As the pandemic wages on, educators wrestle with teaching burnout. Summer did not give weary instructors a much-needed rest. Mostly, faculty spent a frantic summer retooling classes for multiple delivery scenarios. Besides that, hybrid learning demands new skills from instructors, support staff, and students. College leaders do not need to standby feeling helpless. College leaders can employ 4 methods to address teaching burnout for faculty.
Empathic by Nature
By nature, teachers are empathic. Some faculty may find themselves caring too much for the trauma their students experience. Likewise, teachers are often the first contact students make when faced with a problem. Therefore, educators may find themselves, unexpectedly, handling student issues such as mental health and substance abuse addiction. Faculty may be unprepared and ill-equipped to manage these issues. At the same time, faculty may be struggling to meet the minimal demands of the job. Staff may be facing job insecurity and obstacles to tenure. Besides that, college staff may need to shut down emotionally to cope. Apathy may be the only response they can muster.
Also, leaders find a divided staff mindset. Some staff missed the human connection of the in-person classroom and department office. Others thrived in remote areas. Either way, some staff may struggle to regain work/life balance. Some faculty find work responsibilities bleeding into home life. Some staff experienced a heavy workload with no human connection, resulting in burnout.
The 4 Methods to Lessen Teaching Burnout
Create a Safe Workplace
Still, leaders create the workplace. Deans or administrators can make a safe space for staff. First, they can edit the goals for the next year. A toned-down narrative keeps the staff motivated and focused. Secondly, leaders can explain examples of what “good enough goal achievement” looks like for next year. Therefore, leaders must remember that helping staff meet the basic job demands, satisfies their purpose for teaching.
Debrief Rather Than Complain to Lessen Teaching Burnout
Also, leaders model how to debrief versus complain about problems. Yes, this season presents difficulties and challenges for higher ed. Still, leaders create places where staff can vent and identify actionable solutions. One of the great frustrations of burnout is expending energy without seeing benefits. Strong leaders use this time to bring hope to their staff, hopefully preventing faculty burnout. Everyone must be mindful that perpetuating complaints rather than creating solutions contributes to a burnout culture.
Leaders Can Promote Reflection for Preventing Faculty Burnout
Most importantly, leaders reconnect staff to their purpose on why they chose this job. Savvy deans set aside time in department meetings to let staff reflect on why they teach. Also, good leaders share the struggles and doubt they have in their roles to lead their staff. Higher education faced grim prospects pre-pandemic. Low enrollment, aging facilities, and teaching burnout intensified during the pandemic.
College Leaders Utilize EQ to Manage Teaching Burnout
Thus, now is time for strong leaders to show their emotional intelligence skills. Besides that, wise leaders know that they are insulated from feedback that could be beneficial. Staff is reluctant to share negative feedback in times of instability and job loss. So, strong leaders use feedback tools to understand challenges and behavior. Most importantly, leaders will need to dive deep into EQ skills such as social awareness and social skills. These two EQ skills drive change and produce results when the university faces challenges. Therefore, these skills will motivate staff, preventing faculty burnout.
In sum, leaders face the daunting task of keeping the university fiscally stable and preventing faculty burnout. College leaders reach into their toolbox to dust off familiar tools, using them in new ways. Besides that, deans must create safe spaces for staff to debrief about the challenges they face. Also, leaders must guide their staff toward solutions more than complaints. Most importantly, leaders must reconnect staff to their passion for teaching. College leaders implement their EQ skills to manage these various challenges.