| By Aimee Heavener, Marketing Manager, Gale |
Heavy workloads, stressful working conditions, and a lack of needed resources are taking a significant toll on teachers’ well-being—and the state of K-12 education as a whole. According to a new report published by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, educators’ job satisfaction has hit its lowest point in five decades.
“Historical . . . data on the state of the K-12 teaching profession across more than a dozen different sources place the current moment in stark perspective. Prestige, interest, preparation, and satisfaction are at or near their very lowest point in over a half century. [We] view this evidence as a cause for significant concern given the importance of the teaching profession for the life opportunities of current and future generations of American students.”
After teaching before, during, and after the peak of COVID-19, I have witnessed and heard several stories from educators about their struggles. Issues like funding, resources, and staffing shortages continue to impact schools across the United States, and many educators are being asked to do more with less. To support those facing this and other challenges, I drew on my own experiences as a teacher, and those of my educator friends currently in the classroom, to compile the following six tips.
Here’s how to survive (and thrive) in the national teacher shortage:
1. Use Ready-Made Resources to Save Time. Every teacher could use more planning time and a less-stressed environment during class time. While that may sound like a fantasy, it’s possible to free up planning time by using pre-made lesson plans and giving self-directed assignments to students. This will lessen your workload during class time so you can be available to work with individuals or smaller groups, or maybe finish the coffee that’s been chilling on your desk since earlier this morning.
2. Share Resources with One Another. It may not be in your nature, but it really is okay to ask for help. One of the things I loved most about working in education was collaborating with other teachers to create lessons, activities, and assessments. Whether I was speaking with colleagues in person during a planned meeting, exchanging quick emails with teachers in a nearby district, or connecting with teachers I met via social media or a conference, I loved hearing what worked for other teachers and, in turn, paying that forward to new teachers. What I wish I knew was how easy some education technology (EdTech) products make it to share resources and collaborate (like Gale, for example!). So, if you’re hesitating to ask for help, remember that we all share the same goal of wanting our jobs to be easier – just kidding! – of wanting students to succeed—and no one should have to do a job this tough alone.
3. Get (Re)inspired! Just do it! Throw some sub plans together (keep reading for a shortcut for that!) and go to a trade show or attend a webinar to connect with other professionals in your content area to learn what’s new and exciting outside your classroom walls. We love our students, but having time to connect with other adults who share our passion can be restorative (and even fun!). Other budget-friendly ways to get inspired include forgoing weekend work for a visit to a local museum or historical site, getting out into nature, or diving into a great book. You deserve it, and all of these are proven to be excellent ways of turning the Sunday “scaries” into Sunday fun days!
4. Make Your EdTech Tools Work for You. Do you use your tech tools to their maximum potential? Whether your district splurged on an enterprise level of the hottest new EdTech solution or you’re renewing free trial versions to make it through the year, it’s worth the effort to find out if the tools you’re using have any time-saving features of which you’re not aware. Learn new ways to streamline your processes and ease your workload by signing up for notifications of new features, reaching out for a consultation with a sales or customer success rep, visiting the support site, or signing up to receive new blog posts or a new newsletter. Be notified when your favorite tools are updated and new tips are shared. Leveraging the full features of products can save you precious time and energy.
5. Demonstrate Being a Lifelong Learner and Build a New Friendship. While we’re talking about learning, Gale’s lessons are engaging and informative, and millions of students use them every day to gain knowledge on a multitude of topics. Many articles take only a few minutes to read. Why not make a commitment to your own education and set aside time each day to read up on a topic that interests you? Starting your day by learning something new can be much more exhilarating than listening to a coworker venting in the breakroom. Reading an article as you wait for the parents and buses to clear out of the parking lot at the end of the day can give you something positive and intriguing to ponder as you drive home. If you have access to Gale In Context: Elementary, let the “I Wonder” prompt drive your exploration of Gale resources, or search a topic you’re passionate or curious about. Use your newfound knowledge of other subject areas to strike up conversations and build friendships with colleagues from other departments at your next staff meeting.
6. Take a Mental Health Day to Practice Self-Care (You Deserve it!). Practicing self-care may not be in your nature, but if you’ve been waiting for someone to tell you to stop and take time for yourself, that time has arrived—and Gale can make that easier, too. (Here’s that sub plan shortcut I promised!) What’s more, the Gale eBooks: Professional Learning administrator and teacher self-care collection helps educators devote the time needed to focus on their own mental wellness and practice self-care, stress-busting strategies, reflection, time-management techniques, mindfulness, and more. Bonus: Taking time for yourself can also help you reconnect with your “why.”
Educators, Your Well-being Matters.
In the face of new—and familiar—challenges in the world of education, it’s my hope that these tips will help teachers feel supported and appreciated.
Gale’s resources are designed with students’ and educators’ needs in mind. Learn how Gale In Context: For Educators can save you time; facilitate collaboration; and deliver personalized, equitable learning.