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Teachers Are Not Classroom Therapists with Elizabeth Peterson

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Show Notes:

As teachers, we wear so many hats every single day. We are organizers, facilitators, cheerleaders, coaches, nurses, janitors, and so much more. Often, you may even feel like you’re expected to fit the role of “classroom therapist”. 

But here’s the thing - you aren’t a therapist, and you shouldn’t be expected to put that hat on.

I know how exhausting it can be to manage some of the personalities that you have in your classroom. When you signed up to be a teacher, you likely didn’t expect to be dealing with some of the behaviors and the challenges that you find inside your classroom. Yet, those behaviors and challenges are here, so what do you do?

Our guest, Elizabeth Peterson is here to talk us through this and share some helpful strategies. Elizabeth Peterson helps to empower caring teachers with creative social-emotional strategies that proactively address disruptive behaviors and ease teacher burnout through SEAL: Social-Emotional Artistic Learning. An arts integration specialist with degrees in Education, Music, Arts, Leadership and Learning, Elizabeth hosts  

She is in her 24th year of teaching and 16th year of hosting workshops, retreats and online courses in arts integration and SEAL. Elizabeth knows the importance of teacher-centered professional development and strives to provide that in all her work with teachers.

Elizabeth validates that a lot of the emotional baggage that students come in with really weighs on teachers. Teachers are naturally so caring, and so we often take that emotion on ourselves. Of course, this leads to huge amounts of burnout, which is what we’re seeing in education right now across the country.

We weren’t prepared for how to counsel children and to handle the big emotions that our kids are having. These emotions often lead to behavior challenges, which cause all kinds of disruption in our school day. Whether it’s one or two kids that need a lot of support in the social and emotional realm, or a larger group of students, it takes a lot of our energy. It also takes our attention away from the rest of our class.

It’s really important to know when to intervene ourselves, and when to call for help. Reaching out to someone like a school therapist is so important, because we cannot be everything for everyone. Inside of this episode, Elizabeth will break down what our role as a teacher is and isn’t, and what to do when we have high stress students, so that we create a safe learning environment and have the space to teach effectively.

Inside this week's show, you'll learn:

  • Why so many teachers feel like they are therapists in their classrooms, especially during the last couple of years.
  • The difference between what it means to be a teacher vs. a school counselor or therapist.
  • Examples of what teachers can do when they have high stress students with big emotions.
  • The importance of building authentic relationships with your students, and giving them a special space to communicate with you.
  • What the role of the teacher is when it comes to helping students’ social and emotional development.
  • How you can use “Friendly Friday” as a way to build community between classmates.

Connect with Elizabeth:

Links & resources mentioned inside this episode:

I hope this information is helpful as you prepare for your first, second, or third year of teaching. Until next time, remember, just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.

πŸ’› Lori

Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor

Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at and at

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