It’s no secret that teacher burnout has become a massive issue in the education industry today. At a time when education and childcare services have been hard hit by the pandemic, teachers have already endured a long struggle to cope with an increase in workload, understaffing, and shifting pandemic challenges that make it difficult to teach effectively.
With more than half of teachers contemplating quitting, it’s clear that what they need now more than ever is increased support. The 2020 Consensus Study Report on Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that the most important factor relating to teacher job satisfaction and retention is the network of social relationships fostered in the workplace.
If cultivated thoughtfully, the relationships built among colleagues, between teachers and school leadership, and promoted by school culture can provide the support system that teachers need to navigate today’s unique challenges. By finding ways to encourage growth through collaboration, institutions can reduce turnover, improve teacher satisfaction, and help boost student achievement.
Here are 5 ways to foster those relationships:
Supporting the career of new teachers is one of the most effective ways to promote long-term growth in schools. Here are a couple of ways schools can accomplish that:
Burnout can be particularly problematic for new teachers who have not yet gained the experience or developed the robust set of relevant teaching skills that make them well-equipped to face new challenges in the classroom.
Some of the best resources available to them are more experienced colleagues. One way to ensure that new teachers can reap the benefits of this wealth of knowledge is to introduce a mentorship program that pairs new and experienced teachers.
There are several benefits to encouraging such collegial relationships:
Here are some ways for teachers to take part in mentorship:
While mentorship programs can be a very effective tool, they’re best implemented as part of a larger induction program for new teachers.
In addition to mentorship programs, induction programs for new teachers can include:
Holding regular teacher trainings and workshops is a great way to offer professional development, support teachers, and work towards solutions for specific issues that teachers and/or students are experiencing.
The challenge of running successful trainings or workshops is in making sure that they’re effective, engaging, and relevant to the teachers involved. When workshops or trainings fail to make an impact, it’s often because teachers don’t feel that their needs are being addressed.
To make sure these events are productive, it’s best to get teachers involved and to make the events as specific and tailored as possible. Here are some ways to ensure teachers get the most out of their professional development opportunities:
Teacher collaboration is the most effective way for teachers to build a network of professional relationships that will support their growth and learning, individually as well as collectively. Effective teacher collaboration can, in turn, have a significant positive impact on student learning and attendance.
Collaboration among teachers can take many forms and structures to address student and teacher needs within various levels or disciplines. Some common collaborative structures include Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), teacher communities, critical friend groups, and common planning time.
Teachers rarely have additional time outside of work to devote to professional development, so it’s important for administrators to support teachers by providing time during the week and month for collaborative efforts to take place.
Topics for collaboration are equally open-ended. They can be:
An additional area of focus could revolve around how teaching methods and students' needs have changed as a result of the pandemic.
For example, this could include issues like: how to remain flexible and adaptable as schools undergo closures or changing restrictions, how to effectively implement new teaching methods, including online teaching, and how to identify and meet student needs.
The effectiveness of teacher collaboration can be heightened by discussing not only the adaptation of teaching methods but also the reasoning behind the adaptations. This framing and shift in focus encourage educators to engage and think critically in order to deeply understand their teaching practices, rather than to simply adopt someone else’s.
Providing a diverse range of professional development opportunities will keep teachers engaged, interested, and actively participating. While training, workshops, mentorship programs, and collaboration efforts are all wonderful tools, they also require significant effort from the teachers to implement.
It’s also important to provide teachers with external stimulation by encouraging interaction with a broader range of professionals and developmental resources. This will give teachers a chance to expand their professional network, gain new experiences, and encounter fresh perspectives, all of which will help to invigorate their teaching.
Here are a few ways to incorporate more diverse professional development opportunities:
Lastly, one of the most simple ways to support teachers is to provide encouragement through recognition. Doing so will give teachers greater confidence, will reassure new teachers who may be struggling and will make the faculty feel seen and appreciated.
Here are some suggestions for ways to recognize your teachers:
Making conscious efforts to show appreciation for all the work that teachers do will contribute to a school culture in which building strong relationships and supporting one another is central, which is key to promoting the kind of growth and teamwork that bring about positive change.
Corissa Joy Peterson is a Content Writer and Resume Expert at Resume Genius, where she loves equipping others with the tools they need to pursue their dreams. She graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Philosophy and a certificate in Peace and Conflict Studies.
Receive timely updates delivered straight to your inbox.
Can we talk about structure? When CLASS® entered my life, I was 20 years into my career in the field of early childhood education. What I remember most about that initial training, besides the nervousness about an impending reliability test, was a sense of relief. Structure, including state and program standards, curriculum, materials in the classroom, and approaches to childcare and pedagogy, had dominated my working hours. CLASS was a lot to learn, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air. Observing with CLASS meant I could set aside my obsession with all things structural, which encompassed my thoughts every time I walked into an early childhood classroom.
State policymakers have an exciting opportunity to level the playing field for early childhood education with thoughtful system design using the newly released Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five, also known as PDG B-5. This grant provides funding to State early childhood agencies’ to strengthen early childhood systems. In particular, a portion of PDG B-5 funding is targeted for Renewal Grants—24 out of 25 eligible states are expected to be awarded funding for PDG B-5 Renewal Grants. These Renewal Grants will provide three consecutive years of funding to support activities and implementation in each state.
If you've ever been through a CLASS Observation training, you are probably familiar with the graphic below. Research tells us that improving teacher-child interactions is a process that includes many pieces.
The first step is to identify a teacher’s strengths and opportunities for growth, which can be done through a CLASS observation. Once you have this data, you can share it with teachers through a formal report, a face-to-face conference, or a feedback session. You’re off to a great start, but now what?
Moving towards a post-pandemic world, early childhood education is still in a fractured state of recovery. Numerous headlines define the inequitable foundation early childhood system is built on that limits educators’ capacity to thrive and impact children’s lives. Yet demand for early learning remains steadfast as families get back to routines in communities everywhere. How do policymakers start to level the playing field for early childhood programs with equitable policies while increasing access for families in need of high-quality care?