Mental Health Webinars

Hughson Unified to offer mental health webinars to help teachers, principals cope with stress during pandemic
Posted on 10/06/2020
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Education has always had an inherent amount of pressure to perform – for teachers and administrators as well as students. But the forced adjustment to distance learning since the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic has ratcheted up stress levels for many, especially principals and instructors trying to master new ways of delivering quality lessons in a virtual world.


As much as education professionals with, in some cases, decades of experience believe they can adapt to the “new normal,” there is no doubt that many are anxious about their effectiveness. Without face-to-face daily contact with students, some may worry that they are not connecting in the way they are accustomed to.


Helping staff members cope with those doubts and deal appropriately with increased stress is the idea behind an upcoming series of mental health webinars to be offered to principals and teachers in the Hughson Unified School District.


The effort will begin Oct. 21 with the first of five monthly webinars presented by Performance on Purpose, a Florida company co-founded by Dr. Lauren Hodges. She works with companies and individuals to blend “research in physiology, well-being, neuroscience, learning sciences, behavioral psychology, and purpose into the world of work and performance.”


Hughson Superintendent Brenda Smith was one of a handful of Stanislaus County education leaders who were exposed to Hodges in the spring. Smith was so impressed that she had Hodges Zoom in during a meeting over the summer with Hughson’s principals to talk about leadership, different ways to handle stress and how relentless multi-tasking isn’t always positive.


“They loved it,” Smith said. “That started me thinking about how it might work for our staff.”


The goal, the superintendent said, is to give teachers and principals some tangible ways to deal with what they’re feeling during a time when traditional educational methods have been turned on their ear.


“We want to tell everyone we’re focusing on mental health,” Smith said. “It’s important to us. A lot of people don’t want to talk about it. A lot of adults don’t want to open up about how they’re feeling. But everyone has been impacted. We want to remind our staff to take some deep breaths. Rejuvenate yourself. Don’t let stress take over. Make sure you have a work life balance.”


The 90-minute webinars will be held once a month through February on Wednesdays as part of the district’s professional development time. School schedules will be modified those days to allow staff to participate. The topics for the webinars are “Fundamentals of Stress and Resilience,” “Stress and Stress Personalities,” “Emotional Energy Quadrants,” “Nutrition, Exercise & Sleep for High Performers” and “Mental Well-being for High Performers.”


Teachers and others also will have the ability to schedule 15- to 30-minute private personal coaching sessions with Hodges and her team to discuss specific issues.


“It’s so important because our students will ultimately benefit,” Smith explained. “It’s been a crazy pace for our teachers with distance learning, plus all the communication with parents and others. They have lots of things on their plates. I think if our teachers are focused and they feel well prepared and their mental health is in a good place -- they have a positive outlook -- that will seep down into the classroom.”


The district will pay about $14,000 for webinars and coaching sessions. Smith said Hughson will used COVID-related money it has received from the state and federal governments to cover the cost.

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