Burned out teachers are an unfortunate reality. Last week we discussed four common signs of teacher burnout. This week we are focusing on what to do when we have a teacher showing signs of burnout.
I know a lot of leaders who put their heads in the sand when a teacher shows signs of burnout. Turnover is hard. Challenging conversations are hard. Active, ongoing coaching is hard. Sometimes it feels easier to pretend to not notice it and hope it will resolve itself.
Something tells me you already know that this is a disastrous strategy. It doesn’t work. You have to look the issue head on and address it directly.
So, what to do about burned out teachers?
You know how I feel about this; prevention is what you should always be striving for as a leader. It is SO much easier to prevent big issues than it is to resolve them. So if you see signs of one teacher burning out, the time to act on preventing other teachers from burning out is now.
- Empower the Teachers: Give your teachers regular safe space to express their concerns and participate in constructing policies and schedules. Teachers who have autonomy and are considered a part of leadership are going to be invested in the community and less likely to tire of their role.
- Deal with Their Reasonable Complaints: If there are frequent, small complaints from the staff at your school, do something about it! Make sure there is always enough paper for the copier. Look for better parking options. Improve the quality of the break room. Replace that toilet that is always backing up. Show them that you are hearing them and take action.
- Take Care of the Little Things: As a leader, you are responsible for the prepared environment to create for the adults in your school. Take the time to ensure they have what they need to succeed every day. Put tampons and lotion in the staff bathroom. Make sure there is always tea and whole fruit available in the staff lounge. Shovel and de-ice the sidewalks before they arrive on snowy days. Ensure that their daily quality of life is strong so that they can focus on the children and families.
- Meet with Them Regularly: I think that every lead teacher should have the chance to do a 1:1 support meeting with a mentor at least once each month. This is a time to hear about their classroom and get a feel for how they are feeling about their work. I probably should write a whole blog post about this because I think it is so important.
When a child is struggling in a classroom we first look at the prepared environment and the adults for potential adjustments. I argue that you are responsible for doing the same thing when a teacher is struggling.
Have you contributed to these circumstances in any way? Have you been too lenient or too firm? Have you made your expectations clear? Have you given the teachers all of the supplies, materials, and time they need to meet expectations?
What about your behavior? Have you been a model of professionalism for the staff by showing up on time, following all policies, and keeping your emotions in check?
Take some time to reflect on your leadership and seek opportunities for potential growth.
Bonus points if you share your reflection with the teachers and ask them to support you and hold you accountable for the ways you want to grow.
Burned out teachers are part of your responsibility, so look inward first.
Have a Fierce Conversation
Sometimes, you just need to sit down and hash it out with the burned out teacher. Be direct about your concerns. Own your contributions to the issue. Then work out solutions you both agree to.
Document the conversation and set the date for when you will next check in. Keep the accountability going and show enthusiastic support.
I also recommend you check out the resources on the Fierce, Inc. website to help you get started.
Be ready for the fact that sometimes fierce conversations lead to the person waving the white flag and declaring that they don’t actually want to do this anymore. I know that turnover is hard, but this is really the best thing for everyone.
Sometimes the best thing you can do as a leader is counsel someone out of the profession.
What strategies have you used to address burned out teachers in your school? Share with us in the Montessori Leadership Facebook group!
This article by RB Fast first appeared on beelineconsulting.net