Since the last few months, more and more stories have been coming up about teachers quitting their jobs. However, in reality, this is not a new phenomenon.
The exit of teachers from schools started specifically after the COVID-19 pandemic across the country. Reportedly, 300,000 or so educators quit their posts in public schools within the February 2020-May 2022 period. There has been a spike in these cases this year.
But why is this happening, you may ask?
Increased pressure on teachers with regulations/conduct/duties, lack of proper work-life balance, and frequent work-related stress are some examples. Different factors contribute to poor teacher well-being. We will discuss that here, along with tips to combat them.
Meaning Of Teacher’s Burnout
According to Psychology Today, when a person is chronically stressed, they typically experience three things:
- A detached or cynical mindset
- Continued emotional and physical exhaustion
- Not feeling accomplished or useful
The term “burnout” refers to such a state of mental health. Teachers, with their many duties, are susceptible to this a lot. This is because they face complicated challenges in their teaching career, like strict deadlines, increased administrative tasks, etc. Moreover, these working adults must constantly keep up with changing curricula, teaching practices, and education policies.
Many teachers also experience more stress while enforcing discipline among students. At the same time, they have to keep up with the expectations of exhausted parents in terms of caring for their children. All of these factors badly impact the mental health of teachers over time.
Factors Causing Stress For Teachers
Indeed, different types of stressful situations negatively affect teachers’ health and well-being. They feel overwhelmed and might even experience physical health effects like frequent illnesses without proper care.
But before discussing how to prevent burnout, knowing the possible causes is useful. Here are some examples.
An issue with the availability of resources
Some teachers do not have enough resources to teach their students properly. On the other hand, teachers might have a lot of curricula to teach. Both situations can cause immense exhaustion for them.
No time for relaxing
Again, the increased pressure of finishing the entire curriculum within a short deadline leaves no space for personal time. Many educators have trouble managing their duties in their professional lives with home life. Planning simple time management strategies can help here.
State and district-centric education policies
The education systems in different states include varying government mandates for teachers and administrators. It is compulsory for all to follow these mandates related to curriculum, testing policies, etc. But keeping up with them can become tiring and negatively impact teacher’s well-being.
Teachers today have many responsibilities and tasks, including other administrative requirements. Teaching, grading papers, volunteering for training programs, etc., add to their overall work pressure.
One thing many of us forget that can negatively affect teachers and cause burnout is compassion fatigue.
This happens to teachers when they connect very emotionally to their students while offering support to them. So, when their students confide in them about their anxiety or traumatic experiences, it has an emotional toll on them. Therefore, this can be considered another cause of burnout.
Common Signs Of Teacher Burnout
The signs of teacher stress become visible when you look carefully at their private and professional life, physical health, and more. Here are the typical signs that indicate bad mental health and burnout among teachers.
- Bad sleeping habits, like being unable to sleep on time.
- Reduced job performance due to being unable to focus or lacking motivation.
- Feeling exhausted all the time, even during breaks.
- They are unable to manage their emotions well, like suddenly feeling irritable or hopeless.
- Increased feelings of depression or anxiety.
- Feeling withdrawn and antisocial.
- Physical symptoms, like increased heart rate, stomach aches, headaches, etc.
Tips For Teachers To Manage Stress And Burnout
After knowing the causes and effects of stress on teachers, let’s discuss practical strategies to combat that.
Do deep breathing exercises
Meditation and breathing exercises have a noticeably calming effect on people. So, that is one method you can cry out when the stress becomes too much to handle.
According to Maria Noll-Maves, a meditation teacher and corporate well-being coach at Take5, the reason is simple. “Typically, adults at rest breathe at a rate of 12 to 20 cycles per minute. This technique of slowing down the breath has been proven to soothe the nervous system, increase heart rate variability, and is a validated method for managing anxiety and stress.”
Build a community for yourself
Having adequate social support can greatly help one deal with work stress. So, when you build a good community around you, you will feel better. It also helps reduce cynical feelings and gives you a creative outlet.
If you have specific hobbies or interests, you can join a club that focuses on that. For example, join a cooking class if you enjoy food. You can build connections with other students and develop a new skill.
Besides creating a diverse group of friends outside your professional circle, reconnect with existing friends and family members too.
Create a balanced schedule
You need to set boundaries in your teaching career to avoid overextending yourself. “Make time for your personal practice,” says Adrienne Smith, podcast host, yoga teacher, and trainer at FamilyFlow Yoga. Do not do extra duties than what you can handle and take rest occasionally.
You can take up yoga as well to relax yourself properly. “Often, teachers abandon their practice by taking on too many classes that interfere with their own time on the mat. The more you embrace your practice, the less likely burnout will occur.”
Set specific relaxing activities in your daily routine
It is important to give yourself some respite after grueling days at work. So, set some time in your daily routine when you will entirely prioritize self-care. For example, if you love stories, you can read a book for an hour or so each day. Similarly, you can switch on music or listen to a podcast you like while doing daily activities.
Develop healthy habits
Living a healthy lifestyle can help people simultaneously improve their physical and mental health. So, in terms of stress relief, adopting healthy habits does help with stress relief.
Join a gym or do exercises at home. If you are not used to an active lifestyle, you can start easy, like going for walks 2-3 times a week.
What Can You Do To Help With Teachers’ Well-Being?
Of course, expecting people to manage their poor well-being easily on their own is unrealistic. Support and consideration from those around them can also significantly reduce stress for teachers. So, if you are worried about the mental health of a teacher close to you, take steps to help them.
- Follow your educators’ instructions diligently.
- Maintain proper courtesy when in the classroom and outside.
- If the teachers set specific deadlines, make sure to finish work within it.
- Keep your desk area clean, placing all items in books in the right places.
- Talk to your teachers openly when you are having trouble with anything; this helps develop positive relationships.
- See that they are following adequate self-care steps, like taking breaks when feeling a lot of stress.
- Encourage them to share their grievances with you so they have at least one outlet.
- Ask them to exercise, eat a healthy diet, or even go for walks so that they maintain good physical health.
- Guide the teacher to change their self-talk, like reminding themselves that the stressful time will pass soon.
- Ask the educators to plan, organize, and follow a structured routine with many activities in their classrooms.
- Encourage the teachers to practice quick deep breathing exercises with the students.
- Monitor their sleep habits; see that they get enough sleep of 8 hours daily.
For administrators or colleagues:
- Give day-offs to teachers so they can focus on their mental health and self-care.
- Allow teachers to take a free period or so to recharge themselves.
- Organize fun activities or events for teachers to participate in, like mindful meditation classes.
- Award their accomplishments in the academic year to provide adequate job satisfaction.
- Do not give more responsibilities to the teachers than they can handle.
- Create an environment for teachers to freely communicate about their grievances, new classroom management techniques they want to introduce, etc.
For students’ parents:
- Please do not blame the teachers when they complain about your kid’s behavior; understand that they are mainly giving constructive feedback.
- Listen to the teachers with an open mind when they bring up issues with your ward or their behavior.
- Know that you and the teacher are essentially raising your child as partners. So, discuss your clear expectations with them.
- Set some basic-level rules for your kid to follow at home, too, so they learn discipline.
Indeed, different stressors can have negative effects on teachers, both inside the classroom and out. However, when you know the causes, you can accurately make the right plans to manage stress.
Steps include adjusting your personal life or setting limits in your work life more seriously. Also, you should build supportive relationships around you to improve your overall well-being.
Altogether, kindness from others and making some personal changes can help you reduce stress and avoid total burnout.