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Trusted Space is the Antidote to Stress

Anxiety, stress and fear.  All may be felt by teachers prior to the beginning of any new school year. Throw a pandemic into the situation, and feelings are heightened.

The 2020-2021 school year brings circumstances never seen before. “All It Takes” produced a film about the emotional stressors that educators have experienced going into this school year, and how they can shift their perspective of this pandemic to better their school cultures. This film is part of foundational training for educators, “A Trusted Space,”  and here are some takeaways if you want to bring this conversation to your schools.


Teachers are human. Everyone across the globe has been impacted by the pandemic, and teachers are no exception. As they continue to educate and care for students across the world, we must remember they also have challenges and responsibilities in their personal lives.

Not only are teachers worried about their students, but they also have parents, siblings, partners, or their own kids to worry about. All of those responsibilities can cause stress and anxiety. Showing vulnerability and emotions allow students to see that we’re all human and all feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In education, we hire highly-effective people. That affection makes educators more relatable and approachable for students, and we need to support their emotional response.

Trust is the antidote to stress. When humans encounter stress, cortisol is released in the brain. Oxytocin is a chemical that suppresses cortisol and can reverse the effects of stress. For oxytocin to be released, the body needs to feel safe. How are education leaders building safe and trusting environments, so our teams produce more oxytocin than cortisol? Unless teachers feel support, safety and appreciation, students will not experience the trusting environment they need to learn.

This pandemic is an opportunity for relationships to reach a deeper level of trust. To deepen relationships, we need a space where students and teachers can talk about the pandemic. What emotions does it evoke? What fears do you have? By showing up authentically with all emotions— positive and negative— students and teachers can find a common ground. The pandemic is a traumatic experience for most people; we need to be safe in discussing trauma.  As shared in the documentary,  Redirecting Grief To Growth “It is not up to teachers to heal trauma, but to provide a safe environment in which healing can happen naturally.” 

Teachers need compassion too. Across the nation, the discussion has centered around how educators can make kids feel respected, appreciated and safe this year. How do we ensure that teachers feel respected, appreciated and safe so they can give the same support to students? Teachers are carrying a burden, and acknowledging that is the first step to creating a trusted, safe environment in schools. Teachers educate students on the skills that enable them to thrive. Modeling emotions and not having all the answers is an important skill because that is the reality in a rapidly changing world. 

Reimagining the future. While many people are eager to “Return to normal,” embracing that goal actually pulls our education system backward. Thie pandemic, while uncertain, provides an opportunity to redefine schooling, post-pandemic. With no how-to guide for teaching during a pandemic, we have permission to create new standards for success.

Real-time feedback from students tells us what’s working for in education and what’s not. We have an opportunity to bringing effective practices into the future and leave behind what’s ineffective.

There are strong emotions across the world during this pandemic. Let’s talk abut them… in the classrooms, in staff meetings, and with our community. As Pedro A. Noguera, Dean at USC Rossier School of Education says in the film, “Don’t think about a return to normal. Think about this as an opportunity for a reset to make it better than it was.” 

What does a trusted space look like at your school?

Published on: October 28, 2020