Teachers need a space sit back and reflect so we provide it - Patricia Lyon

2020 was an undeniably tough year for many, and teachers are no exception. As a children’s mental health charity that works within schools, we have heard directly from many teachers who are tired, stressed and in need of more support.

Teachers are under increasing amounts of pressure as a result of the pandemic
Teachers are under increasing amounts of pressure as a result of the pandemic

Too often, school staff take worries and frustrations home to friends or family and receive unwanted advice, or worse a dismissive “What are you talking about, teachers get all those school holidays? You’ve got loads of time to unwind”. However, the reality is that many teachers are working at home during holidays preparing for the next term or trying to find time for online training that they didn’t get chance to complete during the past term. Place2Think is our service designed for school staff. It provides a confidential reflective space, individually or in small groups, to process, ponder, cry and laugh about the varied stresses and conundrums faced by everyday teaching in schools. It’s the kind of space that so many of us have felt the need for, over the past nine months.

While it can be a place for tears and sweary words that can’t be voiced in class, Place2Think is more often calming, quiet, reflective – a space to switch off and process what is going on inside oneself.

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These frustrations and conundrums might be personal and need referring on for counselling or wider support, but more often Place2Think can catch these frustrations and conundrums before they grow into more serious issues. Time in Place2Think can provide support by allowing teachers and school leaders to think through and understand a problem earlier, helping to break the wave of overwhelming feelings and return to much needed calmness.

A common example is helping teachers recognise how stress and anxiety are held in the body creating tension headaches, backache and general physical exhaustion. These symptoms can accumulate in a vicious cycle of low mood, a sense of feeling overwhelmed, sleep disruption and irritability.

Add in the pandemic and we have now, eight months later, a workforce which can often see little light at the end of the tunnel given the current restrictions and wider challenges in schools. Additional stress and more to think about, without the capacity to manage it. For these reasons, Place2Think in our partner schools, and as part of our Scottish Government outreach programme, is more in demand than ever.

Place2Think can even start with someone ‘dropping in’ at the classroom door, before school starts, helping to remind teachers to breathe and to do what is manageable; to stay alongside their pupils and not expect from themselves or others, more than they can give. This reminder allows the teacher to mirror the same to their class and start their day calmer without transmitting the invisible sensory rocket that anxiety can often be.

It’s fantastic that Place2Be can offer virtual Place2Think sessions to school leaders or teachers across Scotland for free. We don’t know what the long-term mental health impact of the pandemic will be, but we do know that school staff will be the ones facing it.

Visit place2be.org.uk to find out more about Place2Think sessions. Place2Be is grateful for its generous supporters, including the People’s Postcode Lottery.

Patricia Lyon, Area Manager, Place2Be

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