In many Southeast Asian classrooms, there is a high student-to-teacher ratio, making it difficult for teachers to prepare for classes. When teachers are overloaded with work, preparing engaging activities for their students becomes challenging. This growing stress is the main reason many teachers are considering leaving the profession. In this article, we will explain the meaning of teacher burnout, its underlying causes, its consequences, and how to overcome it.
What is teacher burnout?
Teacher burnout refers to a prolonged state of psychological, emotional, and physical fatigue due to work. This phenomenon occurs when teachers lose their drive and enthusiasm in performing their daily tasks, particularly tasks such as lesson preparation, managing, and evaluating students.
Burnout manifests through a variety of symptoms, both psychological and physical. Psychological symptoms include feelings of depression, helplessness, discontentment, and distress. Additionally, a lack of interest and motivation in one’s job and a decline in concentration and creativity in job-related tasks are common symptoms of burnout.
Physical symptoms may include chronic fatigue, disrupted sleeping patterns, digestive issues, and body aches. These physical symptoms can lead to health concerns and negatively impact teachers’ daily lives.
Burnout reduces a teacher’s overall quality of life and job satisfaction. It reduces work productivity and can also impact interactions with students. Therefore, it is imperative to establish teacher support programs and policies at the national and school levels to enable early detection and prevention.
Interesting statistics on teacher burnout
In a 2022 Gallup poll on occupational burnout, 44% of K-12 teachers in the United States reported frequent or constant feelings of fatigue. Additionally, according to a survey by the EdWeek Research Center in July 2021, around 60% of teachers admitted to experiencing job-related stress. 41% of respondents indicated that their job performance decreases as a consequence of this stress. An additional poll conducted by the National Education Association found that 55% of the teachers expressed intentions to depart from their teaching roles earlier than originally planned. In other words, these statistics show that many teachers are experiencing job-related stress, which may cause them to leave the field of education.
Symptoms of teacher burnout
Teachers might not recognize when they are at risk of burnout. However, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is crucial to take action to overcome them as soon as possible.
- Constant fatigue
Heavy workload and emotional stress can result in fatigue. Teachers, especially those managing many students, may experience constant fatigue.
Teachers might question or self-criticize the effectiveness of their teaching methods. This self-reflection is a process of growth and a key to skill development. However, some teachers may begin to doubt their abilities and blame themselves as a form of self-abuse.
- Loss of inspiration
Most new teachers start their careers motivated and driven by a desire to make a difference. They believe in their abilities and embrace the role of teacher with motivation. However, as burnout sets, rather than eagerly anticipating meeting new students, teachers feel fearful about potential challenges. Instead of being enthusiastic to play a guiding role during a crucial phase in students’ lives, they treat them with a detached and nervous attitude.
Some teachers become so overwhelmed with their work that they decide to leave the classroom. Or, they develop a disinterest in engaging with the teacher community established within their school and isolate themselves. It is likely an early sign of burnout if a teacher around you is less enthusiastic or reluctant to collaborate and interact with their colleagues.
Teacher burnout: causes and consequences
Education is a core element of society. Teachers occupy a central role, performing multiple roles daily, sometimes at the expense of their well-being. This phenomenon is referred to as “Burnout,” and it manifests as signs of psychological, emotional, and physical fatigue. Below, we look at the primary factors that contribute to teacher burnout.
Teachers take on various responsibilities, from preparing lessons and grading exams to counseling students and meeting with their guardians. Having this many responsibilities can cause excessive stress and pressure, potentially leading to burnout. The demand for remote lectures has rapidly expanded since the pandemic. Teachers have additional tasks of sending emails to many parents and assisting students who encounter difficulties using online learning platforms. As a result, teachers lost their work-life balance and experienced situations where they had to work day and night.
Another source of stress is having complex and challenging relationships with students, peers, administrators, or guardians. In particular, it can be emotionally exhausting to deal with students with behavioral issues or guardians who have difficulty communicating.
Lack of resources and support
Teachers may experience anxiety and job dissatisfaction if they lack the necessary resources and support. This situation leads them to invest extra energy and time to perform routine tasks.
For example, administrators may require that educators teach subjects beyond their expertise or assign them to students with learning and behavioral difficulties. These scenarios not only disturb students’ learning progress but can also result in teachers feeling unfulfilled and cause physical and mental burnout.
