Responding to Teacher Burn-out 

Responding to Teacher Burn-out 

90% of NEA’s members say that feeling burned out is a serious problem. Becky Pringle, president of the NEA, said “Without exception, every stop I made, from Kentucky to Oakland, I heard those similar stories of educators who were exhausted, overwhelmed, feeling unloved, disrespected.”
It’s not a surprise that the well-being of teachers and students has been on the decline for the past several years.  The CDC reports more than a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% felt persistently sad or hopeless during the past year.

Students are not thriving.

Educators are not thriving.

If teachers are not thriving, how can they support their students’ thriving to do their best academically?

This past year we’ve worked with schools and heard this similar refrain of teachers being overwhelmed and burned out.  If they are not thriving, they are not able to respond to the students’ lack of mental health. The social and emotional well-being of teachers and students is part of the foundation that supports effective teaching and learning.

Here is a teacher’s experience of overcoming burnout:

Awakening Wisdom  has helped me tremendously with building my resilience. I had a breakdown a month ago because I was overwhelmed with everything and it was this group that gave me suggestions, advice, and words of comfort to get through it. I remembered videos and quotes we would share (“Fall down 7 times, get up 8”) that helped me to change my mindset. Since then I have felt much more positive and have the capacity to jump back up when I fall. Learning to be vulnerable and trust my colleagues have helped me to be more open and to ask for that help.

Awakening Wisdom addresses the health of all aspects of a culture to support everyone  in thriving.  It is not an SEL curriculum of lessons to teach students SEL competencies.  We focus first on teacher well being to address burn-out so teachers have the emotional capacity to support students thriving. Thus, they are more able  to acquire knowledge and skills along with the much needed social emotional competencies for success in school and beyond.

Awakening Wisdom is a multi-year effort that addresses how people treat one another and the policies and procedures that foster relationships so all may thrive:

  • Are there trusting relationships where everyone can be authentically themselves?
  • Are teachers’ and students’ voices honored with empathy and understanding?
  • Are mistakes seen as opportunities from which to learn instead of experiences of shame?
  • Do teachers and students have appropriate choices where they feel respected, trusted, and empowered to contribute in meaningful ways?
  • Do the adults model the very qualities they wish to see in their students?
  • Do leaders model the qualities they wish to see in their teachers?

Starting with a guided process to develop a faculty’s Trust Agreements, Awakening Wisdom invites educators to awaken their own wisdom and creativity to create a healthy culture and classroom where they and their students can flourish. They are then able to handle challenges more gracefully and be responsive to the needs of their students.

In a school culture of trusting, supportive relationships with colleagues and administrators, teachers feel emotionally safe to explore and let go of the disempowering mindsets that contribute to burnout. They regain their enthusiasm to inspire their students to be their best selves.

“Every child deserves a champion—an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”

– Rita Pierson

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