Tips to Promote Educator Social and Emotional Wellbeing


Dr. Clay Cook

Educators are truly the engine that drives everything in schools. It is their enthusiasm, energy, compassion, empathy, and positive interactions that create the healthy conditions for students to engage fully in their learning experiences.  Educators who are in a good place socially and emotionally are better equipped to create healthy learning conditions for students. Students with a history of trauma, in particular, need educators who are well socially and emotionally well. To be socially well means one perceives they are a valued, respected, and supported member of the school. Emotionally well means that the educator is in a regulated state and a positive mood, which increases the likelihood of maintaining positive interactions with students, modeling desired behaviors, and responding skillfully to student needs. Below are some tips to promote educator social and emotional wellbeing broken down by organizational supports that leaders can put in place and individual-level wellbeing practices that educators can apply to promote their own social and emotional wellbeing.

  • Organizational supports
    • Intentionally recognize and acknowledge staff for the energy and effort they put in to creating desired daily experiences for students
    • Give staff a sense of voice, listen to them, and respond to what they are saying
    • Minimize implementation overload – too many active initiatives going on at once creates the conditions for stress and burnout 
    • Provide targeted professional development tailored to the needs of staff
  • Individual-level wellbeing practices
    • Physical wellbeing practices 
      • Sleep (quality sleep is the antidote to many health and mental health problems)
      • Regular physical activity (daily regime of physical activity has been shown to be a treatment to mild depression unto itself)
      • Nutrition (did you know that 95% of serotonin comes from the gut)
  • Emotional wellbeing practices
    • Deep breathing exercises – slowing down breathing helps regulate the nervous system and establish a calm body. 
    • Guided imagery through the five senses –visualize a calm and relaxing place that and go through each sense and to imagine what you are seeing, hearing, touching/feeling, smelling, and possibly tasting.
    • Self-soothing practices – introduce stimuli through one or more of your five senses that helps take the edge off. Warm shower or bath, aroma from candles, eating chocolate, or getting a massage are all self-soothing practices that relax the mind and body.
    • Opposite emotions – when feeling stressed, anxious or frustrated, engaged in an activity by watching, reading, listening to, or doing something that activates the opposite emotion you are currently feeling.
  • Social wellbeing practices
    • Connect with others for social support
    • Seek mentoring in an area of personal or professional development

About the Author: Dr. Clay Cook is the John and Nancy Peyton Faculty Fellow in Child and Adolescent Wellbeing at the University of Minnesota and Associate Professor in the School Psychology Program. He has extensive research and practical experiences involving the implementation of multi-tiered systems of support to promote children’s social, emotional and behavioral wellbeing as the foundation for academic and life success.