Balancing family responsibilities and low wages is a reality for many teachers. Financial pressures can increase stress levels, which can quickly result in burnout.
Burnout can also result from personal factors, such as teachers’ personality traits, values, and expectations. For example, teachers with perfectionist tendencies may be overly hard on themselves, leading to increased stress and triggering burnout.
It is crucial to note that these causes interplay with one another and collectively cause teacher burnout.
When a kindergarten or elementary school teacher experiences burnout, the impact is not only on the individual teacher but also on the students and their learning environment.
Teachers with burnout exhibit various physical and emotional symptoms, including fatigue, lack of energy, and anxiety. This condition negatively impacts their everyday lives and their capacity to carry out their job. In particular, for elementary and kindergarten teachers who need to communicate with students creatively, burnout can impact their abilities, leading to lower teaching quality.
Additionally, teachers experiencing burnout lack the energy to prepare and conduct classes. As a result, students may not acquire sufficient knowledge and skills, potentially leading to poor academic performance. Burnout can make it challenging to maintain a positive mood. This situation deteriorates the learning environment, impacting students’ ethical growth and social skills.
Therefore, early prevention and treatment are crucial. Initiatives should start with individual teachers learning and practicing stress management techniques. Also, administrators and the government must establish and operate various systems, such as teacher support programs. Below, we will discuss how to overcome teacher burnout.
Overcoming teacher burnout
Stress is one of the main factors contributing to teacher burnout. Learning and implementing effective stress management techniques is imperative. Research has shown that a simple deep breath can help reduce stress. Another way to effectively relieve stress is to engage in regular physical activities. Dedicating at least 30 minutes to moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise several times a week can be very beneficial. Mind-body harmony activities such as yoga and meditation help focus and relax the mind. Consider trying a brief meditation session or a yoga class.
Teacher stress is often attributed to differences in personality traits or individual values. In cases where this problem persists, you should consider consulting a psychologist or mental health specialist. It is essential to regularly assess your values and expectations about your job and make adjustments as needed. As it is emphasized in psychology, having a positive mindset helps reduce stress and improve resilience.
Finding a balance between work and personal life is crucial. You should be mindful of your physical well-being, which includes maintaining a healthy diet and obtaining enough rest.
To achieve a work-life balance, establish distinct boundaries between work hours at school and personal time at home. Whenever possible, keep school-related tasks at school and reserve your time at home for personal matters. Developing efficient time management skills is vital, and using tools such as to-do lists or calendar apps can help achieve a work-life balance.
It is crucial to remember that you do not have to accept every request or obligation. Recognize your limits and be able to say “no” when necessary.
Building a community
You must create a personal refuge by finding a hobby or activity that brings you joy outside work. Is there a space where you can relax? The answer is surprisingly close. You can share your concerns by forming a community with fellow teachers experiencing the same challenges. Maintaining positive relationships and engaging with fellow teachers can significantly reduce stress.
Consider joining a group where you can share issues and provide mutual support. Alternatively, you can participate in a mentoring program where you can benefit from more experienced senior teachers or expert guidance. Sharing information and experiences with other teachers through educator communities, websites, and social media groups can also be helpful.
These methods can be beneficial in preventing teacher burnout. However, it is imperative to understand that they may not solve all problems. It is also crucial to seek professional help if necessary.
Conclusion: Teacher burnout is a serious social issue, highlighting the importance of teachers and the government to address it.
Teacher burnout is a serious phenomenon that impacts not just the individual teacher but also the school community and society at large. It can reduce the quality of education and affect students’ learning experience. Therefore, addressing teacher burnout is an important task we all must work on together.
On a personal level, teachers must focus on their well-being and learn stress management techniques. However, this alone is not enough. Both schools and the government must actively provide support.
School administrators must find ways to reduce teachers’ workload and foster an environment that prioritizes care and support. Also, the government and associated organizations must offer assistance in various ways, such as creating a positive work environment and guaranteeing stable employment.
Lastly, for these initiatives to be successful, society at large must acknowledge and comprehend the problem of teacher burnout. By acting whenever possible, we can create a healthy educational ecosystem in which all community members participate.
In conclusion, teacher burnout is not a problem related to teachers only; it is a serious challenge that society at large must address. It is time for all of us to seriously address this issue, as it impacts our children’s education and, by extension, the future of our nation.