What is Teacher Burnout And How to Deal With It?
Stress, overwork, and exhaustion for teachers are all too familiar, which often unfortunately result in teacher burnout.
If you've ever been a teacher, you know exactly how demanding the job can be – long hours grading papers, devising lesson plans and dealing with unruly students can often lead to burnout.
Sadly, this effect may also spill over into the classroom in the form of lower learning outcomes among students affected by their teachers’ ongoing emotional distress or trauma-related conditions like compassion fatigue or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Yet despite its prevalence in our society, teacher burnout remains a poorly understood phenomenon that continues to plague schools across the country – but understanding it begins by discovering what it is.
In this article, we'll explore how teacher burnout works, its causes, prevalence, and risk factors as well as effective interventions for managing it - providing those in education with a better sense of insight into the issue as well as practical steps for reducing teacher burnout.
What is Teacher Burnout?
Teacher burnout is defined as emotional and physical exhaustion caused by the demands of a teaching career when trying to have a positive impact, which over the years has led to an increase in teacher turnover.
It can be described as a state of deep fatigue, frustration and disillusionment that is associated with an inability to cope with the pressures of teaching. This state can interfere with the ability to perform job duties effectively, leading to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and decreased morale.
In addition, the burnout crisis in teaching often leads to decreased job satisfaction and a feeling of disconnection from colleagues, students, and the profession as a whole.
Symptoms of teacher burnout
There is constant pressure that comes with teaching, and it can be difficult to recognise when teacher burnout is setting in.
However, there are a number of warning signs and symptoms of burnout that have a negative effect on your mental and physical health, as outlined below:
Exhaustion is one of the biggest symptoms of teacher burnout.
It can manifest in both physical and mental exhaustion. Physical exhaustion often comes from spending long hours working, with little time for rest or relaxation.
This can result in feeling constantly tired and lacking energy, as well as difficulty concentrating or staying focused on tasks. Mental exhaustion often stems from feeling overwhelmed by job duties, such as grading a high number of papers or dealing with challenging students.
Another symptom of teacher burnout is increased irritability. This can manifest itself in a variety of ways, such as feeling easily frustrated or irritated with students, colleagues, or the job in general.
It can also lead to difficulty controlling emotions and increased outbursts of anger towards those around you.
Furthermore, this irritability can often interfere with your ability to effectively manage students, increase student motivation, and create a positive learning environment.
One of the most common symptoms of teacher burnout is detachment.
This can manifest in a variety of ways, such as feeling disconnected from colleagues or students, having difficulty forming meaningful relationships in the workplace, and feeling apathetic or indifferent towards the job.
This lack of connection can lead to feelings of isolation, which can further exacerbate the effects of burnout.
Christina Maslach mentioned that one of the most damaging effects of teacher burnout is the development of a negative attitude. This can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including pessimism, cynicism, and an overall sense of hopelessness.
This negative outlook can be incredibly detrimental to both the professional and personal lives of teachers, as it often leads to feelings of isolation and disinterest in the job.
The aforementioned symptoms of burnout can lead to a decrease in productivity levels. This can manifest in a variety of ways, such as difficulty concentrating on tasks and completing them in a timely fashion.
It can also lead to procrastination, as well as feeling overwhelmed by job duties or having difficulty setting priorities and staying organized.
Furthermore, this reduced productivity can often lead to an overall sense of being unproductive and feeling as though one is not making a significant contribution.
Lower satisfaction levels may be an indication of teacher burnout.
This can manifest itself in a variety of ways, such as decreased job satisfaction and an inability to find joy or fulfilment in teaching. It can also lead to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and a lack of enthusiasm for the job.
This decrease in satisfaction often causes feelings of guilt and a loss of confidence in one's ability to do their job satisfactorily.
Sleep issues are another common symptom of teacher burnout. This can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the night, or feeling exhausted even after a full night's sleep.
This lack of restful sleep can leave one feeling fatigued and unable to focus on tasks throughout the day.
