How School Leaders Can Better Support Teachers This Year
August 10th, 2022
With ever increasing demands, relatively low salaries, and constantly changing educational policies, teacher burnout and attrition are on the rise. According to a Gallup survey, 52% of teachers report feeling burned out in their role, the highest percentage of all professions. In addition, the burnout gap between K-12 employees and other industries has continued to grow over the last few years (Marken & Agrawal, 2022).
Luckily, burnout can be temporary. With the right steps, school leaders can prevent and reverse teacher burnout, improve teacher support, and retain top-quality talent.
Here are eight ways school leaders can better support teachers this year:
Give More Autonomy
Teachers report that one of the most stressful parts of their role is navigating continuously changing education policies. New policies can prevent teachers from leading their classes and supporting students in ways that are meaningful to them, resulting in a lack of motivation and purpose in their work (Mulford, 2003).
Rather than control what teachers are doing and how they’re doing it from the top down, school leaders can act as a supporting force providing the necessary resources for teachers to do what they do best — encouraging and supporting students in reaching their full potential (Inglis, 2022).
Allow Time for Relationship Building
When surveyed, teachers reported that developing relationships with students was the best part of their job. With new safety protocols, changing policies, and other administrative expectations placed on teachers, it’s easy for this to fall to the wayside, leading to increased teacher stress.
Due to the positive impact that student-teacher relationship building has on both students and teachers, it should be regarded as a main priority. It’s important for school leaders to make sure that teachers have the time, resources, and energy to build rapport and be fully present with students by ensuring that other demands aren’t overwhelming (Inglis, 2022).
Let Teachers Have A Say
Including teachers in the school decision-making process is an excellent way to boost morale and help teachers find a sense of belonging within the school environment. Instilling a collaborative leadership model within your school not only gives way to innovation, but can lead to reduced frustration by allowing teachers to voice their opinions and perspectives (Mulford, 2003).
Create a Culture Where Teachers Thrive
When it comes to factors impacting teacher retention rates, many teachers cite working conditions and school culture as major reasons for deciding to leave. Leading contributors to school culture and working conditions include classroom size, salary, and interactions between staff members and school leaders (Sutcher et al., 2019).
Teachers have reported that a positive school culture involves respectful and trust-based interactions between staff, understanding and patience from school leaders, and a willingness among leaders to pivot direction and alter educational practices based on new information and student needs (Mulford, 2003).
Find Ways to Lower Stress
It’s no surprise that increased stress levels can lead to burnout and decreased motivation (Diliberti et al., 2021). While beginning to combat teacher stress can seem like an overwhelming endeavor, simple solutions such as allowing time for teachers to take breaks and reset throughout the school day can have a large impact (Roloff & Brown, 2011).
Additionally, shifting focus from quantitative to qualitative goals can help remove unnecessary pressure and stress from the role. Without the worry of achieving standardized test score goals, teachers are able to devote more energy to improving student engagement and supporting progress (Covell et al., 2009).
Aim for Consistency
Another major factor leading to teacher burnout is constant changes in instructional practices and models. Zamarro et al., (2022) finds that changes in instructional mode are associated with an increase in the probability of teachers leaving their role. If changes do need to be made due to policies or other factors, it’s important to include teachers in the process to ensure a supportive and smooth transition.
Additionally, teaching in a hybrid model is associated with higher concerns about job burnout due to the need to focus attention in multiple directions. To better support teachers, school leaders can make sure that instructional changes are intentional and logical.
Develop a Mentorship Program
Ensuring that new teachers have ample support can have a direct impact on teacher retention rates. Studies have shown that implementing well-designed mentorship programs helps new teachers feel more confident in their role and improves instructional practices. This is especially true when school leaders create training programs for mentor teachers and connect new teachers with mentor teachers in the same subject area.
Creating time for collaborative lesson planning also allows new teachers to learn from more experienced colleagues, seek guidance on classroom-related issues, and feel included within a supportive environment (Sutcher et al., 2019).
Prioritize Emotional Support
Teachers report that there seems to be a disconnect between messages from school leaders and actual demands, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the one hand, school leaders encourage teachers to take care of themselves and be safe. On the other hand, they are often burdened with increasing demands which make self-care a challenge.
A great way to understand the emotional needs of teachers in your school is to create a charter. This involves gathering information from teachers, whether in a group setting or through anonymous means, regarding how they currently feel, how they would like to feel, and what needs to happen in order for them to feel this way. This information can be used to create actionable steps that drive change (Cipriano & Brackett, 2020).
Retaining high-performing teachers and preventing burnout is in the best interest of school leadership. Understanding and addressing teacher needs, increasing support, managing demands, and developing actionable steps for change are key to reducing attrition rates and improving job satisfaction. It’s also important to remember that school leaders aren’t alone in this process – building collaborative relationships with teachers makes change more meaningful and helps school leaders focus their attention in the right areas.
Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages
Cipriano, Christina & Brackett, Marc. (2020). How to Support Teachers’ Emotional Needs Right
Now. Greater Good Magazine: Science-Based Insights for a Meaningful Life. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_support_teachers_emotional_needs_right_now
Covell, K., McNeil, J.K., & Howe, R.B. (2009). Reducing Teacher Burnout by Increasing Student
Engagement: A Children’s Rights Approach. School Psychology International, 30(3), 282-290. doi: 10.1177/0143034309106496
Diliberti, Melissa Kay, Schwartz, Heather L., & Grant, David. (2021). Stress Topped the Reasons
Why Public School Teachers Quit, Even Before COVID-19. RAND Corporation. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA1121-2.html
Inglis, Jeff. (2022). Teacher Burnout Has Hit A Record High: 5 Essential Reads – Analysis.
Pennsylvania Capital-Star. https://www.penncapital-star.com/commentary/teacher-burnout-has-hit-a-record-high-5-essential-reads-analysis/
Marken, Stephanie & Agrawal, Sangeeta. (2022). K-12 Workers Have Highest Burnout Rate in
U.S. Gallup. https://news.gallup.com/poll/393500/workers-highest-burnout-rate.aspx
Mulford, Bill. (2003). School Leaders: Challenging Roles and Impact on Teacher and School
Effectiveness. OECD Commissioned Paper. https://www.oecd.org/education/school/37133393.pdf
Roloff, M.E. & Brown, L.A. (2011). Extra-Role Time, Burnout and Commitment: The Power of
Promises Kept. Business Communication Quarterly, 74(4), 450-474. 10.1177/1080569911424202
Sutcher, Leib, Darling-Hammond, Linda, & Carver-Thomas Desiree. (2019). Understanding
Teacher Shortages: An Analysis of Teacher Supply and Demand in the United States. Understanding and Solving Teacher Shortages: Policy Strategies for a Strong Profession, Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27(35). http://dx.doi.org/10.14507/epaa.27.3696
Zamarro, Gema, Camp, Andrew, Fuchsman, Dillon, & McGee, Josh B. (2022). Understanding
How COVID-19 Has Changed Teachers’ Chances of Remaining in the Classroom. SLU Research, Sinquefield Center for Applied Economic Research. https://deliverypdf.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=159126001117002112107120074066094112060053059067055000096015069118024092081115118031045016007012016045118127031125099075113118109017029044009101081031100076024115068073060002101109001113010123125092070088094071000108020096105116083003111102013065111020&EXT=pdf&INDEX=TRUE