Teach100 Mentors: Teacher Burnout Causes, Effects, and Remedies
Experts are calling it a crisis. The United States is experiencing a national shortage in teachers, with eight percent of educators leaving the field each year. The cause? An exponential rise in teacher burnout.
Many describe teacher burnout as the feeling of having "hit a wall" as an educator. While no one has pinpointed an exact cause, there are many factors that are seen as contributors to the phenomenon. From a seemingly insurmountable workload to student behavioral issues and a lack of resources, teachers face a variety of issues that could potentially push them to burnout.
While turnover is inevitable in any profession, attrition in the field of education is four percent higher than any other field. Never before has the United States experienced such an extreme shortage of teaching professionals.
The phenomenon of teacher burnout, despite being relatively unheralded by the mass populace, is widely acknowledged by teachers with experience in the education system. We reached out to a few teachers from the Teach100 to ask about their own experiences with teacher burnout. Here's what they had to say:
In an effort to gauge what educators feel are the top contributors to teacher burnout, we asked survey participants to rate a series of potential burnout causes based on their personal experiences. The universally felt “top contributors” to burnout were intense workload, administrative issues, and student behavior. The full teacher ratings can be seen below:
What do you think are the top contributors to teacher burnout, ranked from 1-10 (1 being the highest contributor, 10 being the lowest)?
Other causes of burnout, as submitted by survey-takers, included: lack of training/professional development for new initiatives, lack of training for using technology, and a lack of respect for educators.
100% of Teach100 Mentor survey participants said that they had either experienced burnout themselves or witnessed a colleague struggling with burnout.
How do you recognize the effects of burnout on educators?
“I see burnout when a colleague calls in sick repeatedly, especially Mondays and Fridays. Other signs include losing patience with students, being unprepared for lessons, negative attitude, exhaustion, feeling behind, complaining about students, parents, or administrators. There are lots of signs of burnout, and all of us have shown some of those symptoms at some point.” –Jen Roberts, Lit and Tech
“When you refer to your place of employment as "going to work" rather than "I'm going to school." "School" should be a place of fun, learning, and collaboration. "Work" is a place you have to be every day.” –Jeffrey Bradbury, TeacherCast
“A formerly passionate person losing energy and steam. Not just for a single day, or week, but continuously over time.” –Mike Karlin, The Ed Tech Roundup
“Attendance at work dropped. Enthusiasm while at work dropped and attention to details and work decreased.” –Todd Bloch, Sweat to Inspire
“Constant fatigue; irritability; insomnia; lack of focus; a general feeling of helplessness.” –Kelly Christopherson, Educational Discourse
“I knew I had better slow down and reassess my schedule when I felt generalized fatigue and exhaustion.” –Melanie Taylor, MzTeachuh
Although teacher burnout in America has reached new heights, there are ways to help reduce the number of educators that burnout and, ultimately, leave the profession. We asked educators about ways that school administrations, parents of students, and teachers themselves can help minimize the burnout in schools.
75% of survey participants rated teacher burnout as a moderate to extreme issue within their school.
How can parents of students help teachers succeed?
“Take a deep breath before sending that "important" email to the teacher at 11pm.” –Jeffrey Bradbury, TeacherCast
“Collaborate with teachers.” –Guy Trainin, Guy's Edu Blog
“Trust that teachers know what they're doing and that they are there to serve in your child's best interests.” –Mike Karlin, The Ed Tech Roundup
“Teach children to respect themselves and others.” –Jen Roberts, Lit and Tech
How can teachers help themselves succeed?
“Say "no" to nonessential requests; develop a lifestyle that focuses on thriving in all areas of life; begin to meditate and practice mindfulness, (–Kelly Christopherson, Educational Discourse), and “Recognize we are not superheroes.” (–Melanie Taylor, MzTeachuh).
“Self care matters! It's hard, but it needs to be part of your regular routine.” –Mike Karlin, The Ed Tech Roundup
“Focus on work/life balance.” –Paul Murray, Paul-Murray.org
“Find a positive community, ” (–Guy Trainin, Guy's Edu Blog), “Find time to engage with other teachers both in and out of the school district,” (–Jeffrey Bradbury, TeacherCast), and “Find mentors and make time for yourself” (–Todd Bloch, Sweat to Inspire).
“Stay organized, prioritize, and remember to rest.” –Jen Roberts, Lit and Tech
How can school administrations help teachers succeed?
“Insist struggling teachers get support. Then provide it.” –Jen Roberts, Lit and Tech
“Stop "leading" and start supporting.” –Paul Murray, Paul-Murray.org
So are there any way to stop burnout before it starts? One of the most surefire ways is to assess whether or not you are truly suited to the field of education before you become a teacher. “I think there are people who become teachers without realizing that the job is really not a good fit for them,” says Jen Roberts of Lit and Tech. “Education programs need to be more selective and assertive about screening candidates and counseling those too meek for teaching to consider other options.”
But even the most committed teachers will find that coping with burnout is a process that is different for everyone. The most important things you can do to help yourself are to meet the feelings head-on, discover and put into practice stress relief techniques that work for you, and know that you are not alone in feeling burned out.
For more resources on burnout, check out:
- Working Together on Self-Care: School Counselors and Teachers
- I'm Burned Out On Teaching. Now What?
- 3 Ways for Veteran Teachers to Prevent Burnout
- Getting Involved with a Digital PLN
- 5 Tips for Handling Rookie Year Stress
Lastly, a big thanks to the featured Teach100 Mentors this month:
Guy Trainin, Guy's Edu Blog
Jeffrey Bradbury, TeacherCast
Jen Roberts, Lit and Tech
Melanie Taylor, MzTeachuh
Todd Bloch, Sweat to Inspire
Kelly Christopherson, Educational Discourse