Your alarm failed to go off in time, and you find yourself frantically leaving the door and, in the process, forget your lunch. To make it worse, you arrive at the school post the morning bell, rush to your classroom and frenetically scramble to set up the day’s lesson. Your students are distracted, and the engaging, funny video you hoped would seize their interest keeps freezing.
During lunch hour, you get a reminder from the headmaster about those individualized education plans you entirely forgot about. By the end of the day, you’re too exhausted to pack your things and head home, where you hastily have dinner and grade class assignments until you fall into bed.
If any facet of this scenario sounds familiar, you, my friend, maybe struggling with teacher burnout.
There are days when teaching is a rewarding and wonderful job – encouraging students, educating young minds, and making tangible differences in their lives. While on other days, it is exhausting, draining, and difficult.
The abrupt shift to online learning has not always made it easy, either. Several teachers are taking on additional work and learning how to use acquire new resources as they teach from home.
Read this article to answer the question, “what is teacher burnout,” its symptoms, causes, and learn how to prevent teacher burnout.
What is Teacher Burnout?
More than just a bad day, every once in a while, there is enduring anxiety that could result in severe adverse effects on both your work and life.
According to Psychology Today, burnout is defined as a state of chronic stress that leads to emotional and physical exhaustion, detachment, cynicism, lack of accomplishment and feelings of ineffectiveness.
We have witnessed numerous times the pressure teachers feel to be perfect. But according to a survey by the American Federation of Teachers, 61 percent of American educators feel that their jobs are often or always stressful. To make the matter even worse, 58 percent of the survey participants stated that the work stress negatively influenced their mental health.
The Signs and Symptoms of Teacher Burnout
Symptoms and signs of teacher burnout vary contingent on the kind of burnout any given educator experiences. Regardless of the numerous definitions of the syndrome presented in the literature, ‘burnout’ has usually been defined as a somewhat uniform entity in all individuals, with more or less consistent symptoms and aetiology.
Nonetheless, several research pieces indicate this view to be overly simplified, which in turn can impact the care teachers anticipate for the condition. Therefore, the field needs to provide support to teachers that best suits their needs. In simple words, they ought to distinguish the different kinds of burnout to fine-tune the lines of therapeutic action for greater effectiveness.
Kinds of Teacher Burnout
The three kinds of teacher burnout are:
- Under challenged: The under challenged kind lacks interest and motivation, doesn’t employ themselves to their work yonder a superficial effort, and their lack of acknowledgement and experience of boring routine pushes them to seek other employment.
- Frenetic: This kind involves teachers who put a lot of energy and time into their work, attach personal ambition to their efforts and are tremendously dedicated to achievement. Therefore, their personal lives usually tend to suffer, as they feel they can’t get the self-care they require to stabilize their work-life balance.
- Worn-out: When a teacher no longer has nothing to offer to the profession, they become fully worn out and disregard their responsibilities. They feel a and lack of power and lack of recognition that eventually leads to substantial neglect of their duties.
These teachers have varying feelings about their job, and hence varying needs when it comes to supporting in their professional and personal lives. Simply put, teacher burnout is a state that persists over time, leading the victim to develop one of the following symptoms or coping mechanisms:
- Overwhelm: or the feeling that the educator can never ‘get it all done,’ regardless of what they do.
- Cynicism: a detached attitude toward students, work, colleagues, and other facets of the job.
- Frustration: from not having the power to change or transform the system, jumping through professional development hoops and from teaching to tests that do not reflect student learning instead take away meaningful education time.
- Inefficacy: a sense of becoming ineffective and incompetent at the job.
- Exhaustion: both physically and mentally, as educators fail to receive adequate sleep (staying up all night grading) and cannot seem to bring about any change in the system (student outcomes, standardized tests), and eventually forced to observe the same problems play out over and over again.
- Physical conditions: weight gain, weight loss, sleep deprivation and other physical conditions associated with overwork and stress.
- Stress: stemming from overwhelming, ongoing repetitive classroom issues, lack of self-care, lack of support and anticipations teachers do not feel able to meet from parents, administration, and tests
- Unfulfillment: a sense of unfulfillment in work, washed-out by overwhelming mountains of grading, relentless meetings and an enduring sacrifice of personal time
It doesn’t really need to be said that this state is destructive to all – teachers, students, parent’s administration, and to the union as a whole. So, if more than one of these symptoms sound familiar to you, there is a high likelihood that you are struggling with teacher burnout.