What's more, this lack of sleep can lead to an overall sense of exhaustion and difficulty completing tasks.
After gaining an understanding of some of the common symptoms of teacher burnout, let’s look at some of its common causes.
Causes of Teacher Burnout
Teaching is a challenging and rewarding profession, but it is also a profession that comes with significant stress and pressure and unfortunately can cause mental health issues if you don't look after yourself along the way.
Here are several causes of teacher burnout that contribute to this problem, including:
Heavy workloads are a major contributor to teacher burnout. Teachers are expected to fulfil a wide range of duties, including lesson planning, grading, and administrative tasks.
Preparing for classes, creating lesson plans, and grading assignments can be time-consuming and can quickly become overwhelming. Additionally, teachers are often responsible for managing classroom behavior issues, communicating with parents, attending meetings, and completing administrative tasks such as filling out reports and submitting paperwork.
All of these tasks require a significant amount of time and effort, which can leave teachers feeling exhausted and drained.
Lack of support
Teachers need support to be successful, and this includes support from colleagues, administrators, and families. When teachers do not receive the support they need, they can feel isolated and unsupported, which can lead to burnout.
Teachers need a network of colleagues who can offer advice and guidance, as well as administrators who can provide professional development opportunities and feedback.
Additionally, families can offer support by being involved in their children's education and by communicating with teachers about their child's progress.
Without adequate support, teachers may feel overwhelmed and unsupported, which has a direct effect on teacher stress and burnout.
Teaching is not a highly-paid profession, and many teachers struggle to make ends meet.
Low pay can contribute to financial stress, which can compound other stressors and lead to burnout. Teachers often have to work long hours and take on additional responsibilities outside of their regular teaching duties, which can be challenging when they are not paid a living wage.
Low pay can also lead to feelings of resentment and undervaluation, which can contribute to burnout.
Teachers are expected to meet high standards, both in terms of their own performance and the performance of their students. When these expectations are not met, it can be frustrating and demotivating, leading to burnout.
Teachers are often held responsible for the success of their students, and when students do not perform well, teachers may feel like they have failed. Additionally, veteran teachers are expected to constantly improve their teaching skills and knowledge, which can be overwhelming.
When expectations are too high, it can be difficult to achieve them and can lead to feelings of frustration and burnout.
Lack of resources
For teachers to devise compelling lessons, they must have access to resources like tech, textbooks, and materials.
When resources are limited or unavailable, it can be challenging to create engaging lessons and leading to burnout. Teachers may have to spend their own money to purchase materials or spend hours creating their own resources, which can be time-consuming and exhausting.
When teachers do not have access to the resources they need, it can be difficult to provide quality education and can contribute to burnout.
Staff shortages are also a common problem in schools, and this can increase the workload of teachers and contribute to burnout.
When staff numbers are limited, teachers may have to take on additional responsibilities or cover for absent colleagues, which can be stressful and overwhelming.
Teaching is an emotionally demanding profession, and teachers are often required to manage the emotions of their students, colleagues, and parents.
This can be exhausting and lead to emotional burnout. Teachers may have to deal with student behavior, especially those who are struggling emotionally or behaviorally and may have to manage conflicts between students or between students and parents.
Assisting students during difficult times may result in teachers experiencing secondary trauma.
Secondary trauma means teachers may take on the emotions of a student, which can lead to burnout and fatigue.
Additionally, teachers may have to manage their own emotions, especially when dealing with difficult situations. Emotional labour can take a toll on teachers' mental and emotional well-being and can contribute to the consequences of burnout.
Classroom management challenges
Classroom management is a critical aspect of teaching, and when it is challenging, it can be exhausting.
Managing disruptive students, resolving conflicts, and maintaining order in the classroom can be emotionally draining. Teachers may have to deal with students who are not engaged or motivated, or who have behavioural issues that disrupt the learning environment.
Furthermore, teachers may have to deal with challenging parents or colleagues. When classroom behavior issues are a constant struggle, it can be difficult to stay motivated and can lead to teachers experiencing the consequences of burnout.
