You don’t have to work in the education sector to know that the last few years have been tough for teachers. The pandemic had a seismic impact on educators in Australia and New Zealand, with a 2022 Monash University study finding that teachers’ satisfaction with their roles dropped from 66% in 2019 (pre-COVID) to 46% in 2022. The same report found that 1 in 4 teachers don’t feel safe at work, less than 14% report that their workload is manageable, and only 3 in 10 plan on staying in the profession.
A high workload and poor work-life balance are key drivers of the current teacher exodus. And, with the number of teachers burning out and leaving the profession growing, this places even more pressure on the teachers who remain.
While there’s no magic cure for burnout, one of the best ways to combat it is to raise the profile of wellbeing at your school. Encouraging teachers to invest in their wellbeing – and letting them know that it’s okay to admit they’re struggling or need support – is increasingly as important as allocating time for lesson planning or report writing.
Here are some ways your school can promote and prioritise teacher wellbeing.
Give teachers permission to set boundaries
With technology allowing us to work anytime, anywhere, many teachers feel they can never entirely switch off. Chances are the teachers at your school are responding to emails, lesson planning and assessing student work into the evening.
Let staff and families know that work-life balance is a priority at your school, and give educators permission to disconnect during their time off. Set schoolwide expectations that emails sent after a certain time don’t have to be answered until the next day – and ensure families are aware that after-hours emails won’t be dealt with immediately.
Provide educators with the tools they need to succeed
A common source of stress caused by the teacher shortage is educators regularly being asked to do things they’re not trained to do. Teachers are increasingly expected to take on roles they have no experience in, often with limited support.
Ensure your school is setting educators up for success by investing in professional development and coaching to help them take on new responsibilities with confidence. Whether they need support with new technology or mentoring to deal with specific learning difficulties more effectively, championing a continuous learning mindset at your school will drive teacher satisfaction and improve learning outcomes.
In addition to professional development opportunities, schools should also take advantage of technology that streamlines administrative tasks for teachers. For example, a school management system should have features that automate regular and repeatable activities. Things like taking attendance, recording assessments, and communicating with families should be simple to manage in one secure platform – enabling teachers to focus on learning delivery and student wellbeing.
Offer extra support to new teachers
New teachers are especially susceptible to stress and burnout, especially those who began their teaching careers during the pandemic – one of the most chaotic periods in the history of education.
Take a structured and thorough approach to onboarding your school’s new teachers, prioritising wellbeing. Build regular formal and informal check-ins with new starters into your school’s wellbeing plan and connect them with mentor teachers who have the knowledge, experience and personal attributes to build rewarding relationships with new educators.
Show your appreciation for your school’s teachers
Recognition is a crucial driver of employee engagement and satisfaction across all sectors. Everyone wants to be celebrated for a job well done, whether it’s via a shoutout in a meeting or something more formal.
Make awarding teachers with small tokens of gratitude something your school leadership team does regularly and encourage teachers to recognise their peers in the same way. Be specific about why you’re acknowledging them and remind them that you know they’re doing work worth being celebrated every day.