TeacherLists Blog

Teacher Burnout: How to Recognize and Combat it

teacher exhausted in class

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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. Then, those that remain get burnt out and consider leaving– rinse and repeat.

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.

New in 2023:

Teacher burnout is hardly new. It’s been consistently in the news since 2020 when teachers were leaving the field in droves during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, we have recent developments to give us further context for the root cause of the problem. A study by the American Educational Research Association found that teachers are 40% more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety compared to healthcare workers, 20% more likely than office workers, and 30% more likely than people in jobs like farming and the military. Further, K-12 teachers were the #1 most burnt out profession in the US in 2023, and there are over 500,000 fewer teachers post-pandemic, meaning teachers still in the field are picking up that weight. Finally, teachers have cited low compensation as the #1 reason they ultimately decide to leave the career.

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. 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. 


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. Additionally, Paper has a holistic approach that encourages investing into high-quality wellness initiatives and granting educators a certain level of autonomy.  

Be an advocate for your faculty

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.

Originally posted 2022

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