Teacher Burnout: How to Recognize and Combat it

Updated 04/21/22

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Staff and teacher burnout is a crisis in schools across the country. It’s resulting in staff and teacher shortages, which in turn results in more work for those that remain. This situation isn’t unique to education; the COVID-19 pandemic sparked what is known as The Great Resignation, which refers to the dramatic spike in workers across all fields quitting their jobs in search of something else. In April 2021 alone, a record 4 million people sent in their resignation letters. In November 2021, the US reached a new record of 4.5 million resignations. In total, 2021 saw over 38 million workers leave their jobs.


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Though, education has its specific issues that must be addressed to combat this crisis; one of the biggest being intense burnout. Teachers cited it as one of the main issues that caused them to leave the field in the past year. In fact, according to a poll by the National Education Association, 90% of members say burnout is a serious problem, with 91% saying COVID-related stress is also a critical issue. In addition to staff and teachers being unhappy, this level of burnout is likely to affect the quality of education students receive. It is, all around, a lose-lose situation.


Needless to say, district leaders have to take real steps to slow the rapid pace of resignations. Those steps should start with addressing and helping those who are feeling burnt out.


Recognizing burnout:

If a teacher is displaying these behaviors, it may be because they’re feeling burnt out. Be on the lookout for:


-Heightened sensitivity to feedback


-Increased nonattendance

-Unorganized/messy classrooms, desks, etc.

-Lack of lesson plans

-Noticeable change of socialization with peers

-Not meeting deadlines


What to do about burnout:

There’s no cure-all when it comes to combating burnout, and not every tip listed will work in every district. Your teachers and faculty have their own needs, and these tips should serve as a guide to help you navigate the situation.


Listen to feedback from staff and teachers

When all is said and done, this is at the heart of all tips to combat burnout. No one knows the issues teachers face quite like teachers, and they also know what would be most helpful to them. Have open and honest discussions with your faculty about what’s going on and what needs to be done moving forward. District leaders should be having these conversations with their staff even if they don’t display signs of burnout.


Ask the right questions

When talking with your faculty, lead the discussion with questions that let them know they’re being supported. Avoid overwhelming them by giving them the floor without guidance. Questions like, “if it were up to you, what would you do differently for teachers?” invite them to give their honest thoughts.


Realize that self care isn’t always best

Yes, it’s helpful, but only up to a certain point. Self care tips treat symptoms of burnout rather than the root cause. While it’s a great supplement to handling the issue, encouraging self care should not be the only steps taken to combat burnout.


Encourage collaboration

The increasing amount of responsibility teachers face is a top contributor to burnout. Let teachers share responsibility with others so they can have more time to themselves for grading, lesson planning, and relaxation. For example, teachers who lead after-school clubs may benefit from another faculty member stepping in a few times a week.


You could also designate times for teachers to get together and plan lessons in a more social, relaxed environment. Talk with your faculty about where they need assistance and who might be able to help them.


Provide accessible mental health resources

Teach.com has a wide variety of mental health resources for educators. Take some time to look through them and determine what’s best for your faculty, and offer them as genuine ways to help. Look into financial aid programs that can help cover out-of-pocket expenses when needed.

Originally posted 2022

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