Updated: Feb 9, 2022
This week, I had the privilege of being a panelist on the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium's national webinar. More than 130 educators joined to contemplate student and teacher well-being, a critically important topic that has unfortunately been placed on the back-burner of many minds. (But go you, you're at spark because you care about your well-being!!)
The conversation was emotional, electric, and inspiring. As stated by MCPS teacher (now spark member!) Ramona Johnson, "If anything, this pandemic has taught me that learning 2 + 2 is irrelevant if [kids] don't know how to live day-to-day and be healthy mentally." This is true for students, teachers, administrators, bus drivers, custodians, social workers...everyone at all levels of the system.
Instead, the weight of what many of you educators are feeling is the uncovering of many issues in education. Issues that were embedded into the founding of education in our country and have only been exacerbated by COVID-19.
The exhausted feeling that you are likely feeling when you come home is NOT your fault. The fact is: your exhaustion is NOT a factor of you not trying hard enough. Let me say that again, it is NOT your fault. What many educators are feeling is the weight of the system still not working.
I don't want to sugarcoat the reality of what I'm seeing and hearing. We are on the cusp of a real crisis next year if we don't start to make changes now, both as individuals and a system. Right now, 75% of teachers report feeling extreme workplace stress as compared to only 40% of other working adults. Stress leads to burnout and burnout leads to fewer teachers. If we don't have enough teachers, then there won't be education.
The good news is, we're in this together and there is a way out. Collectively.
MAEC's webinar gave me hope that more and more folks are seeing well-being as an important issue. Because, fundamentally, if we cannot feel well then we cannot teach. spark is a unique solution to this problem, because we are approaching our work thinking both about individual needs as well as pushing the system to grow.
As our leadership team reflects on how to further impact the system, I am walking away with a few critical takeaways this week:
Asking and listening to teachers is a crucial step. In everything that a school system or educator resource does.
Systemic change is difficult but possible if we work collectively.
There is hope.
Next week, I'll be sharing about my experience in taking spark to the Startup of the Year pitch competition. Wish us luck!