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Seeking Solutions to Spiraling Staffing Shortages

Chronic levels of stress and burnout continue to plague teachers and education personnel in K-12 schools both locally and across the country, fueling an escalating student learning crisis. That’s why our national union teamed up with advocates for a year-long study culminating in a report detailing practical, research-based solutions. Members of AFT Connecticut-affiliated locals contributed to the final report’s collective call for connection, collaboration and commitment from leaders to support the well-being of educators.

Click here to access “Beyond Burnout: A Roadmap to Improve Educator Well-Being.”

The report highlights the numerous challenges facing school staff and proposes a slate of strategies and solutions to address them. Among them are calls to recognize factors that reliably predict educator well-being: responsive leadership and supportive culture, acceptance, adaptability, personal well-being, and a professional-growth orientation. The report includes a survey tool – generated by members- that more accurately defines and gauges educator well-being.

“It is hard to put yourself first,” said Leslie Blatteau (speaking at podium, above), president of the affiliated New Haven Federation of Teachers and AFT Connecticut’s vice president for PreK-12 educators. “We really do need direct instruction as educators to be reminded how to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of our students—and be willing to come back the next year.”

Blatteau additionally serves on our national union’s Teacher and School Staff Shortage Task Force, which developed and released an earlier report that took a deep dive into workforce vacancies. That months-long process, its analysis and recommendations informed many of the conclusions and proposals in this most recent study.

Click here to learn more about the 2022 staffing shortage report.

“Teaching has never been an easy job, but today it’s harder than ever,” said national union president Randi Weingarten. “This profession needs support and respect if we have any chance of recruiting and retaining good folks to meet kids’ needs.”

The report explains that to better support and retain educators, school systems need to implement immediate relief coupled with system wide changes. Specific strategies include developing increasingly responsive school-site leadership, cultivating supportive school staff culture, and offering professional development related to cultivating and sustaining personal well-being.

Click here for Weingarten’s recent commentary on the report’s findings.

Our national union teamed up with Educators Thriving, an advocacy organization committed to providing support staff, teachers and administrators around the United States with research-based personal development. Together, they engaged more than 220 union members in practicing applied strategies empirically proven to increase well-being.

“We can – and must – change the way we support educators,” said Tyler Hester, the organization’s founder. “With a newly defined North Star, articulated by AFT members across the country, the conversation can move beyond burnout and toward clear, actionable strategies to measure and improve well-being.”

Click here to access additional resources from Educators Thriving.

Ninety-two percent of participants agreed the program made their job feel more sustainable, and 94 percent agreed it helped improve their mental health. Participants also reported statistically significant reductions in emotional exhaustion—a leading indicator of burnout.

The report is a key plank in our national union’s $5 million, year-long “Real Solutions for Kids and Communities” campaign. The purpose is to secure the support needed to address learning loss, loneliness and literacy challenges. As the report states: “because there is an inextricable link between staffing, educator well-being and student learning, it is imperative to improve the well-being of teachers and prevent burnout.”

Click here to learn more about the national campaign.

Editor’s note: includes contributions by Sarah Hager Mosby and Virginia Myers.

Matt O'Connor
Matt O'Connor
Communications Coordinator for AFT Connecticut, a labor federation of over 30,000 hard-working women and men in the Nutmeg State.

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