Teacher Burnout Prevention doesn’t have to be the most difficult thing on a Principal’s to-do list. When done right, the steps you take to support the teachers on your campus will cause a ripple effect of positivity throughout your school. Teachers are the heartbeat of education. Principals have to fight teacher burnout proactively; the first step is identifying those who need you most. You can get started supporting your teachers with this free guide to combatting teacher burnout.

In the middle of my 10th year in the classroom, I quit. I was unbearably stressed and burnt out. I couldn’t even make it to the end of the year. As I walked out of school on my last day, an incredible weight was lifted off my shoulders but my passion for teaching was still as strong as ever. I soon began teaching again (though in a different capacity) and my passion quickly expanded to something else that had been weighing heavy on me. How I felt as a classroom teacher was something I often thought about and knew that I was not alone. I have now made it my mission to help administrators support teachers in the best ways possible to fight teacher burnout and ease the stress of teachers. I like to think of it as sharing tips for principals to support teachers from a teacher who knows what teachers need.

Teacher Burnout Signs

When the burnout hits, there will be signs. The statistics of teacher burnout are out there and show that this is a serious problem. Teacher burnout prevention starts with identifying those who may be struggling. Is there a teacher on your campus who can’t seem to say anything positive? How about a teacher who seems to call in about once a week? Are any teachers seeing a drop in scores in their classrooms? I am willing to bet you instantly answered those questions with specific names of people on your campus. Now the question is, have you thought about why these teachers are this way?

You, as a principal, should always be on the lookout for the signs of burnout because identifying the teachers who need help is the first step. It can be easy to pass the signs off as another problem but keeping an open mind and understanding the way teacher burnout presents itself is critical. Teachers need support and that support starts with school leaders creating a real plan for teacher burnout prevention. So, keep a lookout for these signs of teacher burnout- 

The signs of teacher burnout: exhaustion, depersonalization, low efficacy, and cynicism.

The Teacher Who is Exhausted

Stress takes a real toll on a person. It makes a person feel tired and can raise a number of other physical and emotional concerns. This is the teacher who feels consistently tired and has an overall loss of energy. It becomes a challenge for these teachers to engage in their professional responsibilities fully. This exhaustion can be seen through:

  • decreased motivation for teaching 
  • increased irritability and frustration
  • difficulty concentrating during meetings and/or planning sessions
  • avoidance of interactions with coworkers, socially and professionally

The Teacher Who Has Lost a Sense of Identity 

Teacher burnout can make a teacher feel like a robot. This person may feel like they are not in control of what they say or do but rather they are watching themselves from the outside. A sense of detachment characterized by an altered perception of their surroundings has formed making it difficult to stand up and teach all day. 

The Teacher Who Thinks It Can’t Be Done

Do you know a teacher who blames low results on student behavior, motivation, or performance? How about a teacher who says they can’t do certain activities because they just don’t work for them? This may be a sign of low professional efficacy. It is easy for us to blame what goes wrong on others instead of asking what we could do differently. If a teacher consistently says they can’t do something, this could be your sign that he or she is burnt out. 

The Teacher Who Distrusts Everything

A burnt-out teacher may quickly become very cynical. He or she starts to believe that everyone in the school lacks sincerity and integrity. When a teacher gets to this phase of teacher burnout, it can be detrimental to the school culture. 

Teacher Burnout Causes

Once you have pinpointed the teachers who may be carrying loads of stress, the next step in teacher burnout prevention is to focus on what may be causing their burnout. Teachers often feel very alone in managing their feelings about their job, but you can change that. Teachers often experience a variety of personal stressors that make it difficult to focus on work-related tasks and, several organizational risk factors contribute to burnout. It is time for you to take a close look at the risk factors that contribute to teacher stress. 

Teacher burnout causes should be looked at closely by administrators.

Risk Factors of Teacher Burnout

Lack of Skills

No matter how many classes someone sits in or the strategies and practices they read about, nothing prepares a person for becoming a teacher. Building any skill set takes time and becoming a great teacher is no different. Are any teachers on your campus struggling because they haven’t built the skills of good teaching yet? Your job is to be a coach to these teachers so that they may confidently walk into their classroom and know what to do.

Poor School Culture

School culture can be affected by a variety of things. Policies, interactions, relationships, decision-making processes, and so much more must be carried out with positivity and flexibility. When you miss these foundational pieces, it shakes the whole school. 

Lack of Support

Teachers need you to give them support that is tailored to their needs. Regular check-ins and a positive relationship certainly lay the foundation for strong support. However, as a principal, your role needs to expand to a mentor, coach, and instructional leader. Taking on these roles is how you will be able to provide your teachers with the emotional, environmental, and instructional support they need. 

Support for teachers should be broken down into instructional, environmental, and emotional support.

Teacher Burnout Help Starts with School Leaders

Save those “fun” staff meeting activities and the cookies you bought for the teachers’ lounge…for now. You will be able to use them at some point but, if you are trying to support teachers in the best way possible then spend some time simply making a list. Write down all the teachers on your campus who may be feeling the burn from the stresses of teaching. Then begin determining the factors that may be causing each teacher to feel that way. Doing this paves your path to providing teachers with what they need to avoid burnout and increase their performance.