School officials address concerns about teacher burnout amid new academic year

Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 6:56 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Most of the 730 students in the Silver Lake School District are back learning in the classroom but about 30 are learning remotely and administrators are optimistic their teachers are making good connections but are recognizing the challenges.

“It did help that we had a trial run from March all the way through May but what we’re doing now is a lot more robust, a lot more comprehensive And is a better recreation of the classroom setting,” said Silver Lake Superintendent Tim Hallacy.

“It is hard, it’s extra work for teachers, it’s extra attention,  it’s extra prep in that in having students remote in your classroom, it’s the utilization of technology,  it’s working around technical snafus that pop up on short term notice it’s taking care of all those different responsibilities like that which just adds to the difficult workload that teachers face everyday.”

Hallacy said Wednesday the school district has support staff and programs available so teachers can feel their best when serving students.

“Everything about this from March to now has been stressful on everyone from families to teachers to support staff; everybody feels that it’s incumbent to help out anyone whose in need of that,” He said.

“The district takes regular steps to make sure we support all teachers and all staff members from our employee support program that we have in place to short term disability policy, that we cover on everybody and just to the main factor that you have a friend and colleague in need you do whatever you can to help support them and their family and help through till they’re feeling 100 percent because really it’s difficult for us to be the best in the classroom if we’re worried about concerns outside of that.”

He said he wants the district to be a place where teachers can feel supported.

“It’s easily observable that people are feeling stressed and so in typical years what would not be a big thing is a bigger thing it causes things like stress so we see that in how people respond in normal everyday life and everyone responds to that a little differently and we’ll do our best to make sure we can help them through it as best we can and that we are doing the best for our students as possible,” he said.

“Building administrators are doing a great job of checking with teachers on a regular basis soliciting feedback from them on how things are going what do they need and when we run into a different situation we use that as a learning opportunity we take those down we tabletop those what did we learn what can we do better next time because we know we’ll have other things pop up this year.”

Mark Tallman of the Kansas Association of School Boards said stress will be unavoidable for teachers during the pandemic and it’s up to everyone in a child’s life to be flexible.

“The challenge is trying to operate to different systems at the same time we simply never tried anything like that before I think the hope is over time we can figure out ways and teachers can figure out ways to do things differently and share the load,” he said.

"Right now we’re still doing what we know and trying to make it work in two different ways and so there’s no question that that’s going to be producing stress on teachers and students and everyone else.

Tallman said supportive districts lead to a better morale.

“I think our message has always been do your best to be as accommodating as you can with your staff some of that to make the system work some of it just build your reputation as a good employer so that people wanna work for you but we also wanna have that flexibility all the way around and that can be hard.”

With changes in mind Silver Lake’s Counselor for Pre-K to 8th grade students, Macey Gooden, said the district’s optimistic outlook is what’s leading to a smooth start to the school year.

“The reassurance from our administration and just trying to keep that positive attitude, it’s really contagious so if the teacher’s coming in with a positive outlook the students are giving it right back along with all the support staff so really it’s making sure we’re coming into the building with that attitude and it seems to be rolling over and going with all that.”

Gooden said it’s also important for teachers to make time for themselves.

“I think everyone forgets how important self-care is and that they’re so used to being a robot and go through your day to day business but making sure you’re still doing those things you enjoy when you’re outside of work and making sure you have time to do those it’s easy to get wrapped up in the moment so sometimes setting that into an actual schedule of your day could be super helpful for them.”

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