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How Can Districts Better Support Educators Facing Burnout

How Can Districts Better Support Educators Facing Burnout

Today’s teachers aren’t just tired—they’re exhausted, stressed, and dissatisfied. This is more than burnout, which the National Education Association (NEA) considers an often temporary condition; it’s more of a collective demoralization, which occurs when educators feel that they’re unable to perform their work to the professional and personal standards they uphold.

The emotional and mental toll on educators is caused by several issues, including bouncing back and forth between in-person and remote learning, concerns for their health and that of their students, and working unpaid hours in their free time just to catch up, all on top of juggling run-of-the-mill teaching duties.

Without a stable workforce in place, districts are struggling to prioritize academic and student development; they’re just trying to keep their heads above water.

What districts can do to help educators and the students they serve

To increase teacher retention and attract new educators, school districts and legislators have to end the status quo and make substantive changes to boost teacher morale. While a catered lunch is certainly appreciated, educators need support and action from school leaders. Some steps that educators recommend include:

Giving teachers a voice in policymaking that impacts their classrooms:

In one study, nearly half of teachers surveyed said they have little input in school decisions, and 20 percent said they have no input at all. That lack of invited input is detrimental to the overall school environment, as teachers are the ones who maintain direct contact with students and better understand the needs of individual learners. Creating committees that engage teachers and embrace their opinions can strengthen the overall educator-administrator relationship.

Allocating a portion of federal COVID-19 relief funds to supporting teachers:

Districts have successfully discovered ways to address challenges to teacher retention. The Christian Science Monitor reported that schools in Los Angeles gave teachers a pay boost with relief funding, while Tennessee and Minnesota focused on recruiting educators that represent the students in their districts and developing teacher residency programs. In addition, ESSER Funds can be used to provide both students and teachers with access to online counseling and in-person support. By understanding that long-term wellness requires embedded mental health services, districts can proactively ease a teacher’s stress.

Focusing on curricula that fit how an educator teaches:

Digital learning programs shouldn’t add to educators’ stress levels by diverting their attention from instruction to recordkeeping and data entry. New curricula should integrate seamlessly into the solutions you’re already using, require a minimal learning curve, and build on what educators are teaching in the classroom. It's important for school leaders to have conversations with educators about what they need and what tools are available to them to help.

Honoring a teacher’s autonomy:

Teachers who experience greater autonomy in the classroom report higher rates of job satisfaction, greater motivation to stay, and less stress. In addition, integrating professional learning communities (PLC) within school hours can offer teachers the chance to learn from each other and provide support.

Supporting teachers of color better:

In the wake of social justice movements over the past two years, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) educators have been tasked with uncompensated “identity-based labor” to mentor students of color and educate coworkers on diversity issues. At the same time, efforts to create more equitable learning opportunities are sometimes challenged, while their pathways to higher positions at an administrative level are often blocked by biases and a lack of support. Districts have to identify any toxicity in the learning environment and not expect their teachers to shoulder the full responsibility of repairing it on their own.

The goal of every educator is to provide a solid foundation for every student. But, without an engaged and supported workforce, districts and students will continue to struggle. School leaders have to change today’s dynamic to prioritize their teachers’ well-being before it’s too late. Looking for more tips to boost teacher retention? Check out our blog: [Education Leadership] 6 Ways Administrators Can Boost Teacher Retention.