We should all be proud of our teachers. Yet according to the 2022 Teacher Wellbeing Index, conducted by the charity Education Support, 78% of UK school teachers suffered mental health symptoms as a result of their work in the previous academic year. And according to the same survey, 59% of teachers pondered leaving their jobs. Staggering numbers. For this research article we dive into the nuance and complexities of the topic, while shining a light on some of the solutions available for us all to collectively tackle these startling numbers.
Table of Contents
- Understanding Teacher Burnout
- Causes of Teacher Burnout
- Signs and Symptoms of Teacher Burnout
- The wider Impact of Poor Teacher Mental Health
- Strategies for Preventing Teacher Burnout
- Overcoming Teacher Burnout: Self-Care and Support
- The Importance of Work-Life Balance for Educators
- Building Resilience: Coping Mechanisms for Teachers
- Supporting Teachers in Schools and Institutions
- The Role of Administration in Preventing Burnout
- Educating Students about Teacher Burnout
- The Benefits of Seeking Professional Help
- The Importance of Peer Support for Teachers
- Cultivating a Positive School Culture
1. Understanding Teacher Burnout
Whilst we set the scene with the 2022 Teacher Wellbeing Index data points above, there are (sadly) many more data points available. Teacher burnout is a growing concern in the UK, with many teachers not just thinking of leaving the profession due to the pressures and stresses of the job, but acting out on it.
Burnout by definition is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress and overwork. And all too regularly many teachers observe the symptoms of burnout such as emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and reduced accomplishment.
Here are some key UK statistics:
- According to a Teacher Tapp poll, workload is one of the leading causes of teacher burnout in the UK.
- A collaborative study conducted by York St John University and the University of York found that burnout increases the likelihood of teachers leaving the profession, with some estimates indicating that more than a third of new teachers leave the field within five years.
- According to a poll of over 12,000 teachers, 65% of respondents reported indicators of burnout in their occupations, and 85% were assessed as working “unsustainably,” with dramatically elevated health risks as a result.
- Whilst we couldn’t find the exact number for the UK profession, teacher attrition due to burnout is about 8% per year in the US.
Mental and Physical health
According to key results from studies on the subject, teacher burnout has substantial repercussions for both mental and physical health. The impact on physical health is one prominent outcome, with burnout being connected with an increased prevalence of somatic problems among instructors. Headaches, bodily diseases, and voice abnormalities are among the complaints. Burnout has effects that go beyond simple complaints though, as it can have a negative impact on teachers’ physical health on a deeper level. Burnout has been linked to altered heart function and hormone responses in studies, emphasising the necessity of addressing and preventing burnout in the teaching profession.
Furthermore, burnout expresses itself through a variety of symptoms, including both mental and physical tiredness. Teachers who are burnt out may exhibit indicators of emotional tiredness such as irritation, impatience, mood changes, and reduced concentration. In addition to these emotional signs, physical tiredness is common, resulting in persistent fatigue and insomnia. The toll of burnout is not confined to psychological and emotional impacts; instructors may also endure physical problems. These can include increased sickness, palpitations, stomach pain, migraines, and dizziness. These findings illustrate the multidimensional character of burnout and emphasise the significance of addressing its emotional and physical dimensions in order to protect teachers’ well-being.
2. Causes of Teacher Burnout
If there was one singular, treatable cause of teacher burnout no doubt this problem could be quickly solved. But it is a complex challenge, heightened by the recent Covid-19 pandemic, and not something that can be quickly solved.
A few key themes need to be considered when looking at the causes of burnout in teachers. Overwork looks to be the main culprit of burnout among teachers in the UK. Teachers often feel there is too much to do and not enough time to do it, and when you factor in the teacher shortage, their outlook and hope can be further depleted. Teachers also bear the brunt of the inexorable rise of administrative work which can eat into actual teaching time too.
Teachers often sense of a lack of support in some quarters, whether that be a feeling of being unsupported by their colleagues, school leadership, or the education system as a whole, all of which can contribute to feelings of burnout.
Finally, there’s the sheer emotional exhaustion caused by such a demanding role. Teachers can experience emotional exhaustion due to ongoing demands like dealing with difficult students, parents, and colleagues.
