3 steps for preventing teacher burnout during COVID

Teachers need permission not to be on call 24/7 during online learning
By: | September 17, 2020
To maintain teacher morale, administrators should focus on fewer resources, and encourage professional learning communities communicate clearly. resources. (GettyImages/eyecrave)To maintain teacher morale, administrators should focus on fewer resources, and encourage professional learning communities communicate clearly. resources. (GettyImages/eyecrave)

Administrator support was one of the most important factors in maintaining teacher morale during COVID’s disruptions, according to University of Winnipeg research on Canadian schools.

“Number one for administrators was providing teachers permission to not be on call every waking hour of the day,” says assistant professor Lesley Eblie Trudel, who is a former K-12 administrator. “Whenever their computers went ‘ding ding ding,’ they were answering messages at all hours of day and night, and not getting adequate sleep, eating well or exercising.”

In a comparison of teacher surveys done at the beginning of the pandemic and late this summer, Trudel and her team found evidence of teacher burnout and high levels of stress.

As soon as the last school year ended, teachers began preparing for this year and testing the new teaching methods they might use.


More from DA3 keys to building teacher morale during COVID    


They also felt responsible for making their classrooms safe and therefore, didn’t get the summer break they have been accustomed to, she said.

“If thoughts and feelings become negative, then behavior is going to follow even though we saw teachers finding their feet with great efficacy with online teaching,” she says. “Admins and school boards need to be aware of this, dig into it  and start to mitigate that whole idea of burnout.”

Trudel recommended leaders start with the following steps to reduce burnout:

1. Focus on fewer resources: Teachers, in some cases, are being flooded by new tech and other tools for online learning. Districts get more traction when they start with a shorter list of resources and allow teachers to master those platforms before introducing others.

2. Encourage professional learning communities: PLCs, of course, were thriving before COVID. Administrators should recommit to harnessing the power of PLCs that allow teachers to share ideas about student engagement, project-based learning and other initiatives.


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PLCs also provide teachers space to talk about their feeling about the pandemic and the disruptions of education.

“It helps them feel like they’re not in this alone,” Trudel says.

3. Communicate clearly: Administrators should provide teachers with a unified message by aligning communications across the district. Central officer leaders need to be on the same page with building principals and other leaders in providing information to teachers.


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.