Savannah Staley, a Possip reporter, and former English teacher, shares some ideas regarding a trending topic we have seen from Possip Pulse Checks: Teachers are at max capacity.
Teachers Are at Max Capacity
When many of us think about teachers, we probably imagine them standing in front of the classroom, helping students work through a complicated math equation. Or, perhaps we imagine them working through the letters of the alphabet with their energetic and eager students. Yet, the reality is, teachers are at max capacity because instructional time is only one of the many responsibilities teachers have each day. In order for the instructional time to even happen, there are hours of behind-the-scenes lesson planning, grading, and evaluating data. Additionally, teachers spend time communicating with families, responding to emails, and performing routine duties that allow schools to run smoothly.
These responsibilities can become overwhelming for teachers as is, so teaching during a pandemic only makes things more complicated. Over the course of the last three school years, teachers have had to pivot unexpectedly, reworking the curriculum to meet the needs of their virtual students. They have had to work to fill in learning gaps, and catch up with students who have fallen behind due to the global pandemic. Additionally, teachers are also supporting students’ mental and emotional health as many students navigate returning to school.
This is not an easy job. And as a result, many teachers are struggling with current workloads. We need our teachers! We love our teachers! It is for this reason that we want to recognize this upward trend of teacher workload and provide tools for both leadership and teachers as we work through this together.
Ideas for Leadership and Administration
Time for Planning and Grading
While most teachers have designated time during the school day to plan, it is difficult to plan a week’s worth of daily lessons, while thinking about the overarching unit goals, all within five allotted hours. Especially when this time is often consumed by other to-dos such as helping students catch up on missing work, answering emails, or taking meetings. Teachers are expressing that this doesn’t feel sustainable, and are therefore feeling burnt out.
We understand it may be difficult to change the schedule in order to provide more teacher work time. However, you can show your teachers that you respect their time by protecting teacher work time, and by providing them with uninterrupted space to work. Encourage teachers to spend time grading only meaningful assignments and providing intentional feedback. Or consider using designated meeting time as teacher work time.
Create a culture where self-care and mental health are prioritized and validated. Encourage teachers to take mental health days if needed. Limit any additional asks or requests of teachers when possible, and consider what teachers are already doing before asking. Have an “open-door policy” when appropriate to encourage teachers to share feedback and ask for what they need. Encourage open dialogue where teachers and leaders alike can share and support one another. Normalize stepping into classrooms throughout the day for teachers who might need a break, especially those who teach back-to-back classes.
Encourage Self-Care Throughout The Day
Self-care should not only be practiced when we are already burnt out. We should be practicing self-care and mindfulness throughout the day in order to sustain our energy and care for ourselves and one another. Protect teachers’ planning periods and designated lunchtime. Provide spaces where teachers can connect throughout the day with their colleagues. Support teachers during daily transitions if possible. Or, consider surprising a teacher by alleviating them from one of their additional responsibilities or duties.
Provide Opportunities for Open Communication
Remain in tune with your staff by practicing and prioritizing open communication. Possip was developed for school administrators to assist in bridging the communication gap between parents and staff. Possip provides you with quantitative and qualitative data that can be used to solve problems, spotlight praise comments, and more! Check out our recent staff trends article here to give you some insight into how Possip can benefit your school community!
Ideas for Teachers
Let Go of Perfection
Teachers enter into this profession because they are passionate about their content, working with students, and helping grow others. It is for this reason that teachers pour themselves into their work. However, it is impossible for every lesson, assignment, or activity to be perfect. In order to be present and take care of ourselves, we have to let go of perfectionism. As Glennon Doyle says, “We are all doing the best we can.” We can approach things with intentionality, but we have to let go of the rest.
Create work boundaries for yourself and honor them. Set aside time to grade papers, then stop when the time is up. Practice telling people no when your plate is full. Practice asking for help when you need it. Clearly communicate to families and students when you are available, and then honor that for yourself. Consider removing school email from your phone, and reminding yourself that you do not need to work on weekends. Teachers respond to many situations every day. So it’s important to set clear boundaries to avoid burnout. Remember, boundaries are self-care!
Organize and Prioritize
You cannot do it all, all the time. Make a to-do list, and consider completing tasks that are both urgent and important first. As a teacher, there is always more to do. We have to intentionally create boundaries and organize ourselves in order to respect ourselves. Find a system that works best for you and stick to it! Ask a coworker to hold you accountable. Our students are always the priority. Everything else matters, but perhaps it doesn’t always need to be done with urgency. Clearly ask your administrators what is expected of you, and be honest with your own capacity.
We are so grateful for all of our teachers, and we know our Possip partners want to support them. We hope these ideas will help teachers and administrators work together to create a positive culture and sustainable teacher workload! All of these ideas have the possibility of supporting teachers at max capacity!