It's a difficult time for teachers; even as they wrestle with stressors that are out of their control, they struggle to silence the noise coming from social and news media. This noise includes information and misinformation about the spread of the virus; decisions on whether to hold classes in person, remotely, or hybrid; debates over mask mandates; legislative attempts to control school curriculum; and staffing and testing shortages.
Further Reading: The Importance of Mental Health Awareness in Schools
How can teachers silence the noise, cope, and stay above the fray? Here are some suggestions.
Treat Social Media Mindfully
On most platforms, users control what they see in their social media feeds; so remove triggering sites, where you know educators will be attacked. Try unfollowing news media sites, political pages, and other places online that feed on disparaging teachers and teacher unions. Don't be shy about unfollowing friends or relatives who espouse strong—if uninformed—opinions about the teaching profession, at least for the immediate future.
While you might feel motivated to provide accurate information, counter misinformation, or defend the teaching profession against attacks, it's probably not worth it. In most cases, you just ended up feeling frustrated. Stopping yourself from engaging in a futile, draining fight will save you time and aggravation.
In some cases, you may not be able to resist countering rumors or dishonesty. If you absolutely feel you must speak up, use your own social media to provide factual information to your followers. Platforms like Twitter and Instagram allow you to turn off commenting, so you don't open yourself up to a potential onslaught of negativity.
Turn Off Your Phone
Setting limits on your phone use can really help silence the noise. Some advise shutting off your phone from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., minimizing interruptions and invasions of downtime, thereby making it more restorative and relaxing. If you can't quite manage 7 to 7, try a shorter period. Even putting your phone on Do Not Disturb from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. can make a big difference. (Don't worry—most smartphones allow you to choose the phone numbers that can bypass the Do Not Disturb feature in case of emergencies.)
One way to silence the noise of social and news media is to set aside a part of your day for complete silence. Writing in Harvard Business Review, Vijay Eswaran suggests a 60-minute period of complete silence per day. As difficult as that may be, this investment in yourself allows you to focus on what's important and become more productive. The world is so noisy right now that we forget how important silence is. This hour of peace can go a long way in helping you cope with the challenges of the current day.
Further Reading: 5 Secrets to Increasing and Sustaining Your Teacher Energy
Along those lines, try to remember that not all noise is auditory. Clutter is a kind of noise that can invade your life and become very "loud" and disturbing. Try the KonMari method to achieve clutter-free classrooms and homes. Getting rid of clutter can help you focus and relax. Living clutter-free can provide a sense of control over your environment and, thus, your life. You'll be surprised by the difference it can make.
Look for School Support
Sometimes, teachers experience the noise directly in the form of bullying. In Learning for Justice, Adrienne van der Valk notes that even before the advent of remote learning, educators reported being bullied at higher rates than most other professions. While some teacher bullying comes from outside the school—by those advocating school reform or privatization agendas (forcing out teachers who "won't play ball")—some bullying comes from within. This may have increased in the last couple of years. There have been numerous reports of teachers who decried remote learning and chastised colleagues, putting educators in direct conflict with each other, despite the fact that the decision to move to remote schooling was made by city leaders, medical experts, and public health officials and not by teachers. Countering bullying by assembling a school task force or partnering with the teachers union can help to silence the noise both inside and outside of school.
In these challenging times, educators need to eliminate the distractions disrupting them both in school and at home. By applying these techniques and strategies, teachers can begin to focus on what they can control and silence the noise about what they can't.