Being a teacher is a lot more than just imparting knowledge to students and keeping order in the classroom. Sometimes the lines blur between teacher, parent, and social worker. During the school year, kids spend more time with their peers and teachers than they do at home. A classroom is its own little community; it has hierarchies and other dynamics that affect the how well students learn.
No classroom (or group) is without conflict. Trained as educators, teachers must often deal with situations that were not covered in textbooks, or even experienced in student teaching.
- Increasing mental health issues among young people are forcing teachers to go outside their roles as educators and function as social workers. Teachers daily have to deal with serious mental health issues with no training, no resources, and no external support.
- Spending hours each day in the classroom builds trust between students and the adult in charge. Kids are more apt to approach a teacher with things that bother them than other personnel they don't know as well. Pressures on students at all grade levels are difficult, but adolescents are especially vulnerable to depression. Problems pile on for teenagers in addition to homework: parents, romance, social stresses, and worries about the future.
- They are not equipped physically to deal with all that faces them. Their maturity and intellects have a long way to go. Teens have undeveloped brains. The brain doesn't finish developing completely until about the age of 30 and the part of the mind which processes judgement has not yet matured in a teen.
It's no wonder that teachers feel as if they are on a seesaw between teaching and social work. According to School Psychology Quarterly, "only 34 percent of teachers surveyed felt they had the skills they needed to identify and find help for students with mental health needs."
Fortunately, many districts provide social worker services on campuses to give teachers from doing double duty. Being a school social worker is a growing specialty. Salaries in the first few years range from $35-70K with the potential to make $100,000 at the twenty year mark.
If you are in education or social work or want to make a change in your current work environment, contact us to learn of possibilities. And to learn more about this and related topics, visit the Behavioral Health and Education section of our blog.
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