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A new program is designed to help teachers deal with stress and avoid burnout

Emily Read Daniels.jpg
Emily Read Daniels

The program is contracted through the New Hampshire Department of Education and is available to teachers across the state.

The pandemic has been stressful for teachers and students, and many teachers are considering leaving the profession, while many kids are struggling with anxiety and behavioral issues.

The New Hampshire Department of Education has recently partnered with The Regulated Classroom, a program designed to help heal and prevent burnout and teachers and engage students. It was developed by Emily Read Daniels, an educator and veteran New Hampshire school counselor.

Read Daniels spoke with All Things Considered host Peter Biello about The Regulated Classroom. Listen to their conversation in the recording above — below are some key points.

What has Read Daniels been hearing from fellow educators about the conditions in schools?

Students are having a tough time showing up in a “developmentally appropriate” way, meaning they’re struggling to engage or feeling more aggressive than before the pandemic. The stress of the pandemic has been taking a toll on educators and Read Daniels says schools have been struggling to manage.

The program, as per its name, is aimed at creating a ‘regulated classroom.’ So, what does that mean in this context?

Read Daniels says a regulated classroom is one that’s led by a teacher who is experiencing “felt safety” – a state where they feel comfortable, at ease, and can think clearly and relate compassionately to their students. She says The Regulated Classroom gives educators the tools to feel safe, which will allow them to share that feeling of safety with their students and make it easier to effectively teach and engage students.

What does the program advise teachers to do to bring that sense of safety back to the classroom?

The approach is built on two essential “educator capacities,” Read Daniels says, which are being able to track one’s stress state or physiological state in their body, and being able to deliberately recruit the realm of learning and building connections. Educators practicing The Regulated Classroom can bring about those capacities by using four core practices Read Daniels teaches: connectors, activators, affirmations and settlers.

A recent National Education Association survey found that 55% of teachers are considering early retirement because of all the stress that they are feeling in the pandemic. How could The Regulated Classroom help change those statistics?

Read Daniels says the approach aims to widen teachers’ window of stress tolerance and it means they have to deliberately make time to engage the classroom in a practice that would help them decompress or shift their physiological state every 15 to 20 minutes. She says that practice has to be intentional as teachers are often pressured to use every minute available for instructional purposes, but that taking the time to check in, could make classroom time safer, less stressful and more productive.

There are other factors outside of the classroom that might contribute to an educator feeling unsafe, unstable or stressed. One of those is pay. Many teachers have expressed that improvements in pay could help ease feelings of burnout can the program be effective if it is not accompanied by other improvements to teachers’ working conditions?

Read Daniels says The Regulated Classroom is a piece of a bigger movement in schools known as the “trauma informed schools” movement. It’s a piece of the puzzle that can make teaching a healthier, and less stressful experience. While the program itself can’t change all elements of the working conditions, Read Daniels says it can alleviate a lot of the stress teachers face on a daily basis.

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