Schools, Not Teachers, Must Reduce Stress and Burnout—Here’s How

Writing for Edutopia, Sarah Gonser explores how school leaders can help create the conditions for educator health and well-being. Excerpts of the piece appear below: 

The stress of this disrupted school year is impacting all educators.

Instead of “make space to restore your balance” or “find time to exercise more,” schools need to acknowledge their role in the problem and put in place the structures, practices, and time for self-care, reflection, and general well-being among educators, school staff, and the leaders themselves.

Here are seven ideas on how to get started:

Survey Teachers—And Listen to Them: Check in with teachers and staff via an online survey focused on wellness—and listen to what they need.

Give Teachers an (Actual) Break: Teachers at Fall-Hamilton Elementary, in Nashville, practice a system called “tap-in/tap-out” which allows teachers to call on a colleague in the building via a quick text message to come relieve them from the classroom for a few minutes. 

Stop Watching the Clock: Try cutting educators some slack when it comes to tracking work hours and time spent in the building (or online). “Having that flexibility means the world to teachers, and we all know that they work way more than their contract requires anyway.”

Create Shared Agreements: A good place to start is to create shared staff agreements to give teachers a say in setting parameters and norms around things like how staff “interact with and listen to one another,” set “realistic boundaries around work,” or establish routines “reflecting on their own wellbeing.”

Plan for Regular and Informal Check-Ins: Regular quick morning check-ins with teachers—even just a few minutes at the classroom door—signal to teachers that you care enough to carve out time to see how they’re feeling and coping with the demands of their classroom and workload. 

Schedule Planning Time for Teachers: As teachers’ responsibilities grow, so do their work hours—time that for many teachers crosses over into personal time, eating away at hours they desperately need to decompress and relax.

Model and Support Wellness: It’s important for school leaders to set an example of wellness and self-care. Carve out  a few minutes from the schoolwide schedule for meditation or quiet time each morning before the school day begins. 

For more, see