For more than two years now the education system has faced challenges the likes of which have never been experienced in modern history. Virtual/hybrid learning, student academic declines, social and political unrest and personal concerns have combined to create significant strain on our education system. We often focus on the impact on teachers, but the reality is that superintendents, campus administrators and school counselors are also fighting their own battles because the issues and concerns of the community don’t stop at the front doors of their buildings. School officials are forced to face these issues head on in order to ensure that learning can take place.
The hours are long. The community expects constant access to administrators. They are bombarded with emails, calls and texts from the break of dawn till late into the night, every day of the week and on holidays. The job takes a mental and physical toll that would leave anyone to wonder if it’s worth it. In June 2021, the National Superintendent Roundtable surveyed 400 district leaders and the results put a spotlight on the intense pressure of leading during the pandemic. Of those who responded, 63% said they considered quitting during the 2020-21 school year. While 83% of the leaders remained in their positions, 10% retired. Dedication to students and the teachers on their campuses were key reasons they stayed despite the outrageously negative behavior of parents and community leaders.
Administrators who stay note that they often have difficulty sleeping and their personal lives and relationships suffer because of the demands of their jobs. Even more concerning are the numbers of them who experience post traumatic stress disorder and elevated blood pressure and heart issues triggered by the constant stress on their bodies and minds. Not only are leaders constantly on the frontlines of all issues, there is an expectation that they try to make “everyone happy”. This is a very unrealistic and tough expectation to live up to.
How can administrators cope with the challenges and stress of their fast-paced, demanding jobs? After all, if they aren’t well and are struggling to cope, how can they effectively support their districts, campuses, and staff? We’ve outlined a few below.
- Take care of yourself – Skipping meals and living on coffee is a recipe for an unhealthy body. Fuel your body with nutritious food and take the time for physical activity.
- Connect – One of the most basic emotional needs is a sense of belonging and community. Check-in with your colleagues to make sure they’re doing okay. There aren’t many who truly understand the challenges of leading a district, or campus. It’s good to connect with others to exchange ideas, “share the burdens” and refill your emotional tank.
- Say no – Leaders tend to have difficulty saying no and the reasons for this are limitless. Before you add one more thing to your already full plate, pause to consider whether it’s worth taking on a new task, meeting, or giving up any more of your precious time and energy
- Unplug – Energy is finite and if you don’t take the time to recharge, you’ll wear out and be ineffective. Completely disengage from work to enjoy time with family and friends. Spend time on a hobby, read or binge-watch the latest series. Whatever you do, just take time to re energize.
- Focus on your why – When the going gets really tough, dig deep and remember why you are doing what you are doing. If your “why” isn’t enough, then you have some decisions to make.
- Learn to manage stress and protect your mental health – Ripple Effects Educator Ally is an excellent personalized online training that provides personalized mental health supports for adults. It also includes professional development in areas of cultural responsiveness, classroom management skill-building, and best practices for modeling and fostering healthy emotional competencies for students.
Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.