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Darktober: Strategies for Helping Staff Cope

photo of a sad, stressed man sitting on a brown leather couch with his head resting on his right hand

I’m not sure where the term Darktober first got its start, but it’s an epidemic felt in education, particularly by new teachers.

Seasonal Woes

Darktober comes during the time of year when days are becoming shorter. Employees begin leaving for work in the dark and heading home in the dark, perhaps not getting to see much daylight in their regular working schedules. Vitamin D intake decreases with less exposure to sunlight, which can result in fatigue and lowering the immune system.

Education Ebbs and Flows

The slump that occurs within this time of year is also the result of the natural evolution of the academic cycle. By now, the energized atmosphere from the beginning of school has worn off, yet winter break still seems so far away. The classroom is busy, and challenges have begun to reveal themselves. Students are tired. Teachers are tired. Everyone is tired.

What You Can Do

Human resources can be proactive in helping staff through this tough time of year. Some ideas include:

  • Acknowledge the difficulty. Many teachers, especially those new to the profession, may feel they are the only ones experiencing a slump.
  • Create a community. Now that everyone sees this is a common problem, encourage staff to reach out to one another for support and inform them of other individuals across the organization who can act as a resource.
  • Promote your employee assistance program (EAP). Many organizations offer this as part of their benefits package. EAPs offer free resources and services, including limited counseling, to employees.
  • Deliver a wellness packet to staff that includes vitamin D, relaxing oils and lotions, and other items for self-care.
  • Communicate about programs that encourage flu-shots and other preventative measures to combat prevalent illnesses.
  • Consider implementing convenience benefits that are typically little to no cost to the employer:
    • On-site dry-cleaning pick-up and drop-off
    • Fresh vegetable worksite delivery
    • Discounts to other convenience services, such as grocery delivery or house cleaning
  • Encourage campus leadership to be intentional:
    • Include five minutes of meditation time at the beginning of meetings
    • Check-in on teachers and offer help where needed
    • Have mentors reach out to new teachers
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