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Prioritizing Emotional Well-Being: The Foundation of Humanitarian Leadership in Education

Prioritizing Emotional Well-Being: The Foundation of Humanitarian Leadership in Education

In the busy world of education, amidst lesson planning, curriculum development, prioritizing safety and security and addressing our administrative duties, it’s easy to overlook the emotional well-being of our faculty and staff. Yet, as leaders in education, it’s imperative to recognize that the emotional health of those on the front lines directly impacts the quality of education we provide to our students.

Humanitarian leadership in education extends well beyond focusing on academic outcomes; it encompasses nurturing an environment where empathy, compassion, and well-being are valued and prioritized. How can we possibly expect teachers to effectively support the emotional and educational needs of their students if they themselves are not feeling supported? As leaders, we need to establish a culture of, “I’ve got you!” and not a “GOTCHA!” environment. Create a space that optimizes positivity. Compliment your staff. Let them know what they are doing well. People who feel valued will always go above and beyond. There’s never a reason to beat people down with daily criticisms. If they need support, it’s our job as leaders to outline ways they can meet their goals. And remember to stop and think, “What does this person do well?” instead of, “Ugh, this person never does anything right!” Shift your mindset and your actions and watch them soar! A Growth Mindset benefits everyone.

The role of educators is multifaceted; they serve not only as instructors but also as mentors, role models, and at times, surrogate parents – En Loco Parentis. This level of responsibility can take a toll on one’s emotional health if not adequately addressed and supported. As educational leaders, it is our professional responsibility to create initiatives that promote and prioritize the emotional well-being of our faculty and staff.

Checking in with our faculty and staff members regularly is one of the most important components of fostering a supportive environment. It’s exceptional leadership. Get out of the office! Say good morning and thank you. Those two tiny phrases go a very long way. Spend time in schools and classrooms. Form relationships with those you serve. Whether through daily impromptu visits, one-on-one meetings, anonymous surveys, or open forums, providing avenues for educators to express their concerns, share their triumphs, and voice their needs is essential. Moreover, actively listening to their feedback and implementing actionable strategies demonstrates a commitment to their well-being. It also sends an important message of genuine care and concern. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Follow up and follow through. Period.

Furthermore, investing in resources and programs designed to support mental health and emotional resilience can yield significant returns, not only in terms of employee satisfaction but also in the quality of teaching and learning outcomes. From providing access to counseling services to organizing stress management workshops, including yoga for staff before or after school, there are numerous ways to promote emotional well-being within our schools and school districts.

As humanitarian leaders, we must also recognize the importance of self-care and lead by example. Demonstrating a healthy work-life balance, prioritizing mental health days, and encouraging mindfulness practices can help create a culture where self-care is not only accepted but embraced. Shutting down the emails for the weekend allows all members of an organization to reset, recharge and relax. This down time is time well invested, and allows energies to be top notch once the work week begins.

Ultimately, the emotional well-being of our faculty and staff is not just a moral imperative but a strategic one. By fostering a supportive and emotionally healthy environment, we empower our educators to be their best selves, enabling them to provide the nurturing and impactful education our children deserve. After all, it is from this foundation of well-being that true humanitarian leadership in education can flourish, enriching the lives of both educators and students alike.

Send the message to faculty and staff that self care is not selfish. Model it. Mean it.

Be the change.

For more information on humanitarian leadership, please consider my book, Actually, I CAN, Inspiration, Empowerment and Leadership.

Dr. Lori Koerner has been in the field of education for over three decades. She spent the first 26 years of her career as an elementary school teacher, having taught every grade. She is a Fulbright Specialist Scholar, and served as an adjunct professor for special education at several universities in New York.

Dr. Koerner is currently an Assistant Superintendent in a public school district on Long Island in New York. Her research has been centered on educating the whole child; that is, developing students’ social competencies, emotional well-being, and physical fitness through recess and play so that they are best equipped to meet their maximum academic potential.

Dr. Koerner is a mom of four, and a bold child advocate. She has written numerous articles for national magazines regarding paradigm shifts necessary for 21st century learning. Dr. Koerner has presented across the country regarding innovation in education.

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