How School Leaders Can Show C.A.R.E for Staff Wellbeing

Nicole Roberts Pratt

January 27, 2022

As we start another year of the pandemic, there’s been the usual New Year’s focus on wellness – how are we individually going to take better care of ourselves (start an exercise routine, eat healthier, etc.).  I have also seen some of the focus shift from wellness (which often refers to physical) to wellbeing.  The American Psychological Association defines wellbeing as “a state of happiness and contentment, with low levels of distress, overall good physical and mental health and outlook, or good quality of life.” I like the simpler definition of wellbeing as the combination of feeling good and functioning effectively. Over the last few months, our blog has featured posts on many topics related to wellbeing: gratitude, psychological safety, and adult regulation.

We’ve created an acronym, CARE, to support school leaders to quickly reflect on how to support staff wellbeing.

  • Create Opportunities
  • Alleviate Pressure
  • Regularly Check-In
  • Ensure Inclusion

Educators in all roles across the country have worked extremely hard throughout the pandemic to support students in a variety of ways, many of them new. Research has shown that elevated teacher stress leads to negative impacts, not just for the teacher but also for students such as increased negative teacher-student interactions and relationships, lower levels of student engagement, and ultimately less learning. Teacher wellbeing is important both for themselves and for their ability to effectively support and teach their students.

While wellbeing is unique and often deeply personal, there is also a role for schools to play. School and district leaders can create the policies, procedures, and culture that support staff wellbeing. Also, keep in mind that supporting wellbeing isn’t solely about reducing negative experiences (though that is important) it can also be accomplished through creating positive experiences. There are many ways to think about wellbeing. We’ve created an acronym to help guide your reflection and included real examples from schools from our work across the country. 

Create Opportunities 

Key Question: How are you creating intentional opportunities to support staff wellbeing through new or updated initiatives and actions?

Examples and Strategies:

  • One school converted a half professional development day to a wellness day where staff could opt-in to various wellness activities such as yoga or soccer.
  • Another school added new low-cost counseling sessions to their Employee Assistance Program.

Alleviate Pressure

Key Question: How are you finding ways to reduce extra burdens on staff and free up more time?

Examples and Strategies:

  • One school reviewed all standing meetings (like staff meetings) and identified which were essential and what could be covered in another way (i.e. shared via email) to free up teacher time to focus on instructional responsibilities.
  • One school provides teachers with additional planning time through the creative use of funding and staff. While teachers are engaging in collaborative planning time with colleagues, their students are engaging in arts-integrated and literacy-focused learning experiences facilitated by the school’s enrichment (specials) team.
  • As a leader, model and honor business hours communications to help folks unplug and recharge when possible. Schedule send is a great tool for this!

Regularly Check-In

Key Question: When was the last time you talked with each member of your staff and created space for them to share how they are doing and what they need?

Examples and Strategies:

  • In another school, the leadership team agreed to start every check-in with staff by asking the person how they are doing – really doing – and making space for that as a primary purpose of the time.
  • Gather staff experience data and take action in response to what is shared – prioritizing staff feedback and action in response.

Ensure Inclusion

Key Question: How are you differentiating support based on what different individuals and groups need?

Examples and Strategies:

  • Everyone’s situation is different and what they need to feel supported may also be different. Create an inclusive approach by talking to individuals to get a better understanding of what types of support each person needs to inform your plan.
  • Another school we work with implemented a differentiated approach for meeting staff needs around sick leave. Staff had the option to rollover additional sick leave from one year to the next or the school could buy back some sick leave. Giving staff options allows staff to choose for themselves what is most beneficial based on their unique needs.

Where has your school focused so far? Tag us @EdFuelOrg and let us know how you’re showing CARE for your teachers and staff. By thinking through how you show CARE, you can identify strengths in your current approach and additional areas to explore and strengthen as you continue to support staff during this challenging time.


American Psychological Association. (2022, January 18). Dictionary. Retrieved from American Psychological Association : 

Huppert, F. A. (2009, June 5). Psychological Well-being: Evidence Regarding its Causes and Consequences. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 1. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from 

Sparks, S. D. (2017, June 7). How Teachers’ Stress Affects Students: A Research Round-up. Education Week. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from