If you’re a leader at your school, you are probably concerned about educator burnout. Burnout is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that often leads employees to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and cynical about their work (even if they once loved it). Today’s teachers are especially susceptible to experiencing burnout, as they are presented with an ever-increasing workload and lack of support.
The result of the educator burnout epidemic is that we have teachers who are prematurely leaving their positions. Statistics tell us that about 17% of teachers are leaving their jobs within the first five years. Each year, more and more teachers are leaving the profession for reasons unrelated to retirement. This turnover costs the US around $2.2 billion each year and leaves students across the country without trained educators.
Here are some ways schools can reduce educator burnout and encourage teachers to remain in their careers for the long-term.
1. Avoid micromanaging
If possible, allow your school’s teachers to have more control over their work. In some other countries, such as Finland, schools have moved toward increased levels of teacher autonomy and seen positive results. Try allowing educators to write their own curriculums. If teachers have some say in how they work and teach, they are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and less likely to experience burnout.
2. Create a system that supports teachers’ wellbeing
Creating a school system that encourages teachers to take care of themselves can also be extremely beneficial to reducing educator burnout. Teachers are notorious for pouring into others and putting their personal wellbeing on the backburner. Providing teachers with amenities such as mindfulness practices will help your entire staff to become more self-aware and will leave each of them feeling supported and happier. You can also consider offering optional courses, yoga classes, or journaling practices. Whatever options you decide on, keep them at-will rather than mandatory.
3. Talk about burnout
Also, be sure to discuss burnout regularly. Talk about the warning signs and encourage your teachers to confide in you when they believe they are experiencing symptoms. Set up routine check-ins with all employees. Do your best to create a positive culture where teachers look out for one another and can inform administration when they believe a coworker is struggling. The goal should be to identify the signs of burnout and address them before the educator has hit rock bottom. Also, maintain an open-door policy that encourages teachers to come to you when they feel they are being demoralized. Lastly, make sure sufficient resources and support are provided to teachers who report that they are nearing burnout.
To solve a problem as large as teacher burnout, everyone needs to be on board. School systems need to work with their educators to address the issue. Only when this type of collaboration becomes the new normal can we expect to see teachers remaining in their classrooms until retirement.