These causes of classroom teacher burnout are often intertwined, and it is important to identify the root cause in order to effectively address the issue.
However, there are a few strategies which we will talk about in the next section that teachers can use to manage their own stress and prevent the consequences of teacher burnout.
Practical Strategies to Overcome Teacher Burnout
As a teacher, experiencing the consequences of burnout is a common issue. The constant demands and pressures of the profession can take a toll on your mental and physical health. It is important to address burnout and take practical steps to overcome it.
Here are some strategies that can help you overcome the consequences of teacher burnout:
Establish a work-life balance
It is important to establish a balance between your personal and professional life.
Make sure to set aside time for yourself, your hobbies, and your family. This can help you relax, recharge, and be more productive when you return to work.
Take care of your physical and mental health
Taking care of your physical and mental health is essential for avoiding burnout. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat healthily, and exercise regularly.
Additionally, practising mindfulness, meditation, or other stress-reducing activities can help you manage teacher stress and prevent burnout.
Journalling can be a helpful tool for processing your thoughts and emotions and can help you gain clarity and perspective.
It is important to take a mental health day when you need it. Taking a break, even for just one day, can help you relax and recharge.
Set realistic and achievable goals
Setting goals that are too ambitious or unattainable can lead to burnout.
It is important to set realistic and achievable goals for yourself, both personally and professionally. Celebrating small achievements along the way can help you stay motivated and avoid burnout.
To help you with setting realistic and achievable goals, OCCO London's Weekly Planner Pad is an ideal way to plan your days, measure progress and keep motivated.
Prioritise tasks and create a schedule
Prioritizing tasks and creating a schedule can help you manage your workload and avoid feeling overwhelmed. Make a list of tasks and prioritise them based on importance and deadline.
Then, create a schedule that allows you to complete tasks efficiently without sacrificing your personal time.
For example, OCCO London's Priority Pad can help you plan and prioritise your tasks efficiently so that you can stay organized and productive without sacrificing your personal time.
It is important to address teacher burnout and take practical steps to overcome it.
By establishing a work-life balance, taking care of your physical and mental health, setting realistic goals, and prioritising tasks, you can overcome burnout and enjoy a fulfilling career as a teacher.
Resources To Help You Deal With Teacher Burnout
Teachers who are experiencing burnout may need additional support and resources to help them overcome this challenge. Here are some resources that can help you deal with teacher burnout:
Professional mental health resources
Mental health is a critical component of overall well-being, and it is important for teachers to prioritise their mental health.
Many schools and districts offer resources such as counselling services, employee assistance programs, and mental health resources for teachers. These resources can help teachers address mental health concerns and manage stress and burnout.
Psychotherapy for teachers who experience burnout
Psychotherapy can be an effective tool for teachers who are experiencing burnout. A therapist can help teachers identify the root causes of their burnout, develop coping strategies, and work through feelings of stress and overwhelm.
Some therapists specialize in working with teachers and educators and can offer targeted support and guidance.
What's more, many states offer free or low-cost mental health services.
Online support groups for teachers and educators
Online support groups can be a valuable resource for teachers who are experiencing burnout.
These groups provide a space for teachers to connect with others who are going through similar challenges, share strategies for managing stress, and provide emotional support.
Some online support groups are focused specifically on teacher burnout, while others are more general and include educators from a variety of backgrounds.
Stationary tools to help you lead a healthier and happier life
Keeping a journal, using a planner, or creating a vision board can be effective tools for managing stress and burnout.
These stationary tools can help teachers prioritise self-care, set achievable goals, and track progress towards their objectives. J
Journaling, for example, can help teachers reflect on their emotions and experiences, identify patterns of stress and burnout, and develop strategies for managing these challenges.
To provide you with some tools that can help you lead a healthier and happier life, OCCO London offers a range of productivity tools that are designed to help you stay organized and motivated.
Workshops and training designed specifically for educator well-being
Many organizations offer workshops and training programs that focus specifically on educator well-being.
