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Oct 06, 2022

How substitutes alleviate teacher burnout

Creating specialized curricula, managing a classroom full of unique learners, juggling administrative tasks — the job of a teacher is full of significant work and challenges. Couple all that with an unsupportive work environment? It’s no wonder teachers are hitting their limits.

Over half of teachers consider quitting the profession, naming stress as a primary reason. To address this crisis and the resulting teacher shortage, administrative leaders must build supportive teaching environments to retain educators (and preserve their mental wellbeing).

Free lunches and casual Fridays just don’t cut it anymore. Rather than push teachers to take matters into their own hands by quitting, here’s how schools can actually help ease the burden off of educators.

Teachers need a break

People become teachers in order to have a positive impact, to educate the next generation of thinkers. However, low pay, high emotional demands, and impossible work loads detract from what they truly love about their profession: teaching.

Educators are often forced to sacrifice their own well-being to take on extra work to ensure their students are taken care of. After operating nonstop without relief, teachers hit their limit and can no longer take care of themselves or their students.

Prolonged exposure to unsustainable working conditions leads to burnout, which has unsavory consequences such as exhaustion, lack of motivation, cynicism, and even the inability to complete tasks. Rather than call for teachers to push through the workload, it is important to understand what leads to burnout and how to proactively solve for it.

Root causes of burnout (and how to fix it)

Schools that protect their teachers’ time and support their mental health see higher levels of retention and satisfaction. One way to do this? Incorporate substitute teachers into your educator pool to address:

  • The teaching shortage: Many schools have hundreds of vacant positions, stretching resident teachers far too thin. With a reliable pool of classroom-ready subs, you can augment your workforce and allow teachers a day (or week) off from classroom duty. 
  • High emotional demands: In addition to fostering their learning, teachers can be burdened with supporting their students emotionally. Oftentimes, teachers experience second-hand trauma while their students are navigating difficult times. Substitute teachers can offload some of that burden by creating space for teachers to prioritize themselves by taking mental health days to refresh and recuperate
  • Insufficient preparation: due to short staffing, schools frequently require teachers to take on additional work that falls outside their domain. Whether that’s teaching an extra class or taking on students with learning challenges, teachers are unable to focus on their actual job functions in order to pick up the slack somewhere else

Finding relief in substitutes

Supplementing your teaching staff with substitutes not only creates job opportunities for those wanting to break into teaching, but can also vastly improve the careers (and well-being) of your resident teachers. Substitutes can function as both a replacement and an aid. Even alleviating just some of the weight from your resident teachers can make all the difference in their mental health and job satisfaction.

Creating a proactive teaching strategy that leverages substitute teachers as a heavily utilized resource allows teachers to comfortably take time off knowing that their classrooms are left in trusted and capable hands. As a result, their time off is more restorative, reducing potential burnout and increasing the likelihood of retention.

Partnering with an organization like Swing helps ensure that every classroom is staffed by qualified and fully vetted substitute teachers. With Swing, it’s easy to find and hire subs so you can focus on the needs of your full-time staff.


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