers’ role as protectors and possibly arming teachers in K-12 schools have been at the forefront. As a professor who prepares future teachers, this worry moves beyond myself and my students within the university but also to what the future may hold for these future teachers once they graduate and take their place as educators in the K-12 system. While my worry certainly includes the physical safety of these future teachers and their students, it also involves concern for their emotional well-being.

Though we discuss ways to support students in this time, in the midst of these highly disturbing and publicized school shootings we must also consider the emotional well-being of our educators.

In order to truly support the emotional needs of our students while they are at school, we have to support the emotional needs of the teachers that serve them.

Like this to putting on your own oxygen mask before helping the person next to you. Teachers who have higher levels of emotional well-being are better able to build positive relationships with students which are important in responding to their needs in times of trauma. Researchers have found that there is a link between teachers’ well-being and their ability to connect with students. These positive student-teacher connections help with students overall well-being and success. Teachers’ well-being also influences their ability to create a caring and responsive school and classroom community, both of which are helpful in dealing with trauma.

Yes, the issue of school shootings cannot and will not be fixed by supporting teacher emotional well-being. Doing this may not save the lives of students that are lost due to senseless shootings. There is a much bigger issue than teacher emotional well-being that is being addressed and discussed in the literature.

Though this is true, we must not forget that in the midst of this chaos, teachers serve as educators, identifiers, first responders, and protectors before, during, and after a school shooting.

In my college classroom I prep students to not only create a positive classroom climate, watch out for and intervene in bullying situations, identify students in need of additional emotional and behavioral supports, but to also reflect on an attend to their own emotional well-being so they can support their students. Preparing and supporting educators in doing this is vital. With the surge in social-emotional learning interventions to meet the needs of students, we need a similar surge of supports to meet the needs of educators. We need professional development opportunities tailored toward educator well-being that covers topics such as self-care, emotion-management, and cultivating healthy relationships in all areas of life.

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