Overcoming the Teacher Burnout Crisis

The Teacher Burnout Crisis

The teaching profession is in crisis.  Teacher burnout is at an all-time high, and very few teachers are happy with their jobs.  I’ve noticed that teachers have to do more every year, but it doesn’t always seem like school leaders know how much they have to do.

I have always been a teacher who spends more time focused on showing student work via technology than in the classroom.  I used to worry that my classroom did not look like a beautifully organized, colorful, print-rich environment to show to administrators and parents.  Then the pandemic hit.

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It was an honor to share my ideas for a “future-ready” educational experience with almost every teacher in my school district.  Those ideas were a good start in practice, but not everyone worked well.  The shift to online teaching fit my skill set but was still challenging.

During the pandemic, some people who were out of the classroom believed there would be less work to do because we were working online.  The opposite was true.  Great teachers planned out every minute of their day with links to engaging and enriching lessons.  Despite being tech-savvy, the time I needed to spend planning doubled for online teaching.  Had online education continued, the following year would have been easier because I had a baseline year of plans for my grade level.

Difficult Changes

When schools reopened, teachers eagerly shifted to in-person instruction only to find changes.  Changes in student behaviors, changes in expectations, changes in workload.  Teachers are overwhelmed.

Parents expect frequent and rapid communication via technology during teaching time; administrators expect to see data from time-consuming tests that must be submitted online.  Many teaching tools have moved online, yet teachers still have to create hands-on lessons.  Teachers still feel pressure to create beautiful classrooms, in addition to online examples of student work.  There continues to be a stigma or worry that teachers are not effectively working if their students are using online programs in class.  Teachers are balancing online communication and learning with everything that used to be just in our classrooms.  Technology has often not made the job easier; it has added more duties to our jobs.

A Shift in Thinking

The big problem facing education now is not a lack of tools; it’s a lack of understanding and empathy.  It’s the shift from the educator as the lesson giver to the facilitator of learning.  As the job rapidly changes, not everyone sees great teaching in the same way.  It used to be that you could watch a teacher speak and deliver a fantastic lesson, but that’s not modern teaching.  We are stuck in a partial paradigm shift where many teachers are afraid to use the same technologies that worked during online lessons for fear that that’s not what good classroom instruction should look like.

The most effective use of teachers’ time is on whatever lessons improve student outcomes the most.  But what are those?  How do we properly measure these outcomes?  When do we have time?  Our workflow doesn’t know where to flow.

Clarity and Collaboration

The answer lies in clarity and collaboration.  By clarity, I mean district officials and administrators should signal to teachers that they understand classroom challenges and will praise teachers who are having students use online tools to facilitate learning.  They will help in the process of combining digital and physical classrooms.  By collaboration, I mean teachers sharing exact lesson plans, videos, and tools.  Teachers already spell out clear lessons for substitutes, so why not take it further and write plans for each other?  

Start with a shared online planning platform and have each teacher collaborate with their grade level and plan out different weeks.  Administrators should support this type of planning and yet understand that every classroom, teacher, and student is different so that teachers know they have the freedom to deviate from the plan to facilitate teachable moments.  Teachers should not be expected to teach on the same page at the same time; However, time and effort could be saved if baseline, online teaching plans are in place for every teacher on a grade level.

Clarity and collaboration, along with understanding and empathy, will make for a start to solving the teacher burnout crisis.


Tools I use:

Planning:  Planbook.com

Family Communication: ClassDojo