This post is written by Kim Strobel. Kim is the owner of Strobel Education. She is a highly sought-after consultant, speaker, and happiness coach who works with K-12 teachers and schools throughout the country.
I’m sure we can all agree that educators are “June tired” and have been for most of the last school year. Educator burnout is a significant challenge.
Between preparing today’s children for tomorrow, the challenges of delivering education during a pandemic, all while juggling virtual, remote, and in-person learning, the demands of education are many and, at times, heavy.
This can look like teachers leaving work feeling defeated. It can look like working nights and weekends just to keep up.
This is what burnout looks like by the numbers:
- 75% of teachers and 84% of school leaders report high levels of stress.
- 85% of teachers reported that work-life imbalance was affecting their ability to teach.
- 49% believe their workplace is having a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
- 50% of teachers have contemplated leaving the profession.
Fighting burnout is important because, as Happiness Researcher Shawn Achor states, “Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than at negative, neutral, or stressed." Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer other than looking at how we create and foster happiness and take action on them individually and together.
Here are 4 ways you can prevent or heal educator burnout.
The impacts of stress are well documented. Stress interferes with recall, ability to learn, and ability to manage day to day life. Recurring stress and the resulting mental processing challenges can make a tough job even tougher, ultimately leading to burnout.
Educators need access to stress management techniques to be able to do their jobs effectively. That can look like employee wellness initiatives, social-emotional learning opportunities, access to counseling support, and anything else that meaningfully addresses the crushing level of stress our teachers face. Here’s a free webinar we created that gives you some helpful tips on dealing with educator burnout.
Develop meaningful relationships
The fact is, we need each other. Being able to spend time in relationship, talking to people who understand or are compassionate about the challenges you face can help get things out of your head and ideally move towards the next step of problem-solving.
Having people who hold you accountable for your self-care, who remind you of the times you were successful when you don’t feel that way, and who genuinely want you to succeed can make all the difference. Teachers need time to connect with their people who are their cheerleaders and champions.
Science says even plants will prosper and grow better when they are spoken to in positive ways. Can you imagine how as humans, we are affected by words and relationships? Creating strong social support systems within our schools is one of the most significant predictors of school success.
A positive, engaged brain is the greatest competitive advantage a school can have. The daily practice of focusing on the positives can help create those positive, engaged brain conditions. It doesn’t have to be extensive or complicated to work. A simple gratitude practice has been shown through positive psychology to be a determinant of success and overall happiness.
Whether it happens in a journal, around the kitchen table, or through prayer at the end of the day, you can find positivity in whatever way you practice gratitude. Modeling this practice for students, family and friends can also positively influence the people around you and keep you motivated. I’ve created a Gratitude Prompt and 21-Day Tracker for you if you want to get started!
Foster healthy habits
Wellness and happiness programs implemented by schools lead to better results for students and teachers. Teachers need tools and techniques to increase their optimism and wellness, and when they are optimistic, they are better able to excel.
Bringing in an inspiring keynote speaker can be helpful, but when paired with a solid plan to keep your people feeling good after the applause die down, that's a significant transformation. It’s showing commitment to your workforce, to your students, and the future because the students we shape will go on to do great things. But they need healthy teachers to get there.
In closing, I will leave you with this final stat.
30%- 40% of teachers leave the profession within their first five years. That’s far too many teachers leaving at an unacceptably high rate. We need to be able to retain talent to preserve the quality of education we can offer children. Fighting burnout is one way to keep employees happy and happy employees are more likely to say.
The more you take time to address burnout in educators, the more opportunities our teachers and students have to shine. And I’m just as passionate about our students and their need for social and emotional learning lessons incorporated into the curriculum.
In fact, I created The Happiness Lab, which is a set of free, pre-recorded and downloadable SEL Lessons for you to use with your students that teach them the important soft skills they need to succeed inside and outside of the classroom.
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