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Burnt Out? How You Can Bring Change to Your School District

Seasoned educators know that “teacher burnout” isn’t just a tired cliché; it’s the sad reality educators face. Yes, in 2022, US teachers aren’t just tired; many are stressed, exhausted, and grossly dissatisfied with their work environment.

A recent National Education Association (NEA) report pointed out that “US teachers suffer from collective demoralization; educators often feel they can’t perform their work to the high professional and personal standards they hold dear.”

The report continues: “US teachers endure mental and emotional toll due to factors like bouncing back and forth between managing remote and in-person learning and anxiety for their own and their students’ health and safety.”

In the post-pandemic education sector, many teachers voluntarily work unpaid hours to catch up with lost learning hours, excess yard duty, or IEP meetings. If you are feeling burnout, bring change to your school site or district with these tips. 

Teacher Input for Policy Matters, Matters!

To begin, school administrators need to involve teachers in policy matters that impact their work directly.

A study shockingly indicated that almost 50% of teachers have little or no input in making crucial decisions that affect them. Indeed, 20% of educators said they had “absolutely no input” in making such impactful decisions. This lack of control over what affects your job may leave you feeling unheard, underappreciated, and burnt out.

As a school district, create committees to engage with teachers and gain their insight into possible policy proposals. As a bonus, these committees can be based on a site or district level, and doing such will strengthen the teacher-administration relationship. If you ask teachers to be involved, ensure they are compensated financially for their time.

Pilot New Programs for a Positive Change

The journal Christian Science Monitor recently reported about schools in Los Angeles that discovered new ways to boost teacher morale. The publication reported that the schools used relief funding to give teachers financial support; what a sterling example!

At the same time, schools in Minnesota and Tennessee decided to recruit teachers who’d represent students in their districts. In a trendsetting move, the authorities successfully developed teacher residency programs.

Alternatively, teachers’ unions can positively pressure school administrators to avail funds to cater to educators’ welfare. Consequently, schools can use the funds to provide online and in-person counseling to both teachers and students.

Ensure Curriculum Aligns to Teacher Tool Availability

School districts should ensure their curriculum integrates seamlessly into teachers’ tools. Ideally, such a curriculum should align with what teachers deliver in class and involve a minimal learning curve. 

School leaders can initiate conversations with teachers and other educators regarding their particular needs in pursuing this goal. Needs may include faster internet connections, robotics, and one-to-one computers in the classroom. Each year the curriculum and available tools need to be reviewed to ensure the two are working well together. 

Support Minority Educators

Certainly, school authorities can do much to improve the work environment and support teachers of color. In recent years, many school districts have enlisted the help of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) educators to mentor students of color and educate colleagues on diversity issues.

Despite this, overt biases and a lack of support often block BIPOCs from accessing higher administrative positions in the Department of Education. School districts should root out toxic elements in the learning environment and remedy the situation. 

Address Student Burnout

What about student burnout? Like teachers, many students suffered stress from the worldwide pandemic, Omicron and Delta variant jitters, and lengthy school closures. This added to normal anxieties associated with the stresses of daily life, packed schedules, and heavy workloads.

Many students still suffer from the aftermath of such pressures. To help reduce student burnout, schools should tap into the benefits of physical education and prioritize mindfulness. Encourage young students to play and use their imagination; older students may benefit from meditation during morning announcements.

Final Thoughts

As a teacher or educator, you have a voice; more than ever, that voice matters. When you are feeling burnout, suggest ways to benefit you and your classroom. And remember, you are not alone; the teacher next door likely feels the same burnout and needs support. 

Combatting burnout can occur within a department, school site, or district-wide. But our ideal goal would be to end burnout profession-wide. When teachers are at their best, our students will be too.

Written by John O. Ndar 
Education World Contributor
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