Exhausted, tired, demoralized, to a breaking point. Spend time with teachers these days, and phrases like these will come up often. This is not a new narrative, but it is certainly an accurate narrative for many as the pandemic continues to radically reshape the education landscape.
Earlier this year, a survey by RAND Corp. among former teachers found that stress was the most common reason for leaving the profession. Another survey found that almost all teachers agreed that teaching is more stressful now than before the pandemic. Three-quarters of certified teachers at the National Council have been working at least 20% more since the start of the pandemic. And teachers of color continue to face a unique form of stress due to institutionalized racism.
“It’s a different job,” says Chanea Bond, an English teacher at a public high school in Fort Worth, Texas, of pandemic education. “There is no amount of sleep that catches up with me with exhaustion. It is physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion.
At this point, some are wondering if there is even something school administrators can do to help teachers?
Several things, in fact, according to a new evidence-based research note focused on improving teacher well-being published by EdResearch for Recovery, a project by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute and Results for America, a non-profit organization that connects policy makers and local governments to research. -supported strategies.
Some remedies are obvious, even if they are difficult to implement quickly. Building a culture of mutual trust between teachers and administrators can improve relationships and even happiness. And schools that are committed to achieving racial and social justice see less turnover and dissatisfaction from educators of color.
Others just need flexible and willing school leaders. Asking teachers to help design professional development opportunities can boost morale. Likewise, giving teachers a break from paperwork and supporting them in classroom management can improve teacher satisfaction.
“There is a new kind of urgency for school leaders to meet the intellectual, social, emotional and ethical needs of their teachers right now. College and author of the teacher-centered book “Demoralized”.
The brief also lists other strategies, such as the usefulness of collecting data on teachers’ concerns and how trauma-informed practices can reduce stress. But its authors say the goal is more to encourage a collaborative spirit between teachers and administrators.
“For me, it’s so much about the process and structures by which we operate and less about the actual strategies,” says co-author Olga Price, associate professor at George Washington University and director of its Center for Health and Health. Care. in schools. “I think a lot of really innovative and impactful strategies emerge when you bring people together who care about the issues. And who will care more about the well-being of educators than educators? “
This does not mean that the strategies are arbitrary. They are intentionally tied to solid research and were chosen because they focus heavily on communication and collaboration and therefore do not require a lot of additional funding for their implementation.
An Annenberg article from last year, cited in the memoir, interviewed nearly 8,000 teachers and found that the best performing teachers were those who could count on their school leaders for strong communication, expectations. fairness and focused professional development.
Ideally, pointing directly to evidence will make it easier for teachers and administrators to come to a consensus on what works and sell the idea to families and district leaders.
“I think there are a lot of leaders who wanted to implement some of these strategies but met resistance,” Santoro said. “For someone who says, ‘Why bother doing this, what’s the point? We have evidence here – and lots of evidence – just a click away. “
But there are still pervasive challenges. Before the pandemic, Bond, the teacher from Texas, had extra time to schedule classes with her department. Lately, there has been no time due to a shortage of substitute teachers and a series of new responsibilities regarding the mental health and socio-emotional well-being of students. Still, something as simple as an admin taking charge of a class so that it can catch up on other work every now and then can be a big help. “We are asked to take time without receiving it,” she says.
One point that did not end up being the subject of the brief, but could just as well have been, is that teachers are suffering and need space to mourn. Over the past year and a half, teachers have lost a lot, says Santoro. They had to deal with the loss of loved ones, time spent with their students, and the familiar notion of what teaching is.
Bond says his school is still mourning the death of a colleague and several members of his community. The pressure to move forward as if nothing had happened seemed heavy to him.
“We have people crying in their rooms and in the hallways,” she said. “My colleagues are different from what they were before the pandemic. I mean, we’re rocked.
Just acknowledging that reality – and a little space to work on the emotions that come with it – would go a long way, she says.