Teacher burnout: What is it and what consequences does it have on students?

Stress and unmotivated teachers are becoming a common issue among faculty. Low self-esteem, work overload, emotional exhaustion and difficulties in dealing with disruptive, uninterested, rebellious students, etc. Discharges from anxiety and stress have increased among teachers. What is teacher burnout? Does it have consequences? Keep reading to find out. 

Different studies established that 6 out of 10 teachers are burned out.
Different studies established that 6 out of 10 teachers are burned out. 

What is Teacher Burnout?

Being a teacher can be incredibly stressful, tiring and emotionally draining which can lead to burnout or teacher burnout.

A teacher’s role has changed drastically throughout the years. Currently, some of them face delicate situations such as lack of resources, loss of authority, conflicting students, etc. All these factors can make the teacher feel overwhelmed and disoriented. Even if the teacher starts off their career motivated and excited, it’s likely that in a few years he/she may become frustrated and unsettled.

The fact that teachers can suffer from burnout syndrome can give children a vision of a hectic, complicated and difficult world, which is not the reality most parents want their kids to learn.

Teacher Burnout Symptoms

  • The teacher has feelings of low personal fulfillment. This is characterized by a feeling of failure at the workplace and in their personal life. Their work relationships are inefficient, most of the time having the impression of not being able to control any situation let alone the students. This tends to develop into helplessness, defeat and anxiety symptoms.
  • Teacher burnout implies emotional exhaustion. It’s usually followed by sadness and feelings of defeat. It’s common for these emotions to have physiological outlets, presented by insomnia, headaches and upset stomach.
  • Symptoms of Depersonalisation. Feeling useless and incapable of getting through the day, the teacher tends to draw away from routine.   Becomes distant with coworkers and students and can’t do much about it or doesn’t realize this is happening. This can lead to missing many days from school and even depression.

Do you imagine going through this every day? Clearly, all your relationships would change drastically.

Christina Maslach has done great work regarding teacher burnout and even developed a test called the Maslach Burnout Inventory.  Some of the burnout indicators that she proposed are the following. Ask yourself whether you experience them Not at all, Rarely, Sometimes, Often, or Very often:

  1. Do you feel run down and drained of physical or emotional energy?
  2. Do you find that you are prone to negative thinking about your job?
  3. Do you find that you are harder and less sympathetic with people than perhaps they deserve?
  4. Do you find yourself getting easily irritated by small problems, or by your coworkers and team?
  5. Do you feel misunderstood or unappreciated by your co-workers?
  6. Do you feel that you have no one to talk to?
  7. Do you feel under an unpleasant level of pressure to succeed?
  8. Do you feel that you are not getting what you want out of your job?
  9. Do you feel that you are in the wrong organization or the wrong profession?
  10. Are you becoming frustrated with parts of your job?
  11. Do you feel that organizational politics or bureaucracy frustrate your ability to do a good job?

How does teacher burnout affect students?

Are our children really affected by this? When teachers suffer chronic stress and depression their attitude towards their students is poor and irritable. They are less sensitive to the children’s issues and become less involved in the learning process.

High levels of teacher burnout prevent the teacher from developing and maintaining a positive attitude towards the students and their specific needs. This can lead to children being less involved in the learning process and less motivated to study. Many difficulties like dyscalculia, dyslexia, emotional issues, autism symptoms, etc might be overseen, leading to a delay in therapy and cognitive training. Recent research has suggested that teacher stress can be contagious making the students and other teachers more anxious.

Scientists from the British Columbia University (UBC) analysed the presence of cortisol (stress hormone) in more than 400  primary students and 17 teachers. They found that in classrooms where the teacher reported being mentally and physically exhausted, the student had higher levels of cortisol than others. “This can suggest that stress is contagious between teacher and students”. There is no evidence to what happened first, if the cortisol levels or the physical and mental ailments of the teachers and students. However, what is concluded is that this is a cyclic problem within schools.

A burned out teacher has lost interest in teaching and education. These levels of exhaustion have made the teacher more flexible or rigid to certain conducts making them less coherent in their discipline. Children also tend to copy their teacher’s mood so if a teacher is depressed or angry the child might exhibit these behaviors at home.

Teacher burnout
Teacher burnout

Teacher burnout Solutions

What can we do from home? How can we help?

  • Help develop emotional intelligence. Language is our best ally and when speaking to our children we have to start off on a positive and affective note. It’s important they understand we are on their side and that we want to learn what is going on in their lives and what they think. Motivation is very important if our children understand that learning is important and can be fun they will not view it as a responsibility but rather as an interest.
  • Interactions with them have to be constant. We should be involved in our children’s lives and make it clear to them we will be there if they ever need anything. This contributes to their emotional development and improvement.

L. Jeon et al.  (The Ohio State University) .”Pathways From Teacher Depression and Child-Care Quality to Child Behavioral Problems”

This article is originally in Spanish written by Bélen Benito, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

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