Teacher burnout persists, but solutions are emerging


Key points:

The American Federation of Teachers teamed up with Educators Thriving for a yearlong study culminating in a new report, “Beyond Burnout,” which details practical, research-based solutions to improve the chronic levels of stress and burnout that are plaguing teachers and support staff in K-12 schools and contributing widespread teacher shortages.

The report highlights the numerous challenges facing educators and proposes a slate of strategies and solutions to address them, including several factors that reliably predict educator well-being: responsive leadership and supportive culture, acceptance, adaptability, personal well-being, and a professional-growth orientation. The report includes a survey tool—generated by educators—that more accurately defines and gauges educator well-being.

At the core of these solutions is a call for connection, collaboration, and commitment from leaders to support the well-being of educators so that they can, in turn, support their students.

“Teaching has never been an easy job, but today it’s harder than ever—and this profession needs support and respect if we have any chance of recruiting and retaining good folks to meet kids’ needs,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Burnout is real: This report contains core strategies to address burnout and in so doing helps deter teachers and school staff from leaving the profession and the students they love.”

The report explains that to better support and retain educators, school systems need to implement immediate relief coupled with systemwide changes. Specific strategies and solutions to teacher burnout include:

  • Developing increasingly responsive school-site leadership
  • Cultivating supportive school staff culture
  • Offering professional development related to cultivating and sustaining personal well-being

The AFT and Educators Thriving engaged more than 220 educators as they learned about, practiced with, and applied strategies empirically proven to increase personal well-being. Ninety-two percent of participants agreed the program made their job feel more sustainable, and 94 percent agreed it helped improve their well-being. Participants also reported statistically significant reductions in emotional exhaustion—a leading indicator of burnout.

As Leslie Blatteau, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, shared, “It is hard to put yourself first. We really do need direct instruction as educators to be reminded how to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of our students—and be willing to come back the next year.”

“Educators play a crucial role in the lives of our next generation. When educators are well-supported, they provide even better learning experiences for their students,” added Weingarten. “But they face stress every day, whether it’s helping students who exhibit signs of distress, dealing with the nonstop paperwork and administrative tasks, or facing the ongoing culture wars that are injecting politics into their classrooms, which can make it impossible to do their jobs.

“It doesn’t have to be that way. By prioritizing educator well-being and collaboration, as we’ve seen in places like the ABC Unified School District in California and White Bear Lake Area Schools in Minnesota, schools can create an environment that fosters growth, resilience and, ultimately, better teaching and learning conditions for everyone.

The report is a key plank in the AFT’s $5 million, yearlong Real Solutions for Kids and Communities campaign, which aims to secure the supports educators need to address learning loss, loneliness and literacy challenges. As the report explains: “Because there is an inextricable link between staffing, educator well-being and student learning, it is imperative to improve the well-being of teachers and prevent burnout.”

Tyler Hester, founder of Educators Thriving, said: “We can—and must—change the way we support educators. Until now, there has been strong consensus about what ‘burnout’ means but no unifying definition of educator ‘well-being.’ With a newly defined North Star, articulated by AFT members across the country, the conversation can move beyond burnout and toward clear, actionable strategies to measure and improve well-being. We can supplement professional development with personal development. And we can equip systems with the data they need to make sure every educator reaches closer to the heights of their potential.”

This press release originally appeared online.

Laura Ascione
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