Studies show that educators experience stress at a higher-than-average rate. With this stress comes a phenomenon known as teacher burnout. If preventing teacher burnout isn’t currently on your list of priorities, it should be.
- Roughly half a million teachers move or leave the profession annually, costing the United States up to $2.2 billion per year.
- 17% of educators leave the profession within their first five years.
- Two-thirds of teachers who leave the profession do so for reasons other than retirement.
- Turnover rates are higher in Title I schools and schools serving the largest concentration of students of color, widening the achievement gap.
Teacher burnout is a significant problem. It has a negative impact on school culture and student achievement. But if you’re a school leader, utilizing the strategies below can help.
7 Strategies for Preventing Teacher Burnout
These strategies are designed to improve staff retention through resources and support.
1. Provide Mental Health Resources
Directly address teacher burnout with seminars, classes, and resources on stress management. Emphasize the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Remind teachers to leave work at school on evenings and weekends. Encourage your staff to take mental health days to rest and recharge when necessary.
These tips may seem counter-intuitive to some school leaders. But remember that refreshed, well-rested teachers will benefit your students and your school.
2. Encourage Collaboration
Support from other teachers is extremely helpful in preventing teacher burnout. Encourage your teachers to foster relationships with one another. When possible, schedule common planning periods for teachers who teach the same subject and grade level.
During common planning periods, teachers can share lesson planning duties, assign the same homework and assessments, and troubleshoot collaboratively.
Build a positive school climate by allowing time for teachers to socialize at the beginning or end of staff meetings. Set aside time for sharing “big wins” or success stories with the group.
3. Give Teachers a Voice
Not having a voice in school decision-making is a source of frustration for many teachers. Implement teacher surveys to gather feedback.
Whenever possible, get teachers involved in big decisions at your school. After all, they’re the ones who are in daily contact with students and families.
4. Treat Teachers Like Professionals
Teachers are professionals. They’ve been trained in classroom management, curriculum design, assessment, and more. Too often, however, teachers are not treated accordingly.
Depending on your district, you may be unable to give your staff much freedom in developing their curriculum. However, give your teachers as much freedom as possible.
Allow them to choose the books their students read, the skills they focus on each week, and so on. Trusting your teachers goes a long way toward staff satisfaction and retention.
In addition, support your teachers in matters of discipline. If a parent contacts you to settle a dispute with the teacher, don’t undermine the teacher by siding with the parent. Show your teachers that you value and support their opinions. (Of course, there are exceptions if the teacher has acted unethically or in violation of rules or laws.)
5. Support New Teachers
New teachers need extra support. Set up a mentorship program that pairs rookie teachers with your best veterans. Allow new teachers to observe or shadow seasoned educators. Encourage them to ask questions and reach out for support.
Make a point of checking in with your new teachers and asking how they’re adjusting. Provide non-evaluative coaching and feedback.
6. Make Feedback Specific
Speaking of feedback, it should always be specific. Both rookie teachers and veteran teachers need clear, specific, and constructive feedback.
Teacher evaluations commonly feel adversarial and contribute to teacher burnout. If you give a low score on a teacher evaluation, give constructive feedback too:
- What exactly did the teacher do poorly?
- What are some strategies the teacher could use to improve in this area in the future?
- Is there a team member who does this well that the teacher could observe or connect with for advice?
Without specific feedback, poor evaluations simply feel like unhelpful criticism. These evaluations discourage teachers who are trying their best within a challenging system, and they do nothing to encourage improvement.
7. Have Fun
Foster a positive climate by creating opportunities for fun. Host optional faculty get-togethers and meals. Invite teachers to decorate holiday cookies together or take an after-school yoga class. Have a local comedian perform at a faculty meeting.
Send out a newsletter with a “Social Scoop” section that highlights upcoming events in the area. Include a weekly joke.
These suggestions may seem cheesy, but laughter and play are among the best stress reducers. If your staff sees that you go the extra mile to create a positive environment, they’re much likelier to stick around.
Final Thoughts: Preventing Teacher Burnout
As a school leader, much of the school system is beyond your control. But you can ensure that your teachers have support, resources, and a positive school climate.
By following these tips, you’ll keep your teachers happy. In turn, they’ll provide quality instruction that helps your students and your school thrive.