6 Strategies to Fix the K-12 Teacher Experience

6 Strategies to Fix the K-12 Teacher Experience

Fostering an engaging K-12 teacher experience should be a foundational expectation in every education leader’s role, but leaders often lack the right training and resources, according tp Gallup surveys.

Driven by the complex reasons educators leave the profession, Gallup researchers revisited data from nationally representative surveys and identified six key elements of the K-12 workplace that leaders can focus on to differentiate their school or district from the rest:

Address Burnout
K-12 employees are among the most highly burned out workers. In 2023, 39% of K-12 teachers felt burned out always or very often, compared with 26% of workers in other occupations. When burnout is proactively addressed at the source through clear expectations, adequate training and resources, and realistic performance expectations, K-12 teachers are significantly more likely to be engaged in their job and less likely to look for a different one.

Focus on Well-Being
K-12 teachers, on average, report higher life satisfaction compared with other workers. They are more likely to have thriving well-being, overall. However, they also experience the highest rate of disrespect at work across all industries. In a 2023 survey, 42% of employees in the K-12 industry said they had been treated disrespectfully at work in the past month. Just 21% of K-12 educators strongly agree that at work, their opinions seem to count. Taking time to authentically listen to educators’ experiences and find ways to provide support will go a long way in bolstering educators’ respect and well-being.

Discover Strengths
The percentage of K-12 teachers who strongly agreed that their work allows them to do what they do best every day has decreased by 17% over the past three years. When a new project, task or time commitment arises, instead of defaulting to asking, “Who is available to do this?” instead ask, “Who is best equipped to do this?” This simple mindset shift can make a difference: Employees who say they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day are 57% less likely to experience frequent burnout.

Give Frequent Meaningful Feedback
Most K-12 teachers lack frequent meaningful feedback from their manager or administrator. While administrators are tasked with their own difficult workloads, finding time to prioritize quick connects with educators reap a multitude of benefits. Educators who receive frequent meaningful feedback are two times as likely to strongly agree their manager removes barriers to performance and 2.1 times as likely to strongly agree their manager invests in their development.

Appreciate Contributions
Twenty-four percent of K-12 teachers strongly agree they have received recognition or praise for doing good work in the last seven days. Recognition that is authentic, personal and meaningful is most effective. Education leaders may not have time to observe and recognize every great thing an educator does, but they do have the ability to establish recognition as an important part of culture at their school. If leaders are not sure how to recognize educators, they can remove the guesswork by asking. Only 10% of employees have been asked how they like to be recognized at work.

Reimagine Career Growth
For many K-12 educators, traditional career advancement means becoming an administrator or department head. But not all teachers want to take that path. Classroom teachers can still achieve career growth through strategic professional development, frequent conversations about progress toward professional goals and growth in their current role — without piling on tasks that will burn them out. K-12 teachers who strongly agree their manager invests in their development are 8.7 times as likely to strongly agree there is a well-defined plan for career growth at their school or district, compared with K-12 teachers who do not strongly agree.

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