Teachers play a critical role in preparing our children and adolescents for a successful future. However, despite the large number of students impacted by trauma and adversity, teachers are often not well prepared to provide trauma-sensitive support. Furthermore, while working to support students exposed to trauma and adversity, teachers may experience empathy-based stress exacerbating already high levels of stress among them. This narrative review explores the issue of empathy-based stress within the context of the prosocial classroom model which proposes that teachers’ social and emotional competence and well-being are key to their ability to create and maintain supportive learning environments critical to student academic and behavioral outcomes.
Recent findings in neuroscience and education research are applied to support teachers’ development of these competencies.
We propose that shifting from empathy-based stress to compassionate responding may be one such competency to help teachers’ respond effectively to their students’ needs while protecting their own wellbeing.
We review research that supports this proposition and explore implications for teacher professional learning, educational policy, and further research.