How Prevalent is Teacher Burnout? What Leads to Burnout?
Masks, temperature checkpoints, social distancing markers on the floor, plexiglass panels, and inactivated water fountains are just a few signs that we live in unprecedented times. Teachers everywhere are being asked to do more and more to combat the repercussions left behind from the nation’s school closures and virtual learning, and teachers are being stretched thin.
As a result, teachers are experiencing burnout at a higher than usual rate. Recently, NPR polled members of The National Education Association (NEA) and found that 90% of the surveyed members believe teacher burnout is a significant problem.
Teacher burnout is caused due to a variety of reasons:
- Teaching during a pandemic is not what a teacher envisioned
- Staffing shortages
- Pressure attempting to fill learning gaps left behind from school closures and distance learning
- Discontent with salary
- Mounting responsibilities on top of typical teacher duties
- National and state-required testing
When you put all these elements together, you can see why burnout is running rampant and leaving a trail of overwhelmed teachers in its wake.
Why is It Important to Address Teacher Burnout?
It is critical that schools attempt to address teacher burnout. There are several short-term impacts of teacher burnout:
- Dissatisfaction with one’s job
- A decrease in effectiveness in the classroom
- Weight loss or gain
- Sleep problems
Long term impacts from burnout are even more detrimental to schools:
- Large numbers of teachers leaving the profession
- Under-qualified teachers filling the vacancies
- Reduced educational quality for students
- Negative school culture
- Fewer opportunities for high-quality lessons in the classroom
- Less excitement in classrooms
Valuable Skills Gained in OAESA Educational Leadership Programs
Despite all of the hardships mentioned above, hope is not lost. There are numerous things school leaders can do to combat teacher burnout. My master’s program from OAESA with Concordia University Chicago instilled the values of a number of core ideals that school leaders could utilize to help combat teacher burnout.
First of all, the importance of working in conjunction with varying stakeholders of a district was emphasized in the educational leadership program. There are never enough hours in the day to adequately support our teachers alone. Why not rely on local parents, community members, and local organizations to work alongside the school to support our valued teachers collaboratively?
Another ideal emphasized in my leadership program was the importance of school climate. The climate of any school can very quickly become negative, but it is up to school leaders to prevent this from happening. It is important to remember that during these times, we need to stay positive, show understanding, and emulate patience with teachers, so they will reciprocate those same characteristics with their students. The school’s climate directly reflects its leaders, so this is an area where school leaders can help mitigate teacher burnout.
OAESA’s educational leadership program also highlighted the power of communication. It is impossible to know what teachers need unless school leaders ask them. To truly get to the root of the issues in our schools, we must seek out teachers to try and understand their hardships and work collaboratively to address them. Heartfelt, ongoing communication has the potential to benefit teachers and deter burnout.
Perhaps the most critical aspect of school leadership focused on in the educational leadership program was creating connections with people. It is essential to acknowledge how teachers feel and address their concerns to the best of our ability. Teachers need to feel heard, cared for, and appreciated right now. With my training, I understand the power of creating a connection with the people we work with. So, listen to your teachers’ needs and find creative ways to help address them.
Ways Administrators can Support Their Teachers to Reduce Burnout
There are a number of ways that administrators can support their teachers and reduce burnout:
- Find ways to prevent burnout from happening in the first place
- Monitor teachers for onset of burnout
- Prioritize what is being asked of your teachers
- Remove tasks that aren’t imperative
- Compensate teachers for their increased workload
- Acknowledge the work your staff is doing
- Appreciate teachers’ efforts continually
- Hire enough staff to cover the needs of the school
- Be flexible with expectations of your teachers
More educational leaders who are willing to step up and support our nation’s teachers are needed desperately. OAESA’s educational leadership program is a significant first step for those of you who are willing to take on this important challenge.