Finding balance at work has always been challenging for teachers. They struggle with handling continuous changes and too many students with complex needs in a limited time. But every problem with a solution, and teachers also found a way to balance their job demands while keeping their physical, mental, and emotional health intact.
In the past year, things even got worse for the education sector. COVID-19 fatigue, school shootings, security threats at school board meetings, low salaries, and lack of support are some of the common issues teachers struggle with. This has led to unexpected physical, mental, and emotional stress and imbalance among them.
According to a 2021 teacher survey by the National Education Association, 55 percent of teachers reported they wanted to quit their job early, compared to 28 percent in July 2020. In the 2021 State of the U.S. Teacher Survey, teachers reported frequent job-related stress and depression symptoms compared to the general adult population.
One of the top reasons why teachers experience work-related stress and imbalance is due to poor leadership or management practices. Instructional leadership is considered a great tool to improve teachers’ performance; however, it will not solve the professional imbalance between educators’ job demands and available resources.
Emotional leadership or the leadership that focuses on the social and emotional well-being of the community is an ideal approach to balance teachers’ job demands and resources and promote their well-being at work.
Let’s dive deeper into how emotional leadership may help address teachers’ imbalance.
Understanding the Demand-Resources Equation
Consider a demand-resource equation where job demands are on one side and job resources on the other. Imbalance occurs when demands exceed resources, creating a negative impact on teachers. For example, increased stress levels that can cause decreased job satisfaction and performance. This further increases the chances of burnout, which will ultimately impact students.
If we compare current job demands and resources, the demands include teaching children with other stressors like creating awareness of school safety. The potential resources for these demands include support factors like job control, time, supportive leadership, and social support. If these resources are lacking, educators are more likely to undergo stress and burnout, which will lead to an imbalance in the long run. Imbalance not only causes reduced productivity and turnover but also becomes a long-term expense for school districts. They have to bear physical and mental health treatment bills and insurance premium costs.
Ensuring a Better Balance for Teachers
Kenneth Leithwood, a leadership professor at the University of Toronto, categorizes four “paths” to school leadership i.e., rational, family, organizational, and emotional. The first three paths are mostly addressed by leaders, where they invest time and resources in training, relationships, and operations.
The emotional path is often overlooked, thus the emotional needs of the community resulting from job stress and imbalances remain unaddressed. However, emotional leadership is the need of time for school leaders to center the emotional path and enhance balance for teachers.
Now the question is, how can emotional leadership help balance the demand-resource equation?
Here’s the formula for emotional leaders to ensure this balance:
It’s easy for leaders to feel overwhelmed and add more programs to fill the process gap of previous years. However, this demands teachers to invest more time, energy, and focus, making them more stressed and burned out.
School leaders should consider long-term objectives and look at subtracting demands in the following ways:
· Reduce demands on teachers’ mental energy by focusing on essential goals, such as getting students back to grade level. This will help you know if concentrating on a specific goal is more effective than focusing on five or six goals. This strategy will also help decrease educators’ stress and burnout and increase their efficiency.
· Decrease demands on teachers’ time so that they have more free time and less stress. Think of specific or essential goals you have identified and subtract demands that have no direct impact on those goals, such as meetings, testing dates, etc., for a time being. You can always add demands back in.
· Be clear on what’s not important. Clarity of what goals are important for teachers and what they do not have to worry about gives them more mental peace and reduced stress.
Increase resources to support demands
If you feel that the demand-resource equation is still incomplete after subtracting demands, then consider adding more resources to balance the equation. Give teachers control and let them make decisions.
From an emotional leadership point of view, job control can help build trust and make teachers feel more satisfied and valued at work.
To Wrap it Up
Supportive and emotional leadership are crucial for increasing the efficacy, motivation, and trust of teachers. Leaders who recognize and hear the emotional needs of their staff can offer them better support. This will ensure improved well-being of teachers, and thus enhanced productivity and turnover.
Teachers may be willing to resign from the job due to stress and burnout, which demands the administration to balance demands and resources. Consider subtracting less important demands and increasing resources for improved satisfaction and commitment of teachers towards their profession.