Teacher Burnout Statistics
Teacher burnout is not merely some hearsay problem, either; it is way more than the stories we hear from colleagues and friends, and even from the students whom it affects. This condition is receded up by very disquieting and very statistics.
According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, roughly half a million American educators either leave or move their profession every year and adds that this inundation of attrition inexplicably affects high-poverty academic institutes. Furthermore, it costs the country more than two billion dollars each year – an appalling figure when bearing in mind the budget shortfalls that have already plagued public schools, particularly troubling in the face of mounting enrollment.
With a million more students entering the system between the years 2008 and 2016 and 0.5 million teachers relocating or leaving every year, the amount of disruption and churn is enormous.
While the often-cited statistic that 50 percent of teachers quit within their first five years is inaccurate, a newer study shoes that the figure sits around 17 percent. That is almost one-fifth of the entire workforce – a figure that can never be disregarded amid expanding classroom sizes and spending cuts.
Unfortunately, the end of a lengthy career is way far from the most common cause of educators leaving the profession. According to a Learning Policy Institute report, around 90 percent of the countrywide yearly demand for teachers is produced when they leave the profession, with two-thirds of educators leaving for causes other than retirement. Encompassing in this indicator is also the fact that swelling school demand is not what is causing the shortage: it is teacher burnout.
Moreover, the report also stated that turnover rates are:
- 50 percent greater in Title I schools
- 70 percent higher for science and math teachers in Title I schools
- 80 percent greater for alternatively certified teachers in Title I schools
If these teacher burnout statistics communicate anything to us, it is that the issue is more immediate than many individuals would like to believe.
What Causes Teacher Burnout?
According to a 2020 study related to teacher burnout, the cause of teacher burnout might be due to one of the following reasons:
- Gender: Female instructors are more likely to go through undue amounts of stress at work, whereas male instructors are more likely to experience feelings of cynicism.
- Grade level: Special education educators experience teacher burnout more often than subject or primary teachers.
- Years of experience: Teachers in their early phase of the career are more likely to experience burnout, perhaps due to lack of teaching experience or effective classroom management techniques.
In addition, another research for the Journal for Social and Behavioral Sciences states that the causes of teacher burnout can be divided into two broad categories: societal and environmental factors.
Societal factors involve:
- Mounting demands with simultaneously reduced funding: as academic institutions face greater budget cuts; educators are increasingly demanded to do more with less.
- Erosion of support for teachers and public respect: educators often try to do their best at a very hard job, but all the while being told by people that anyone can do their job, and also that most individuals can do it better than them; this is usually very demoralizing.
Environmental factors involve:
- Work overload: instructors are tasked with extra work that they cannot possibly complete during their normal work hours.
- Ambiguity and role conflict: administrators are usually vague on what exactly is anticipated of teachers, and several educators feel an unspoken duty to do more.
- Poor classroom climate: each day, educators face discourteous students and therefore struggle to find balanced classroom management with instruction.
- Low salary: teaching recurrently makes it to the list of lowest paying jobs that obliges a college degree.
- Little support from peers and superiors: however, this isn’t the case for every teacher and in every school, but when this is the case, it can lead an educator to feel unappreciated and burned out very quickly.
How to Prevent Teacher Burnout?
If left untreated, teacher burnout indicators can lead to severe mental and physical health issues. That is why it is so crucial to use proactive tactics to prevent teacher burnout and treat any symptoms as soon as possible. Read ahead to learn how to prevent teacher burnout in the following six ways:
#1: Talk about ‘teacher burnout.’
Sit down with a dear one, video call a close friend, or go out for coffee or tea with a trusted colleague. If possible, discuss your condition with somebody that has their own long-term teaching experience as they will be better able to empathize and understand what you are going through.
But remember, the first step is to simply start talking about it – get it all out! Cry, rant, laugh and do not hold anything back. The more you withhold, the more your feelings of frustration and stress will bubble and percolate over into your next teaching day. That is not fair to your students or you.
It is irrelevant whether or not your ‘shoulder to lean on’ offers you sound advice; what’s most critical is to know that you are not alone and break the isolation of your work. Every educator can possibly share with you their personal stories of job-related stress – particularly during this time of online teaching – and you can support each other.
#2: Practice self-care
It might sound like a cliché, but it works! Self-care practices and routines can help you prioritize your own health. Therefore, you must set some time aside in the evening or on the weekend to do something that benefits you mentally and physically.
What refreshes and relaxes you? Some ideas involve:
- A quick morning yoga routine
- Practicing meditation
- Taking a walk
- Experiencing nature
- Reading your favourite book
- A nice day at the spa
- Forming a sleep schedule and sticking to it!
