Teachers have stressful working conditions: Classroom management can be difficult, grading for many classes can be time-consuming and boring, lesson plans can be difficult to create, handling parents can be a chore, and the stress of standardized testing and graduation rates can be intense. For those who think teaching is an easy 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM job, virtually any teacher can quickly point out the extra work involved. From backtalking kids and teenagers to unexpectedly low student performance, teaching can tax one’s inner resources. According to Northern Illinois University, teacher burnout is high, with roughly 30 percent of new teachers leaving the profession within 5 years.
Avoiding burnout is important, both for individual teachers hoping to establish a lasting career and for school districts hoping to retain quality employees. As a teacher, burning out and having to train for a new career is an expensive and time-consuming proposition. As a school district, allowing teachers to burn out on a regular basis means continually having to recruit and mentor new teachers, who are bound to be less successful in the first few years of teaching than an experienced instructor.
How to prevent teacher burnout?
First of all, it is important for teachers to avoid becoming consumed by the monumental tasks of lesson planning, teaching, and grading. Young teachers may find themselves overwhelmed by the job’s demands and seek to do them as quickly as possible, working late into the evening. Grading and lesson planning late into the evening and striving to be a “perfect” teacher can intrude on one’s personal, social, and family life. Instead, set a stopping time. Many teachers decide to either get to school early, work through lunch, or stay late…but never all three. Opting to arrive at school an hour before classes and stay an hour after the final bell is a reasonable strategy.
Secondly, young teachers need to find a mentor. While the on-paper expectations of a classroom teacher in today’s statistics- and standardized-testing-obsessed era, a mentor can help a rookie understand the true situation and lay of the land. With a good mentor, a new teacher can quickly find out what truly matters in regard to meeting performance standards, allowing a minimum amount of work outside of school hours to accomplish grading and lesson planning needs. Additionally, mentor teachers are invaluable at providing stress-killing tips and hints regarding classroom management and having positive interactions with department heads and administrators.
Third, young teachers need to establish good communications with both administrators and parents to develop effective classroom management techniques. Taking the time to create an e-mail list of parent contacts can be a great way to keep parents and guardians updated with class assignments and tests, easing teacher stress. In addition, new teachers should be proactive in using existing school district resources for contacting parents and guardians, such as online/phone systems like Parentlink, to make sure they can rapidly disseminate information. Knowing that you have done what you can to involve parents and guardians and boost student studying and homework performance is cathartic and can reduce stress, thus reducing teacher burnout.
Fourth, teachers need to be realistic about their ability to “save” every student. A teacher can quickly reach exhaustion attempting to turn around every single underperforming student who has no desire to improve. Realizing that you have done your best, and that your best is more than acceptable, is important in reducing teacher burnout.
On the administrator side of things, good teacher performance should regularly be praised. Many teachers may burn out because they feel unappreciated by statistics-obsessed administrators, making it imperative to praise and reward teachers for their hard work. Failing to do so can result in rapid turnover rates and a campus routinely overstaffed by novice teachers.