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. Then, those that remain get burnt out and consider leaving– rinse and repeat.
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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.
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
-Unorganized/messy classrooms, desks, etc.
-Lack of lesson plans
-Noticeable change of socialization with peers
-Not meeting deadlines
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. Reassure them of open-door policies and that suggestions are truly encouraged .
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. In fact, teachers are rejecting self-care ideas from their leaders because they are too busy to engage in self-care at all. While it’s a great supplement to handling the issue, encouraging self care should not be the only steps taken to combat burnout.
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. Additionally, Paper has a holistic approach that encourages investing into high-quality wellness initiatives and granting educators a certain level of autonomy.
According to the NEA, teacher unions have been urging districts to reduce the pressure put on teachers and hire wellness coordinators. In addition, districts see higher satisfaction rates when they “protect teachers’ time, invite their input, and support their mental health and well-being”. Be the advocate your teachers need to make these asks a reality.