CorePlanner Blog

8/12/2016

Teacher Burnout: Ask Jake, Sara & Rosemary


A subscriber, teaching High School English in an urban setting, asks our panel of experts:

 

Hi CP folks,

     Thanks so much again for your grant program giving student teachers the opp. to use CorePlanner during student teaching. Lesson plans were frankly the most time consuming and painful aspect of beginning my career. Your planner helped me to present my plans and observations to prospective employers-- it was just a valuable stepping stone helping out my career advancement. 

     I am now in my second year of teaching at an economically disadvantaged High School. Our school is comprised of students that strive everyday to have a decent experience with just living and surviving their environment all around them. I am taking student problems home with me and starting to feel burnt out. My questions:

1. Should I start looking for another position and how will I know its time to look?

2. What is the best way to leave a position and still get excellent references?

Thanks for your help !

Kevin

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Sara:

Great question to a tough problem, Kevin. Burnout is a reality for teachers and it happens in any profession. Instead of giving you my perspective on the matter, I've been doing some research in this area and ran across this article that you should check out-- it reinforces that humor is indeed the best medicine:

Title: Relationships among humour, self-esteem, and social support to burnout in school teachers

Abstract


This study examined the total, direct, and indirect effects of humour on burnout among 539 school teachers. As predicted, those with high humour reported significantly lower levels of emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation but higher levels of personal accomplishment.

Self-esteem consistently explained parts of the associations between humour and burnout components, whereas perceived social support from the principal, colleagues, and friends were significant mediators in the relationships between humour and emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and personal accomplishment respectively. Results call for an appropriate focus on the development of humour through strength-based and positive interventions to help teachers cope with burnout.

Cite: Journal: Social Psychology of Education, Issue 19: 41-59 (2016)
Author : S. K. Ho

As far as references are concerned, proceed carefully and honestly with your administor. Explain your circumstances and see if he or she would provide you with an outstanding letter of recommendation. Do this in your own way and pick out the right time to approach the subject. By carefully approaching the matter, you will know whether you can obtain a fantastic letter of recommendation from your employer. Get parent and school board member recommendations too. 

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Rosemary:  

Burnout is an issue not addressed openly or routinuely, at least at our school as a whole community--- so I'm glad we can discuss it somewhat in depth here. Thanks for your question Kevin.

Keep in mind that we are just sharing a perspective here, none of us are counselors or psychologists by trade, but I can tell you that everyone involved at CorePlanner and on this panel have a level of successful experience in many facets of education.

In the area of Special Education, burnout is a common occurrence.  My perspective is that don't think you are incompetent because you feel tired of everything. Figure out how to decrease your workload if you can. For example, for years, I would either take homework home to grade or stay up late at night creating new projects and plans for the classroom. Now, I pick a time to leave school and pick up where I left off the next day. 

My students while not really capable of evaluating as well as a professional teacher, love to grade each others' papers and projects. Its a long procedure, and you can contact CorePlanner, info@coreplanner.com if you want the step by step procedure, but the initial grading procedure gives you a better idea of what you are evaluating.

Being at the 'right' school is indeed a big factor. A supportive administration is key. Parental involvement helps, but if that is not a reality, then getting parents and guardians on board is key also-- knowing what goes on at school is a must. All of this said, it really does take a villiage to raise a child, so get all of the help you can!

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Jake:

Kevin, I hope this short answer speaks to your very important question.  

Looking for a new teaching assignment from time to time, whether you are at your wits end or not, always keeps you fresh and mindful of how you are doing overall as a teacher. Burnout is a serious mental, emotional and physical condition, so look past teaching in the big scheme of things. Burnout at teaching could be a side effect of something else going on in your life.

Taking home school problems is natural, but learn how to turn school off at home in a healthy way. Having interests and concerns out of the classroom is essential. Too many teachers do get overwhelmed by teaching when they are constantly at it-- as with anything! So balance, not in a check mark sort of way, but just balance things out becasue too much of anything is too much eventually....

Here is something that some of my peers started doing about three years ago that I'll pass on to you. At lunch time, we all go outside or in the gym and take a walk; the showoff teachers :)  take a run. Luckily in my area of the world we have a very nice climate that is condusive to outdoor activities. This gives us the ability to really turn off the demands of teaching just for a short while. We even negotiated with our administration to extend our break time so we could really get energized for the second half of the school day.

The long and short of it is that no matter where you end up, you have to take care of yourself and know your limitations. Great teaching is really 'work smarter not harder,' something like that anyway!