“We feel like we’re drowning”: Educators talk about stress levels

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – We’ve reported at length about the toll the coronavirus has taken on people and professions to include educators.

“We feel like we’re drowning, I know everybody feels like we’re in the same sinking boat,” said Susan Cintra at the Teachers Advisory Council on September 15th.

Data from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) shows even before the pandemic hit, 75% of teachers were already concerned about their own well-being or the well-being of a fellow educator.

“In a regular year, being an educator is incredibly difficult and now in the middle of a pandemic with so much uncertainty, it’s just, it’s tough,” said Michelle Nichols, KDE Division of Student Success, at the Teachers Advisory Council. “The job that you’re doing is incredibly tough.”

While there are tools available for teachers to help with the mental health of students, there aren’t many out there to help themselves. In response to this, KDE has developed check-ins for teachers.

“Part of the session kind of also integrates some of the simple things we can do just as humans in this really intense world and to help try to slow ourselves down inside because it’s just really unrelenting,” said Judi Vanderhaal, KDE Division of Student Success, at the Teachers Advisory Council.

Montgomery County elementary school teacher James Hay says because of the higher stress, more teachers are starting to leave halfway through the year, like the Marion County superintendent, in order to preserve their own mental health.

“It’s difficult some days to come to work, I’m not going to lie. There are a lot of pressures,” says Hay, President of the Montgomery County Education Association. “You know throughout this whole pandemic, our students’ needs have not decreased, they’ve only increased and the demand on teachers and their time has only increased.”

Hay says it isn’t only classroom teachers affected by the pandemic, but every staff member.

“We experience secondary trauma due to what our students experience and you know, when they have a family that’s hospitalized due to COVID or they have a grandparent that dies…that just comes right back to school and we experience that with them,” says Hay.

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