3. Signs and Symptoms of Teacher Burnout
What to look out for though? Symptoms of burnout or exhaustion can vary. But to establish a baseline there are five key signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Negative mood
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Reduced job satisfaction
- Reduced accomplishment
To determine the links to burnout, we sought to understand the ‘why’ behind each of them. Teachers may be in a foul mood as a result of their job, which can manifest itself as impatience, dissatisfaction, or a loss of enthusiasm for teaching.
What else? Teachers may be unsatisfied with their work and feel less devoted to their role, contributing to a lack of engagement and productivity. They may just feel physically and emotionally exhausted. This will lead to fatigue, insomnia, and a loss of enthusiasm.
We know that teachers care, so this one may hit hardest. Detachment from students and co-workers can result in feelings of cynicism and a lack of empathy. All of this contributes to teachers feeling ineffective or devalued in the lives of their pupils, which in turn can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
4. The wider Impact of Poor Teacher Mental Health
Teacher burnout has a huge impact not just on individual educators but also on the entire educational system. Burnout can result in higher turnover, absenteeism, and poor teaching quality. It can also have a detrimental impact on student outcomes since burned-out teachers may find it difficult to provide the required support and involvement in the classroom.
Here are some examples of how teacher burnout can harm the educational system:
- Increased turnover rates: Burnout is associated with lower levels of job satisfaction and worse physical and mental health, which can lead to increased turnover rates among teachers. This can create a shortage of experienced teachers and a lack of continuity in the classroom.
- Reduced teaching quality: Burned-out teachers may fail to give the required support and involvement in the classroom, resulting in reduced teaching quality and student results. Burnout can also reduce creativity and originality in teaching methods.
- Increased absenteeism: Burnout can lead to increased absenteeism among teachers, which can disrupt the learning environment and create additional stress for colleagues who are left behind. Teacher absenteeism can also negatively impact student outcomes.
- Strained relationships: Burnout can strain relationships among teachers, students, and families, which in turn can create a poor school culture and negatively impact student outcomes. Burnout can also lead to decreased collaboration and teamwork among teachers.
5. Strategies to Prevent Teacher Burnout
Teacher burnout is becoming a bigger problem in the United Kingdom, with many teachers leaving the profession due to job pressures and difficulties. Here are some methods for avoiding teacher burnout:
Creating clear lines between professional and personal life helps to prevent burnout. It’s important to set work hours limitations, for example not checking emails after a certain period, or prioritising personal time for rest and renewal.
Maintaining physical and emotional well-being while avoiding burnout requires self-care. Teachers, whilst knowing this is hard, need to make time for pastimes that bring them joy and relaxation. Principals and Head Teachers also need to work to develop a sense of community and support among employees to help prevent burnout. Collaborating on projects, sharing ideas and resources, and seeking advice and input from peers all helps to strengthen a professional network.
Teachers wanting to stay engaged and inspired in their work should also make professional development a top priority. Ideas include personal development and improvement goals such as attending conferences, enrolling in courses, and experimenting with different teaching methods and strategies.
Making daily work more fascinating and engaging helps to avoid burnout. For example, incorporating new technologies into classroom lessons, trying out alternative instructional methods, and coming up with inventive ways to actively engage and fascinate pupils.
To keep focused and prevent feeling overwhelmed, teachers could reflect on their work on a frequent basis and prioritise activities. This means preserving a sense of control and achievement in work, reviewing progress, setting realistic goals, and breaking projects down into manageable pieces.
6. Overcoming Teacher Burnout: Self-Care and Support
Teachers who are already experiencing burnout must prioritise self-care and seek help. Exercise, mindfulness, and hobbies that promote physical and mental well-being can help restore energy and enthusiasm. Seeking help from friends, family, or professional counsellors can provide helpful advice and a listening ear.
7. The Importance of Work-Life Balance for Educators
A healthy work-life balance is essential for avoiding and overcoming burnout. Personal time, interests, and connections outside of work should be prioritised by teachers to promote a well-rounded and rewarding existence. Setting limits and learning to delegate chores can also assist in creating a more manageable burden.
