From the Magazine

The Support Groups that Should be on Every Teacher’s Radar

Even before the pandemic, the importance of mental health for teachers was realized. Study after study has shown the increased value of teachers dedicating time to their mental and physical health in order to have the focus needed to be the best at their craft. 

Fortunately, there are resources, both online and in-person, to help teachers focus on their mental health. There are places for teachers to come together, share experiences, laugh, offer tips, and validate each other’s experiences. Learning from peers reinforces the sense of community and shares valuable lessons, both of which are integral to the profession.

Whether it’s an app, podcast, social media group, or in person meet-up, there are a wide range of options just for teachers. Here are just a few great ones: 

TeachersConnect 

TeachersConnect was founded in 2015 with the goal of making sure teaching is never again a solo activity. Dave Meyers, CEO and co-founder, said that he recognizes that being a new teacher is incredibly complex and emotionally draining. He said that no teacher or student wins when a new teacher goes at it without a community behind them. In that spirit, the site has grown and now has over 20,000 members who support one another through discussion forums. Meyers stated that, by fall of 2022, the hope is to have 100,000 teachers getting validation, answers, and guidance from other teachers.

Teachers can join groups based on what age they teach or their geographic location. They can ask one another tricky or embarrassing questions anonymously or message each other privately. Teachers can share their emotional struggles as well as different techniques they have tried in the classroom. They celebrate each other’s successes and cheer one another on when things get tough. 

Happy Teacher Revolution 

Happy Teacher Revolution was created by Danna Thomas, a public school teacher in Baltimore who wanted to build a space for teachers to feel, deal, and be real.

She started by bringing teachers together in her own school to talk about their mental health challenges and needs. It was so successful she wanted to replicate the model in schools across the world. 

Happy Teacher Revolution trains leaders, called revolutionaries, to establish support groups for teachers in their own schools or school districts. They go through an online or in-person training to learn not just how to lead the support groups but how to initiate them and recruit peers to participate. All the techniques are data-driven and research-based. 

The organization has certified over 500 teachers in 32 states, as well as a handful internationally. 

WeAreTeachers Helpline 

Never underestimate the power of a Facebook group. WeAreTeachers Helpline is run by WeAreTeachers, a website that provides ideas, inspiration, and giveaways for teachers. Over 46,000 teachers are part of the Facebook group, and members can ask one another questions about the classroom or teacher life. Some participants use the forum to discuss different teaching techniques. Others share their struggles, successes, or feelings. During the pandemic, the group was particularly active with teachers discussing their worries about the virus and sharing feedback and suggestions for staying safe. 

WeAreTeachers also runs Facebook groups for specific types of teachers. “WeAreTeachers – first years”, for example, is for new teachers or those with only a few years of experience. It has over 15,000 members that discuss the specific challenges to those just getting started. 

The Teacher Self-Care Podcast. 

Maybe opening up to others is not your thing, and you feel more comfortable working on your own mental health by listening and learning from others? The Teacher Self-Care podcast interviews real-life teachers on the front line who discuss their struggles and how they take care of their mental and physical health. The host also interviews educational and mental health professionals to discuss what teachers can do to prioritize their well-being. 

Each session tackles a different topic. Some are broad like the misconceptions and myths of self-care. Others are narrower, like how comparing yourself to other teachers can be dangerous and prevent you from being your best self. 

Calm Schools. 

Many teachers don’t know that Calm, the meditation app for meditation and sleep, has a specific program just for them. The app offers teachers a 30-day program to teach mindfulness in the classroom. It includes sleep stories, breathing exercises, meditations, relaxation activities, and more that children of all ages can do. 

But Calm also knows that before teachers can pass on mindfulness habits to students, they must address with themselves first. Teachers can download a free guide to help keep their mental health in check. The guide instructs users on how to take deep breaths when you get upet, create a bedtime routine you can keep, how to prioritize sleep, and more. As a teacher, you also get a discount if you want to join the premium version of the app. 

Alyson Krueger is a distinguished author and journalist based out of New York City.