These programs can provide teachers with practical strategies for managing stress, building resilience, and avoiding burnout. They may also provide an opportunity for teachers to connect with others in their field and share experiences and strategies for success.
If you want to learn more about well-being coaching, click on "Well-Being Coaching: The Ultimate Guide."
Overall, there are many resources available to help teachers deal with burnout.
By prioritising mental health, connecting with others, and using practical tools and strategies, teachers can manage stress and avoid burnout, while providing high-quality education and sharing time with students.
Building A Community To Combat Teacher Burnout
Teaching can be an isolating profession, and teachers can sometimes feel like they are on their own when dealing with the challenges of the job.
Building a supportive community in the school environment can be an effective way to combat teacher burnout. Here are two strategies that schools can use to build this community.
Leadership roles in schools to address teacher burnouts
School leaders can play a crucial role in addressing teacher burnout.
They can create a culture of support by acknowledging the challenges of teaching and providing resources and strategies to help teachers manage their workload and stress levels. School leaders can also establish leadership roles within the school, such as teacher mentors, to provide guidance and support to new and struggling teachers.
Incentives for colleagues to support each other during tough times
In difficult times, schools can provide incentives to cultivate a supportive environment between teachers! For example, schools can create peer mentoring programs that pair experienced teachers with new teachers.
This can provide new teachers with a supportive and experienced colleague who can help them navigate the challenges of teaching. Schools can also create teacher recognition programs that acknowledge the hard work and achievements of teachers.
This can help to build a sense of community and support among colleagues, which can help to combat burnout.
Building a supportive community in the school environment is an effective strategy to combat teacher burnout.
Leadership roles in schools and incentives for colleagues to support each other can help to establish a culture of support and encouragement that can help teachers manage their workload and stress levels.
Knowing and Deciding When to Stop and Shift Careers
Recognizing when one’s current career path is no longer functioning optimally or sustainably and transitioning into a new career requires the process of knowing and deciding when to switch.
In the context of teacher burnout, this may involve recognizing the signs of chronic burnout, lack of passion for teaching, health issues, limited growth opportunities, values misalignment, and negative impact on personal life, and deciding to shift careers in order to prioritise one's well-being and professional fulfilment.
For these reasons, teacher shortage is a growing reality in many regions. Transitioning out of teaching can be a difficult decision to make and may require the process of grief and mourning for the career that one has left behind.
Chronic burnout can occur when the symptoms of burnout persist over a long period of time, despite efforts to address the underlying causes.
When this happens, it may be time to consider a shift in career or a break from teaching to focus on self-care and recovery.
In the USA, the annual attrition rate of teachers is higher than the average rate for all other professions. This means that more and more teachers are turning to other paths in order to preserve their physical and mental health.
Lack of Passion for Teaching
When a teacher begins to lose their passion and enthusiasm for teaching, it may be time to look for an alternate career path. The lack of motivation and joy that comes with teaching can be detrimental to both the teacher's well-being and the student's learning experiences.
Losing your passion for teaching has a significant influence on student learning.
Taking time away from the teaching profession to explore other interests, passions, or skills can help a teacher find a renewed sense of purpose.
In addition, when faced with burnout and career transition, seeking out professional support such as coaching or counselling can be invaluable.
A coach or counsellor can help a teacher identify their core values and provide guidance in developing an action plan to make positive changes in their life.
Health issues can have a direct effect on teacher burnout. Working long hours, dealing with emotional stress, and lack of physical activity can all lead to mental and physical health problems.
Common health issues associated with burned-out teachers include fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxiety, weakened immune system, and musculoskeletal pain.
It is important for teachers to recognise these symptoms and take proactive steps to address them.
Limited Growth Opportunities
When a teacher feels stagnant in their career, this can lead to a loss of motivation and sense of purpose.
In such cases, it is important for teachers to reflect on what they would like to achieve in their careers and look for ways to expand their skills and knowledge.
Taking up additional training, attending conferences or workshops, or engaging in professional development activities can help teachers stay engaged and motivated in their careers.
