How to Minimize Teacher Burnout During the Pandemic

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
Elementary school principal; M.A. in K-12 Educational Leadership
Frustrated young women pinching her furrowed brow while using a laptop.

Teacher burnout can happen to the very best teachers. There are times when teachers just feel like they cannot be the teacher that they had hoped to be and choose to leave the profession. Standardized testing, IEP paperwork, and stress are all factors that can contribute to teacher burnout. Hence, the added pressure that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic is increasing the teacher burnout rate even more.

How the Pandemic is Influencing Teacher Burnout

Education is constantly changing requirements and regulations, and unfortunately change can be challenging for teachers. Thus, the change from traditional teaching to the non-traditional online teaching has been a great struggle for even the veteran teachers. This struggle is causing teachers to feel as though they are not able to appropriately meet the needs of their students.

Furthermore, teachers are feeling as though they were not trained properly to teach online which is true more often than not. Professional development has never been dedicated to the skills to be an online instructor. These skills are very specific and also depend on which online platform is being utilized. Teachers may find themselves spending so much additional time trying to figure out how to upload assignments or presentations, which can be very frustrating and contribute to burnout.

Equally important is the challenge of balancing home and life with teachers now working from home. Even though teachers have always taken work home like grading papers or creating lesson plans, working from home full time is completely different. Teachers have families and their own children that they are caring for while trying to teach their students. They do not have access to their classrooms and the use of their supplies that they would use in daily lessons. They have to find time to videotape their lessons or teach live from their bedrooms while their own children are interrupting them with their own schoolwork questions. Finding the balance can seem impossible and honestly quite overwhelming.

Ways to Minimize Teacher Burnout

There are many strategies for minimizing or preventing teacher burnout. Teachers must reclaim their routine. Teachers may feel like they are always working when they are teaching online and working from home. Reestablishing their own routine is a must. Teachers need to create set hours as to when they are going to post lessons and correct submissions. They should not be checking their email 24/7. When that happens, they will feel completely disconnected from their own routine and never have a break. Figuring out a schedule that works best will help minimize the stress and help teachers feel more organized.

Teachers should also evaluate the workspace that they are using. Many teachers have tried to set up designated spaces in their homes without giving it much thought. Therefore, stepping back and assessing the space can improve their working environment. Teachers should make sure that they are comfortable and not just working from on top of their dresser in their bedroom if possible. Creating an ergonomic space will decrease neck and back pain from constantly working from a computer. Moreover, making sure that the space is quiet and conducive to work is of utmost importance. Limiting distractions will help teachers get their work done in a more reasonable amount of time similar to what they were used to in their classrooms.

Teachers also have to set strict boundaries between their work and their personal life. Parents and students will no doubt be sending emails all throughout the day with questions related to assignments, technology, and other concerns. Teachers should not feel like they need to be constantly responding to these messages throughout the day and night. Teachers should create designated times during the day to log into email and respond to questions. They should not have to be on their phones responding to work emails during family dinners. Feeling constantly distracted negatively affects everyone.

Connecting with parents can be an immense help to both teachers and their students. Teachers can help parents support their students with online learning. By making this connection and showing how parents can assist their children can limit confusion and make the transition to online learning so much smoother. Parents will also feel more empowered with their children’s education and be appreciative of the connections made with the teachers. Questions or concerns about assignments can be alleviated when parents feel that they can reach out to teachers.

Finally, and most importantly, teachers must find time for self-care. If they do not, teacher burnout is inevitable. Working from home and learning from home is stressful for everyone. Teachers must force themselves to step away from the new normal of working from home and do things for themselves. Going for walks, making a new recipe, or enjoying time with their families has to be part of their daily routines. Picking up a new hobby like sewing or gardening can become an enjoyable part of the day and will allow teachers to turn off their brains and take time to relax.

Teacher burnout is real and cannot be ignored. Administrators should make sure that they remind their teachers to take time for themselves and give them the support that is needed so that the education world does not lose any great teachers due to the stressors brought on by this pandemic.

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