Teacher burnout is a common problem within education. The statistics vary but you can safely say about 1/3 of teachers suffer from some form of burnout at one point or another during their career. This post will define burnout, explain some of the causes, the stages of burnout, as well as ways to deal with burnout.
Essentially, teacher burnout is an experience of a person who is overwhelmed by the stress of teaching. The most common victims of this are young teachers as well as female teachers.
Young teachers are often at higher risk because they have not developed coping mechanisms for the rigors of teaching. Women are also more often to fall victim to teacher burnout because of the added burning of maintaining the home as well as difficulties with distancing themselves emotionally from their profession as a teacher.
Teacher burnout is generally caused by stress. Below are several forms of stress that can plague the teaching profession.
- Workload-This is especially true for those who can never say “no.” Committees, field trips, student activities, grading, lesson plans, accreditation. All of these important tasks can overwhelm a person
- Student behavioral problems-Classroom management is always a challenge as families continue to collapse.
- Issues with leadership
- Boredom-This stressor is more common with experienced teachers who have taught the same content for years. There are only so many ways to teach content that are appealing to the teacher before there is some repetition. Boredom can also be especially challenging for a teacher who values learning more than personal relationships with students.
Stages of Burnout
The stages of teacher burnout follow the same progression as burnout in other social work like professions. Below are four stages as developed by McMullen
- Closed off- The burnout victim stops socializing and is rigid against feedback. Signs include self-neglect.
- Irritable-The victim temper shortens. In addition, he begins to complain about everything. Problems are observed everywhere whether they are legitimate or not.
- Paranoia-The teacher is worried about everything. Depression is common at this point as well as a loss of motivation.
- Exhaustion-THe teacher is emotionally drained. They no longer “care” as they see no way to improve the situation. Compassion fatigue sets in which means that there is no more emotional support to give to students.
Dealing with Burnout
Perhaps the most important step coping with burnout is to prioritize. It is necessary for a sake of sanity to say no to various request at times. Personal time away from any job is critical to being able to return refreshed. Therefore, teaching cannot be the sole driving force of the typical person’s life but should be balanced with other activities and even downtime.
It may also be necessary to consider changing professions. If you are not able to give your best in the classroom perhaps there are other opportunities available. It is impractical to think that someone who becomes a teacher must stay a teacher their entire life as though there is no other way to use the skills developed in the classroom in other professions.
Burnout is a problem but it is not unique to education. What really matters is that people take control and responsibility of their time and not chase every problem that comes into their life. Doing so will help in coping with the rigors of the teaching profession.