Teachers on the Brink: 4 Ways of Protecting Teacher Morale and Mental Health

This goes without saying, yet it’s too important not to mention: Educators had a positively traumatic end to the 2019-20 school year, found themselves in a constant state of adaptation in the 2020-21 school year, and entered 2021-22 with a false sense of optimism, almost willing it to be a normal school year. It didn’t take long to realize it wasn’t. In fact, this year has quickly surpassed the stress of 2020-21 and has brought our teachers and administrators to the brink. 

In addition, teachers are leaving the profession, and with teacher shortages continuing to make national news, you need to do everything you can to bring your school improvement vision to life. According to recent NEA surveys, nearly 4 in 10 teachers reported that they were considering leaving the teaching profession due to working during the pandemic. Additionally, RAND Corporation reported that 1 in 4 teachers were likely to leave teaching at the end of the 2020-2021 school year, whereas in years prior to the pandemic, one in six were considering the change. So, what can you do? How can you make sure that you are creating a school culture of high satisfaction and retention?

How You Can Help

There’s no magic bullet for this one. Many of the things stressing our teachers (and ourselves) are beyond our control. But there are things you can do to help. We queried administrators across the country to learn what they are doing to help their teachers. Some of the ideas are tried and true, some novel, but they essentially center around valuing time, showing respect, providing support, and expressing gratitude.

Value TimeShow RespectProvide SupportExpress Gratitude*
Prioritize and protect
planning time
Compensate with federal
Check for an Employee
Assistance Program
Handwritten notes
Take over a classAsk for and act on
Hire a licensed counselorSay thank you
Have fewer, shorter
Be clear about priorities:
Standards Scoring Sheet
Call it
“life-work balance”
Surprise gifts
Hire permanent subsNo new initiativesEncourage staff to have
non-work-related goals
Relax the dress
End classes early 1
day a week
Don’t punish the group
for issues of a few
Give tools to support
emotional well-being:
Avoiding Burnout Checklist
Bring in a food
Teach 4 days a weekAttend PD sessionsRemind one another of their unique valueLeverage your
The Ultimate List of Stores

*Warning: Implementing anything from this column without implementing actions from the first 2 columns may backfire. Seriously, don’t do that.

Just by reading this article, it’s clear you care about your teachers and recognize how important their well-being is to the success of your school. Thank you. Together, we can weather this storm and come out better on the other side. We must value teacher time, show them respect, provide them support, and express gratitude. With those four things in place, we can retain the expertise of our veteran teachers and attract the innovative ideas of a new generation of educators. I look forward to that day.

By Dawn McCotter, Van Andel Institute for Education

For additional ideas and a more in-depth look into how you can help your teachers, check out VAI Education Spotlight: Teachers on the Brink. For more information on Van Andel Institute for Education, visit vaei.org.

The Principal’s Desk was founded by Dr. David Franklin Dr. Franklin is Strategy Consultant for Nearpod, an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, published author and presenter and has presented at national and international education conferences.

Published by David Franklin

Dr. David Franklin is an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences as is available for school and district professional development sessions.

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