8. Building Resilience: Coping Mechanisms for Teachers
Developing resilience is key to combating teacher burnout. Resilient teachers can bounce back from challenges and setbacks more effectively. Strategies for building resilience include:
Cultivating a growth mindset
Seeking professional development opportunities
Fostering positive relationships with colleagues
9. Supporting Teachers in Schools and Institutions
Schools and educational institutions play a vital role in supporting teachers and preventing burnout. They can implement initiatives such as mentorship programs, wellness programs, and regular check-ins with teachers. Providing opportunities for collaboration, recognition, and professional growth can also contribute to a more supportive and engaging work environment.
10. The Role of Administration in Preventing Burnout
Administrators have a crucial responsibility in preventing teacher burnout. They can prioritise teacher well-being by addressing workload issues through fair and flexible scheduling, advocating for adequate resources, and fostering a positive school culture. Administrators should also encourage open communication, provide opportunities for feedback, and recognise and reward the efforts of teachers.
11. Educating Students about Teacher Burnout
Educating kids about teacher stress can help promote empathy and understanding. Schools may establish a more supportive environment by teaching children about the problems instructors encounter as well as the significance of respect and cooperation. This can lead to better student-teacher interactions and a more favourable classroom dynamic.
12. The Benefits of Seeking Professional Help
When the symptoms of burnout become severe, it’s necessary to seek expert help. Mental health specialists can offer advice, support, and coping skills that are suited to each individual’s requirements. Therapy or counselling sessions can help instructors process their emotions, manage stress, and build effective techniques to overcome burnout.
13. The Importance of Peer Support for Teachers
Peer support is invaluable in combating burnout. Establishing connections with colleagues allows for the sharing of experiences, advice, and resources. Teachers can use peer support groups or networks to express their frustrations, obtain advice, and be encouraged. Collaboration and solidarity among instructors can aid in the alleviation of feelings of isolation and build a sense of belonging.
14. Cultivating a Positive School Culture
Creating a healthy school culture is essential for minimising burnout and promoting teacher well-being. A positive school culture fosters a friendly, respectful, and inclusive atmosphere for both teachers and students. Encouraging teamwork, recognising accomplishments, and honouring the contributions of all stakeholders may all contribute to a happy and thriving school community. Here are some ways to cultivate a positive school culture:
- Establish high expectations: Teachers and school leaders should set high expectations for students and model the behaviour they want to see in the classroom. This includes using respectful language and teaching social skills. Teachers should also encourage students to participate in class and recognise their achievements.
- Analyse the current culture: School leaders should analyse and understand the current culture of the school. This means observing the attitudes of teachers and students and identifying areas for improvement. School leaders should also seek feedback from teachers and students to better understand their needs and concerns.
- Foster strong relationships: A positive school culture includes strong relationships among staff, students, and families. Leaders at schools should make an effort to interact with each member of the school community in order to develop a feeling of community and inclusivity. This can include organising events and activities that bring people closer as well as offering chances to engage in collaboration and teamwork.
- Provide support and resources: Teachers and staff should have access to support and resources to promote their well-being and job satisfaction. This includes professional development opportunities focused on cultural competence and awareness. School leaders should also provide resources for mental health and well-being, such as counselling services and stress-reduction programs.
- Encourage self-reflection: Teachers should consider their professional strengths and areas for development in social-emotional learning. This can assist them in developing tactics for promoting positive behaviour in the classroom. Teachers can also teach students to consider their own behaviour and how it affects others.
Teacher burnout is becoming more and more of a pressing issue with significant consequences for educators and the education system. It needs to be addressed. Strategies to avoid teacher burnout include setting boundaries, prioritising self-care, fostering support networks, and investing in professional development. Schools should address workload issues and ensure emotional support is available for early career teachers. This will help to prevent the teacher shortage from worsening further. They should also promote a positive culture to combat low self-confidence, and provide resources for mental well-being.
Schools should invest in classroom management skills too. Seeking professional help and peer support are crucial for overcoming burnout. Creating a positive school culture requires high expectations, strong relationships, support systems, and self-reflection. In short, it’s essential for all stakeholders to recognise and address teacher burnout to ensure a thriving educational environment. That benefits both staff and students.
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- 7 Conclusions from the World’s Largest Teacher Burnout Survey
- Teacher burnout causing exodus from the profession, study finds …
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