There’s no doubt that 2020 has been one of the most difficult years of this generation. The full impact of the pandemic remains to be seen, but it’s clear that it will deeply affect all of us.
As a school leader, you must understand the impact this has on your teachers. From transitioning quickly to distance learning to the unknowns of the 2020–21 school year, burnout is possible (if not probable). You should know what to watch for, and how to respond if you see that your teaching staff needs additional support.
Recognize the Signs of Teacher Burnout
Watch for the following signs that a teacher is reaching a state of disengagement or disillusionment.
- Frequent sighing
- Difficulty concentrating
- Missing deadlines
- Behaviorally disengaging, showing lack of initiative
- Notable loss of confidence or increased insecurity
- Taking many days off or experiencing frequent illness
- Expressing negativity or cynicism about students
- Feelings of helplessness
- Negative outlook on the future
Ways to Support Teachers
Schedule regular one-on-one conversations with your teachers. These should be focused on checking in to see how they’re doing. Put their emotional well-being above their performance, just as you encourage them to do with their students. Remember the airplane oxygen rule—teachers can’t help their students if they’re not supported themselves.
Openly talk to teachers about the symptoms of burnout. Encourage them to have an ongoing dialogue with their supervisors so the school can support them. Remove the stigma of not being able to handle it. This article would be useful to share.
Make your expectations for teaching reasonable and clear. Whether teachers are managing online instruction, on-campus classes, or a mixture of both, ensure they know what they are expected to do. These expectations will evolve over time and with training.
Acknowledge and validate the problems we are all facing. Openly show vulnerability and share your challenges with a “we’re all in this together" stance. Praise your teachers’ extra efforts regularly and celebrate their successes.
Regularly remind teachers of your confidence in them. Assure your teachers that they were hired for a reason. You are not expecting perfection through this; rather, each setback as you build new processes and approaches is an opportunity for growth.
Ensure teachers have access to counseling. This can be through your insurance carrier’s EAP or otherwise. Any counseling offered for students through the school should be made available to teachers as well.
Tune in to live webinars every week during the school year to get specific, research-backed insight you can immediately apply at your school.
Resources and External Support
Follow all recommended safety precautions. Ensure your teachers know their safety and well-being is your top priority.
Provide resources. Make sure teachers have everything they need to teach successfully from home. This might include a comfortable office chair, computer monitor, document camera, supplies, and more. Check in and ensure these are provided.
Organize adequate and personalized training. Teaching in this new environment will require new skills, and some might need more support than others. Be prepared for this. Focus on community building exercises so teachers can continue to foster that important aspect of your school while socially distanced.
Allow time for connections. Give your teachers time during the school day to speak with one another to share triumphs and challenges.
Be flexible in your approach. While some level of standardization is necessary for predictability, consider what choices you can give teachers so they have a sense of autonomy.
Manage parent expectations. Do everything in your power to communicate effectively with parents so teachers can teach—and not spend the majority of their time interfacing with parents.
Show teachers the light at the end of the tunnel. We don’t know when the pandemic will end, so build in more regular breaks. (This is also good for kids!)
Find little ways to treat teachers. Some ideas include meal delivery gift cards, handwritten thank you notes, or something from their students.
While there are few certainties, providing for and protecting your teachers is paramount as the pandemic continues. Follow these tips to help prevent burnout as we quickly approach the 2020–21 school year.
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