If a teacher's values are not aligned with the school's mission and vision, this can lead to feelings of disconnection and dissatisfaction.
It is important for teachers to identify what matters to them most in their work, and ensure that they are working towards achieving these values.
This can help to reduce feelings of burnout and create a sense of purpose.
Negative impact on personal life
The negative effects of teacher burnout can extend beyond the workplace and have a significant impact on personal life.
Burnout can lead to feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, irritability and isolation, which may in turn affect relationships with family and friends. It can also hugely impact sleep patterns, moods and general well-being.
When burnout starts to take hold it is important to take steps to address the underlying causes and prioritise self-care. This may involve taking time away from teaching, engaging in activities that bring joy, and seeking professional help if needed.
If you are experiencing any of these signs, it may be time to consider a career shift.
However, it's important to take time to reflect on your decision and seek support and guidance from trusted friends, family, and professionals. A career shift can be a big decision, and it's important to approach it with thoughtfulness and intentionality.
After reading through the above article, you may still have some more questions about teacher burnout and how to cope with it. Let's go through some of the most common questions related to this issue.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions asked about teacher burnout:
What is the difference between burnout and stress?
Burnout is a long-term state of emotional and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged chronic stress.
It is characterized by feelings of low morale, lack of motivation and enthusiasm, and dissatisfaction with one’s job. Stress, on the other hand, is a normal reaction to challenging situations or events.
Although it can be exhausting, its effects are usually temporary and dissipate over time. Burnout is longer lasting and can have serious consequences if left unchecked.
How can I recognise signs of burnout in myself or others?
Recognizing signs of burnout in oneself or others can be difficult as it can manifest in different ways. Common signs include increased fatigue and exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, irritability, lack of motivation and enthusiasm, and feelings of detachment.
If a teacher is experiencing any of these burnout symptoms, it is important to take time to reflect on their job situation and address the underlying causes.
Are there any resources available to those suffering from teacher burnout?
There are various resources available to those experiencing teacher burnout.
Professional counselling and therapy can be beneficial in helping the individual to process their feelings and experiences, as well as providing strategies for managing levels of stress. Additionally, peer support groups can provide a safe space for discussing challenges and sharing strategies.
There are also many online resources such as books, blogs, podcasts and forums that can offer support.
Burned-In Teacher courses can also help teachers connect with other educators who are feeling the same way.
How can school administrators help reduce teacher burnout in their schools?
School administrators can play an essential role in reducing teacher burnout rates in their schools. They should prioritise creating a positive and supportive work environment, encouraging open communication between teachers and administrators, and recognizing the importance of teacher well-being.
Administrators should also recognise the value of providing teachers with professional development opportunities, resources to support their work, and appropriate compensation for their efforts.
This can help to create a workplace that is more conducive to teacher well-being.
Are there ways for school staff to support each other and reduce stress in the classroom?
Collaboration between school staff can be a great way to reduce stress in the classroom.
One of the most effective methods is providing a safe, supportive environment where teachers can connect with one another and share their experiences. This may involve organizing group activities such as lunch or coffee breaks, or simply inviting teachers to chat informally during downtime.
Additionally, school staff can support each other by communicating openly and providing encouragement.
Recognising the efforts of others and offering help when needed can go a long way in reducing stress levels.
Teacher burnout is a serious problem that affects not only teachers, but also students, other faculty members, and administrators.
Burned-out teachers are more likely to feel disengaged from their work and from their colleagues, making them less effective in educating and motivating student achievement in the classroom.
Fortunately, there are ways for educators and schools alike to prevent and manage job burnout effectively particularly burnout on teacher behavior.
These include things like establishing a healthy work/life balance, taking regular breaks throughout the day, creating an effective feedback system between teachers and administrators, providing resources and support for educators both inside and outside of the school environment as well as implementing practical initiatives such as reducing class sizes or giving teachers more planning time.
Ultimately, all stakeholders need to come together to find solutions that will encourage continued engagement among all members of the education team, helping everyone involved reach their full potential!
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