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teacher burnout

Learn to Avoid Teacher Burnout

I have always known that I wanted to be a teacher. My mom was a teacher, and education has always been a passion of mine. In 2014, I knew that the first couple of years into teaching are always more difficult. In 2016, I took a position at a new school district and experienced a very toxic work environment. The stress compiled with the long hours and overwhelming amount work was affecting my health including clinched jaw, new (and frequent) headaches, and stomach issues. I was experiencing burnout from my job and this is when I realized that teaching wasn’t for me. And I wasn’t alone, teacher burnout is one of the main reasons why teachers quit.

Background on Teacher Burnout

According to the Mayo Clinic, teacher burnout is a “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” The rate of employees experiencing burnout from their jobs is an increasing global problem. Recently, the World Health Organization declared burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” that can have adverse effects on our mental and physical health. Chronic workplace stress can leave use feeling exhausted, filled with cynicism and negativity, and unfulfilled. Unfortunately, we live in a society that wears our “overworked” status as a badge of honor, and teachers are no exception to the rule. For an already demanding job of teaching, it’s good to know the warning signs to prevent you from “hitting the wall” and “fizzling out.”

What Causes Teacher Burnout?

The amount of pressure put on teachers to teach for high test scores, maintain classroom management, deal with poor student behavior, and a lack of administration support can often leave them feeling like they are drowning into the abyss. During my teaching career, I worked on the weekends and missed out on a lot of personal time with family and friends. I never felt like I had the time to do anything but catch up on my work. When you add up all of the hours you spend on work as a teacher compared to the already low salary and thousands in student loan debt, it’s easy to see how the stress and negativity can set in. If you happen to also be in a toxic work environment, then this is doubly damaging. This is not only bad for teachers, but it is not a good situation for the students either. Teachers suffering from burnout can become short-tempered in the classroom, leading to outbursts and confrontations. It may be time to look into a career change for teachers.

New Teacher Burnout

According to Gallup, seven out of 10 millennial workers experience some form of burnout, with 28 percent feeling under constant pressure. Combine this with the fact that the first few years of teaching are always the hardest, and we can see an alarming trend for young teachers. A report by the Learning Policy Institute says that new teachers are leaving teaching at rate between 19 and 30 percent over the first five years into their careers. This is a higher rate than people in other jobs in the preretirement period. Two of the main reasons for teachers leaving their job is a lack of work-life balance and low wages that can’t cover living expenses and student loans. The good news is if you are no longer interested in teaching in the classroom, your teaching skills can definitely translate in other careers. These are the best earning years of your life and being stuck in a situation that you don’t want to be in because of guilt or your perceived lack of resources may keep you from an opportunity that can possibly change your life. This is one of the many reasons new teachers often ask themselves, “what else can you do with a teaching degree?”

Signs That You are Burning Out

Feeling mentally and physically exhausted, taking too much sick time to avoid people and work, and a reduced performance at home and on the job are all signs that you are burning the candle at both ends. People with burnout no longer take interest in the things that used to make them happy and can have an increasing negative attitude that make it hard for others to be around. Physical symptoms can include stomach pain, tiredness and frequent headaches. Since symptoms of burnout and mimic and/or exacerbate depression, anxiety disorders and chronic fatigue syndrome, it’s important to also consult with your physician to find out exactly what is going on. It’s also very important to not self-medicate with substance abuse or alcohol. This will only make the situation worse. If you are curious to see if you are suffering from burnout, you can take this burnout self-test from Mindtools.

How to Alleviate Burnout

Everyone wants to have a happy life and job satisfaction plays a major role in our happiness. We want to feel valued and validated, knowing we are making a positive impact in society. When job stress gets to be a burden on our mental and physical health, then it is time take action and take back control. Regular physical exercise is a natural stress-buster and can distract you from problems at work. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Make sure you are also getting your recommended amount of sleep, which is between seven to nine hours a night. Without proper rest, you’ll more likely end up groggy throughout the day, affecting your concentration and decision-making. Mindfulness is another technique to calm the nerves and get your life back in balance. If you need help clearing the clutter in your brain, some helpful apps, such as Headspace or Calm give you step-by-step instructions to guide you to a more mindful state. Above all, make sure you have a good support network to go to when you need it the most. Having a community of positive people around you and help you stay in the right mindset and not lose sight of your goals.

Know When it’s Time to Quit

According the Gallup, teachers experiencing teacher burnout are more than three times as likely to leave their current employer. Sometimes it can be challenging to know when to call it quits and you may get guilt- trips from colleagues that you are abandoning the school. In the end, it’s your life and you need to do what is right for you. Be sure to listen to your body and mind to let you know the burnout warning signs so you know when it is time to move on. If your exhaustion levels are higher than your excitement levels or your personal life is suffering because of the job, the stress could be too much to handle. If you know that switching grades, schools or districts won’t help alleviate the problems, continuing to teach in a miserable state will impact your mental and physical health. Lastly, if you are struggling to make ends meet financially and your debt is starting to smother you, then maybe it’s time to finding a more lucrative career. And if you don’t know where to start, it’s no problem! I’ve created many resources to help you identify jobs for former teachers.

We all get into teaching with the best of intentions, so the thought of leaving seems impossible. You may feel like you lack the resources, or you don’t have another option, or you will be too guilt-ridden to exit. Believe me, your physical, mental, and financial well-being are more important than suffering in a no-win situation. There are plenty of opportunities and resources to find the right job to match your skills. Sign up for the Teacher Career Coach newsletter to join a like-minded community of teachers in transition and to get the latest in information and training you need to start your next chapter. If you’re ready to jump and get all of my resources immediately, join The Teacher Career Coach Course today. Check out the Teacher Career Coach reviews to hear what other teachers are saying about this course.