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Did you know as many as 46% of teachers report high levels of stress? It’s possible the real rate is even higher. This week, School Stream is going to look at some of the factors causing teacher burnout and some wellbeing ideas schools can introduce.

We’re here to support schools. Read on for our overview of teacher stress and wellbeing or click here to see a video of School Stream in action. 

Teacher life can be tough

Is it any wonder teachers are stressed? Teachers do so much more than teach classes. They also manage classroom behaviour, help students grow both academically and socially, coordinate with their peers, ensure they are always compliant with a suite of government requirements, deal with parental expectations and keep records of almost everything they do. And they need to complete these near impossible workloads in an environment of ever-diminishing autonomy. 

What causes teacher burnout?

The factors contributing to teacher burnout are likely to be the same things that are affecting the dire attrition rates and the significant drops in first preference applications for teaching qualifications Australia-wide. Among the list of challenges teachers need to face on a daily basis, the lack of autonomy is most often cited, alongside a gargantuan workload, the pressures of teachers of attempting to maintain their professional commitment in the face of budget and funding cuts, and the huge amount of administration work required to support government required testing. Teaching also seems to be facing something of a PR problem, with teachers anecdotally reporting that ‘teacher bashing’ in the face of all their hard work is also extremely demoralising. 

“I just love meetings and paperwork… said no teacher ever!”

Teacher wellbeing needs to be addressed now

What can we do to support teachers and school staff who are feeling burned out? It is the million-dollar question and the answer is not straightforward. Wellbeing means different things to different people, but the key to a successful wellbeing initiative is that it meets the needs of teachers. There is plenty of big-picture stuff that would improve the lives of teachers – less administration, more autonomy, and a genuine work/life balance immediately come to mind.  This kind of shift would require a significant culture-wide reboot in the way we think about education and that kind of change will be a long time coming. We need strategies that will support teachers now. 

5 wellbeing hacks schools can introduce now for all school staff

The following brief list includes suggestions from schools about things that can be introduced to support stressed staff. Here are some school-level wellbeing ideas you can introduce relatively easily.

  1. Acknowledgment goes a long way to staff feeling supported and valued. Establish a P&C Wellbeing Fund to recognise and acknowledge staff efforts.
  2. Make sure staff are aware of and able to access the online resources and tools available at HeadsUp, Beyond Blue, and Checkpoint.
  3. Promote Employer Assistance Providers (EAP) and the services offered.
  4. Use school organisational decision making to support increased work-life balance. For example, to manage workloads, marking loads, part-time/flexible loads.
  5. Carve out opportunities for collaboration and team building. Teachers tend to be naturally collegiate and research shows this improves working conditions, which in turn can alleviate stress for teachers.

Educator wellbeing at every level is a complex beast and it is impossible to cover every aspect in brief here. We’d love to hear what has helped at your school.