As the demands placed on the shoulders of teachers grow heavier and more complicated, increasing numbers of teachers are finding it difficult to manage.
Teaching and the education system have evolved rapidly, mostly for the better, but certain aspects of teaching are leaving teachers stressed, drained, and with low morale. The global pandemic – and the increase of challenging student behavior post-lockdown – has added even more stress to an already demanding profession, leading to more and more teachers falling out of love with teaching. Burnout can be hard to recognize and harder to cure, but there are ways to keep it at bay.
It is all too easy to let your career overtake your life. We can become preoccupied with our desire for professional success and allow work to bleed over into our personal lives, affecting our mental health. But when it comes to teaching, a healthy work/life balance may be the only option.
Statistics show that teachers are even more likely to experience anxiety than healthcare workers. Anxiety can quickly turn into burnout, and burnout can turn into something more sinister.
Why is teacher burnout so common?
Teaching is a rewarding position. Teachers are given the privilege to shape the next generation. They come into contact with young people who have the potential to become great things. A passionate teacher can change lives. This work can be inspiring, fulfilling, and fun. Many teachers claim that they learn more from their students than their students learn from them.
This job is rewarding- and difficult. Shaping the next generation is a lot of pressure! Teachers often come to care deeply about their students, and seeing them experience hardship and difficulties can affect the mental health of the teacher, too. After all, teaching is a caring position, somewhat like healthcare or aged care. You are there for the highs and lows your students experience, and this can affect your mood, for better or for worse.
Additionally, the workload is fairly heavy. And it doesn’t seem to be getting any lighter. Teaching has changed enormously in the last 20 years, and it continues to change and evolve. Curriculums and standards change, the needs of students change, and the way you interact with them changes. A school from just a few generations ago would be unrecognizable to a modern teacher or student.
A pandemic, a teacher shortage, low funding and salaries, safety issues, and student mental health issues could all be cited as contributors to teacher burnout. There is not one culprit- there are many.
However, potential teachers pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Education should not be dismayed by the idea of teacher burnout. Burnout exists in every industry, and being prepared for it- and knowing how to deal with it- will make your job a lot easier.
What are the symptoms of teacher burnout?
Your symptoms will heavily depend on the level of burnout you’re experiencing, but generally, the symptoms can include:
- Hair loss
- Change in appetite and/or weight
- Increased feeling of anxiety
- Depression, helplessness, or dissatisfaction
- Sleep problems and chronic fatigue
- Cynicism and frustration
Being able to recognize burnout means that you can address it early. But how, exactly, do you address burnout and restore your work/life balance?
How to maintain a healthy work/life balance
Unless you’re an octopus who somehow managed to access the internet, you can’t do eight things at once. Multitasking is possible. It’s also the main ingredient in the recipe for burnout.
Burnout is difficult for everyone, particularly for new graduates. Being a new teacher is exciting and should be a time of celebration. You don’t want to immediately become disillusioned with your new career when it has just begun.
As with starting anything new, there will likely be a honeymoon period. You’ll be in love with your job, your students, your new life. You may work super hard because you’re so motivated and enthusiastic. When the novelty wears off, you find yourself drained and wondering if you made the right decision. This is a stage of burnout.
Various things can increase the chances of burnout and make it difficult to balance all areas of your life. Having children or other responsibilities makes it harder to give as much of yourself to work, and stressful times at work, such as exam time for your students, force you to give less of your attention and energy to your personal life.
The first step is to understand that there is no perfect balance. Different times at work (or in life) will require different levels of energy, and the time you dedicate to work and life can fluctuate. Moreover, trying to do it all perfectly may lead to disappointment and- you guessed it- burnout.
Additionally, make sure you carve out breaks. You can’t be the teacher your students need if you’re running on empty. Setting aside 20 minutes for a power nap, art project, walk with your dog, or whatever else makes you feel happy and relaxed will benefit everyone. Don’t be afraid to call in sick when you really need it. Forcing yourself to work when you’re run down won’t be good for you or your students.
Most importantly, set boundaries. You care about your students- but you need to care about yourself, too. There is nothing wrong with unplugging when you’re out of work hours. The choice to work and learn remotely has been beneficial in many ways, but it has also made it a little more difficult to separate work and home life. Setting boundaries at the beginning of your career will set the standard for the rest of your working years.
There is no nobility in working during your time off. Chances are, if your students have a question for you at 8 p.m., it isn’t a matter of life or death and can probably wait until the morning.