- Elena Aguilar, a coach, author and consultant, defines teacher burnout as physical and emotional exhaustion brought on by unrelenting stress.
- She writes for Edutopia that teachers need to learn to recognize early signs of burnout and incorporate strategies to protect themselves physically and emotionally if they are to remain effective in the classroom because rates of depression and anxiety are higher than average for teachers.
- If teacher burnout is a common problem within a school or school district, this is a symptom of a dysfunctional system that has issues that need to be addressed in order to cultivate and environment in which teachers can thrive.
Sometimes it is tempting for school administrators to dismiss signs or burnout in teachers as “personal problems,” “personality conflicts,” or “a highly-strung individual.” However, teachers are on the battlefront day after day in an environment where they are pressured by demanding students, teachers and administrators. It is easy to see why so many teachers are under stress. Some studies show that 25% of teachers are diagnosed with depression. If these issue are not addressed, some teachers turn to self-medication such as alcohol, drugs or tobacco to deal with the symptoms, while others leave the profession altogether. None of these scenarios benefit students or the school district.
However, some teachers see asking for help with these issues as a sign of weakness. Administrators and school leaders need to cultivate an understanding and supportive environment where teachers feel safe about discussing the issues they are facing. Along with professional development designed to improve classroom performance, school leaders need to teach teachers how to build emotional resilience, spot warning signs of burnout in themselves and their colleagues, and incorporate strategies to prevent and mitigate these issues.
This article also gives several strategies school administrators can us to help prevent burnout including giving teachers positive feedback regularly and helping teachers see their impact and efficacy. Teachers need to be reminded of their importance and the role they play in shaping young lives. Teachers also need to be given a sense of control. In a report published by ERIC entitled “Understanding and Preventing Teacher Burnout,” the authors note that “organizational practices that prevent teacher burnout are generally those that allow teachers some control over their daily challenges.”