Aug 22

How to Avoid Teacher Burnout

Whether there is a teacher shortage or not, school districts should know how to identify and prevent teacher burnout. Teachers can help administrators help them by learning their own triggers and signs that they are undergoing too much stress. This post will give perspective and tips on how to avoid teacher burnout.

How do you know if you have teacher burnout?

According to an article in the Annual Review of Psychology, burnout can be identified by “a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job, and is defined by the three dimensions of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy.”

  • Exhaustion. While it’s common for anyone to have days when it’s difficult to get up and get started in the morning, the exhaustion that is related to burnout is chronic and lasting by nature. It doesn’t go away after a vacation. And it is not tied to anything in particular.
  • Cynicism. Cynicism occurs when your feelings about your job and the people associated with it change from positive to negative persistently. You may question whether anything you do will make a difference, and you wonder about the motives or intentions of the administration. You may treat others with indifference or become irritable and impatient with them.
  • Inefficacy. You can identify inefficacy in a couple of ways. If your job performance is slipping such that you or others notice it, or maintaining a high-performance level takes more time and effort than previously. 

Stages of teacher burnout

In the manual, “Burnout: Definition, recognition, and prevention approaches,” researchers from the University of Vienna and the University of Oradea assert the basic aspects of the burnout process occur as follows:

  • Stage 1: High workload, high level of job stress, high job expectations 
    • Job demands exceed job resources.
    • The job does not fulfill one’s expectations. 
  • Stage 2: Physical/emotional exhaustion 
    • Chronic exhaustion; even higher energy investment in order to execute all job tasks; sleep disturbances, susceptibility to headaches, and other physical pain. 
    • Emotional exhaustion; fatigue even when work comes only back to mind. 
  • Stage 3: Depersonalization/Cynicism/Indifference 
    • Apathy, depression, boredom. 
    • A negative attitude toward the job, colleagues, and service recipients (students).
    • Withdrawal from the job and the problems; a reduced work effort. 
  • Stage 4: Despair/Helplessness/Aversion
    • Aversion to oneself, to other people, to everything.
    • Feelings of guilt and insufficiency. 

7 Signs of teacher burnout

Whether or not you meet the criteria for the psychological definition of burnout, here are seven common signs of teacher burnout:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Negativity about the job 
  3. Sleep problems and fatigue
  4. Lack of motivation or drive
  5. Feelings of ineffectiveness
  6. Irritability or impatience with students and staff
  7. Unexplained physical issues such as headaches, stomach or bowel problems

Why do teachers get burnt out? 

Teaching is a hard profession. According to a Gallup poll, K-12 and higher education are the top two industries with the highest rate of burnout, but what causes teacher burnout? Teachers experience different obstacles than other professions, including:

  1. Difficulties dealing with parents
  2. Compassion fatigue (This is a common reason for burnout in early childhood educators)
  3. Lack of time
  4. Difficulties dealing with students

Tips to avoid teacher burnout

  • Be proactive with parents.
    • Set expectations. Tell parents when they should expect to hear from you and in what situations they will hear from you. Also, make sure they know when you will or won’t respond to communication that they initiate. 
    • Communicate in a format that works for parents to increase their engagement. Parents may prefer to receive text messages, phone calls, or emails. Ask about their preferred method of contact at the beginning of the year.
  • Practice self-care.
    • Care for your health. Eat well and exercise regularly, even if it’s no more than a 30-minute brisk walk. Make and keep well-checks with doctors and your dentist and take any medications as prescribed.
    • Attend to social needs. You may prefer close relationships with a limited number of people, more superficial relationships with many, or something in between. Determine your needs and commit to face-to-face time with your friends.
    • Mind your mind. Do activities that are good for your brain. You may find crosswords and other puzzles, reading or researching topics of interest stimulating or relaxing.
    • Process your emotions in a healthy way. It may be as simple as keeping a journal to let your feelings out, or you may need to talk to a spouse, colleague, or close friend. If you feel depressed or anxious, seeking professional treatment may give you the best insight into how to process your emotions..
  • Tame difficult schedules.
    • Enlist help on tasks such as grading papers and decorating your classroom. 
    • Set a limit to work hours and budget how much time you’ll spend working each day. Hint: each day may have a different number of hours allotted.
    • Determine your highest priorities and when you will accomplish them (before, during, or after school). 
    • Inventory all your daily tasks for a week, then determine if you can eliminate or combine tasks, steps, or processes.
    • Do not check social media during school hours.
    • Watch videos about time management.
  • Calm the classroom.
    • Encourage rule-following by establishing rules with the students that are simple, easy to remember, and worded positively. 
    • Establish clear consequences of varying degrees to correlate with your rules. Don’t engage in power struggles. Simply give students choices and enforce the consequences of those choices.
    • Equip yourself with strategies that other teachers have successfully implemented. Look into professional learning resources that don’t take much time out of your day. Avanti allows you to watch short videos and then immediately implement the strategies.

Avoiding burnout is possible when you know the signs and take action. When you subscribe to Avanti, you get strategies that can help make teaching rewarding. With access to over 250 (plus more each month) on-demand, short videos with strategies created by teachers for teachers on relevant topics, Avanti can help renew your passion for teaching.

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