We’ve seen wellness and mindfulness rooms for students, but this public school decided to create one for their teachers.
The challenges educators are tackling during the COVID-19 pandemic are extraordinary. Juggling teaching in person with a mask while simultaneously educating other students in a virtual format is a remarkable task. But these achievements can take a toll on even our best educators, and schools can take small steps that can make a big difference for our teacher’s mental health.
For example, just last year, a school in New York designed a wellness room for teachers to decompress.
Why make a wellness room for teachers?
For more than 30 years Debbi Rakowsky attended to the health and happiness of students. She served as the district social worker of the Three Village School District on Long Island, New York. However, over the past ten years, Rakowsky started to notice a shift amongst the staff. Teachers and faculty would frequently come to her and vent about the stresses that are involved in education.
“A lot that has to do with the complex parent and family needs and the high stake job demands,” says Rakowsky. “For me, when I started in the district school was a very safe place for people to go. And one of the things that happens a lot with teachers these days is they go through this rehearsed trauma. Where the first day of school we’re learning about what you do if an armed shooter comes into your school and how do you protect your students.”
Rokowsky had dedicated her life to helping kids, but she wanted to do something for the adults that keep the school running. She began piloting a “Winter Wellness Series.” Rokowsky says the cold winter months in New York are difficult because you leave for school in the dark and you come home in the dark. So she took a faculty room and repurposed it by making it more “Zen” and she brought in practitioners every Wednesday.
“And the staff just went wild for it,” says Rakowsky.
After that, she began to think big. What if she could make a permanent place just for teachers and school staff to decompress? A place that was off-limits to students. Not a teacher’s lounge, but a place where staff could come in think and breath without distractions.
“I’VE HAD PEOPLE WALK IN THEY LITERALLY CRY. THEY SAY I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT THIS IS IN OUR SCHOOL,” SAYS RAKOWSKY.
Rakowsky wrote a proposal and handed off to administrators and she says they didn’t even blink. “They said let’s do this!”
The district moved Rakowsky to the high school and they gave her a classroom that wasn’t in use. She applied for grants and they began to furnish the room.
“When you walk into that room, you do not feel like you’re in a school,” says Rakowsky.
There is a faux wood floor, window treatments, and the lights are different than the normal school lights. Rokowsky also added a water feature, massage chairs, and a meditation area.
“I’ve had people walk in they literally cry. They say I can’t believe that this is in our school,” says Rakowsky.
For Rakowsky and the staff, it’s more than a room. She also offers several programs for teachers, she offers workshops on managing anxiety, she has lunch and learns with practitioners, and they offer free short term counseling.
To learn more about program listen to Episode 171 of the Class Dismissed on your favorite podcast app or iTunes.
If you have questions for Rakowsky, she can be contacted at email@example.com