Educating the next generation has been one of America’s highest priorities. Yet, we rarely treat teachers and school staff in ways that reflect the importance of their work. When educators are well-supported, they provide even better learning experiences for their students. Yet, educators face stress every day from the strain of managing the trauma and anxiety that is showing up in student behavior, the non-stop paperwork and administrative tasks, and culture wars that make it difficult for them to teach what students need to know. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By prioritizing educator well-being, schools can create an environment that fosters growth, resilience and, ultimately, better educational outcomes
Staff shortages—alarming before the pandemic began—are now at crisis levels. Intentions to leave the profession have continued to climb for both teachers and principals, and schools remain understaffed across all positions. Leaders, families, and educators themselves are calling for us to attend to the well-being of our educator workforce, but no consensus exists about what this means. Many of the solutions suggested are inadequate to meet the challenge. While some districts are in fact taking action, too few solutions address the systemic factors contributing to our current challenges.
This report describes some of the work we undertook to support educators starting in the early days of the pandemic. The early results are described in this report: an educator-generated measure of well-being that can serve as a barometer of a healthy school climate and form a solid foundation for union-district collaboration. And a professional development experience that, early results show, has immediate impact on educators’ sense that their work is, indeed, sustainable despite daily challenges. It is our strong desire to share and spread both the well-being measure and the learning experiences that can move the needle in a positive direction. We believe these approaches to measuring and incorporating educators’ input can help improve well-being across the entire education system.
Our aspiration—communities full of public schools where educators want to work, students want to learn, and parents want to send their children—requires long-term commitments and solutions. But thankfully, there are actions we can take right now that will help us get there.