Self-care can even be as simple and easy as taking a deep breath. Findings published in the journal of Frontiers in Psychology and Neurological Sciences have proven the health benefits of breathing deeply, especially when it comes to stress and anxiety relief.
If you are stuck inside and teaching remotely, try starting your day with a short walk or take a screen-free lunch break. When you prioritize self-care, you are better equipped to help your students.
#3: Know when to take a break
When you start getting the first signs of teacher burnout, you must take a step away from it. Start by leaving your work at work: the thoughts of curriculum planning, grading, responding to parents’ emails, field trip permission forms, report cards to fill out and so on.
Instead of working round the clock, try this: pull out a paper and note down everything that ought’s to be done over the next two days. Once the list is complete, pick the top three tasks. These are your ‘must-do’ tasks for the next day – this will make your days more manageable.
Now that you have learned how to make the next two days more manageable and easier let go of the work and prioritize yourself for the remaining night. Watch your favourite Netflix show, read a book, make a delicious dinner, or go to bed early.
We understand that online teaching makes all this trickier, but it is still essential to set some boundaries. Step away from your desktop screen at the end of the day and prompt yourself that now it is your personal time, not work time. According to a Finnish study, self-regulation or changing your own thoughts and behaviours is one of the ways teachers to treat and avoid teacher burnout. This means:
- Prioritizing your most vital tasks
- Slowing down your working pace
- Experimenting with numerous time-management techniques
- Leaving your work at school when you must
Overlooking or undercutting your workload might seem impossible. But if you are in jeopardy of teacher burnout, you must make changes! After all, you cannot be there for your students if you are not there for yourself.
#4: Figure out what went wrong
So, you had a bad day at work and remembered it happens with everybody. A bad day may feel all-encompassing, but do you ever stop and wonder about why it was a bad day?
If it was just a single, probably a trivial event that triggered your bad day, perhaps you are more in control than you thought. When things do not go as expected, it can adversely affect everything else we do, even when there is no sensible reason for them too.
Therefore, once you are able to identify the event that inopportunely ruined your day, you might come to find nothing or very little about your day and realize that your day wasn’t that bad after all.
If the same events keep going wrong, that is typically where you must make a change. Woke up grumpy and tired? Make a point of getting to bed earlier or putting your work down. Do you feel the struggle to transition between certain periods? Form a routine with the students to help them focus.
When you recognize where the tricky and complicated spots in your day are, you will be better equipped to smooth things out for yourself.
#5: Put things in perspective
Any job, including teaching, can consume you if you are not careful. It can turn toxic when your mental health takes a backseat, or you start having thoughts of quitting. Disregarding this critical reality can rapidly lead to teacher burnout. Be aware of that sinking feeling when the load of the job starts to drown out your joy.
The special thing about teaching is that you are so much more than merely a teacher. You are a friend, a parent, a student, an explorer, a spouse – you can fill in the blanks!
The idea is that there are relationships and other aspects of life that start to fade if you do not take care of yourself. And what is life without those?
Look back to the points discusses above and show yourself some compassion, build a community, and practice healthy work habits. Always bear in mind that “outside-the-job” thinking is equally important.
#6: Try something new
If you are feeling uninspired, cynical, or frustrated due to your work, it could be a strong indication that you need to troubleshoot your classroom.
Your students are acting out in the classroom
Try developing new classroom management strategies or come up with a set of classroom rules with your students
Your students are not excited to learn something new or in the course material
Try out a fun, new teaching strategy or introduce a new Edtech tool such as Prodigy
Your students are having trouble to focus and easily get distracted during lessons.
Introduce a new teaching technique or strategy
Whatever you choose to do, it is vital to understand that the end goal is not to add one more undertaking to your swelling to-do list – instead, it is to get you and your students excited about learning and teaching.
Go with something that feels exciting but not overwhelming – perhaps something that fits in nicely with your current teaching routine. You must begin with small goals, and soon you will realize how much they can grow.
Never forget that anyone going through burnout can recover from it, but it is essential to take all the right steps in the right direction. Now more than ever, it is vital t to take care of your physical and mental health. Even if you are stuck at home due to the pandemic, connect with your most dear and trusted once and cut yourself some slack!
As appealing as it’s to keep pushing yourself, often, the most effective thing you can do for yourself is to rest, reflect, and recover. Utilize the above-discussed ideas to recover not only your love and passion for teaching but also your sense of self.