Updated January 27, 2017
According to Sherri Bourg Carter, Psy D., burnout can be caused by prolonged stress that can stem from working long hours, pressure to perform, heavy workload and lack of support from management or peers. The signs of teacher burnout can resemble the signs of stress, though burnout is typically a much more debilitating experience in comparison. While many teachers and caregivers experience stress or even prolonged stress, the signs of burnout are vastly different.
Signs of stress are similar to signs of burnout in many ways, but it may be said that burnout takes stress symptoms to the extreme. For individuals that have experienced burnout, they will often refer to it as “hopeless” and mention that they do not feel competent or capable at their profession.
Some outward signs of teacher burnout:
- Withdrawal: School-Age staff may stop attending meetings, participating in email exchanges, and spending time participating in extracurricular activities. They may also stop sharing ideas and brainstorming with their coworkers.
- Negativity: A caregiver who is dealing with burnout may stop finding the positive in things and simply focus on the negative. The conversations that may be had with these teachers may be comprised mostly of complaints and pessimism.
- Exhaustion: This refers to the kind of tired that is not thwarted by a cup of coffee or a quick break. Exhaustion refers to being extremely mentally and physically drained of energy that functioning at a normal level is near impossible
How School-Age Staff Help Curb Burnout
Professions that focus on helping other people typically show a more frequent rate of professional burnout, according to the Center for the Advancement of Mental Health Practices in Schools. Often teachers and caregivers will exert so much energy and effort into their profession that they become overwhelmed and stressed, but do not have the privilege of working through those periods in order to avoid complete burnout. So much pressure is put on educators to perform and excel that they often neglect their own well-being even in the face of a complete burnout.
Some suggestions to help curb burnout before it is too late:
- Support your fellow co-worker. Offer to cover a coworker’s group/class so they may take a bathroom break. Provide support during a meeting with a challenging parent.
- Stay positive. Stay positive internally and externally. Speak positively with your coworkers and surround yourself with positive people and things.
- Time management. Learn to manage your time during the day to make your job and schedule work to your advantage.
- Separate work and home. As difficult as it is, it is crucial to separate your work life from your home life. Doing so creates a divide where you can put the work day away and focus on your personal life.
- Work collaboratively. Use your co-teachers or teaching team to your advantage. They may be able to give you the boost and support that reignites the passion for teaching.
- Make a change. It’s easy to get bogged down when the same things are happening day in and day out. Sometimes a small adjustment to your day can be the change that gets you through. Other times it may be time for a major change, such as moving schools, grade or age level, or centers.