Teacher burnout: What can we do about it?

Emily Whitton
By Emily Whitton,
updated on Aug 4, 2022

Teacher burnout: What can we do about it?

In the past five years, over 7 million teacher days have been lost due to mental health issues, particularly heightened during the pandemic. Unsuitable workloads, pressure, increased class sizes, and low pay could all be to blame

In the last year, studies by the Observer have revealed that teacher sick days are up by 7% across council-controlled schools in England and Wales, with this number up nearly a fifth compared to the same period three years ago. Areas particularly affected include Kent and Hampshire, with Kent seeing 91,679 teaching days lost in the 21-22 school year.

Existing pressures, such as increased class sizes, coupled with a below-inflation pay rise proposal, have taken a toll on teachers’ mental health and wellbeing. The impact of the Covid pandemic has also heightened the issue, with Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Munira Wilson commenting: “The Covid inquiry must also look into the impact the government’s mishandling of the pandemic had on the mental health of teachers and other frontline workers.”

During the pandemic, many teachers have had to take on extra work, leading to burnout. If this pressure continues, the existing teacher shortage could be set to worsen. As it is, 40% of teachers leave their jobs within the first 10 years of qualifying, according to Julie McCulloch, Policy Director at the Association of School and College Leaders.

Despite the upcoming Covid inquiry, which is set to launch an ‘Education Staff Wellbeing Charter’ off the back of it, there is a risk that the crisis could get worse before it gets better.

So, what can we do about it? Here, Dr Julie Smith discusses how to manage burnout.

How to deal with burnout

We can all experience burnout if we overdo it, whether in our personal lives or at work.

Before practising techniques to combat burnout, it’s important to recognise the signs and symptoms in the first place:

  • exhaustion
  • distancing yourself from others
  • negative attitude toward work
  • lack of motivation
  • physical symptoms, such as aches and pains

Stress and burnout are related, though not the same. Burnout is chronic stress. If you’re stressed at work, you might feel like your workload is too demanding and you have a lot of pressure, but this feeling typically stops once the workload calms down. Being burnt out often means you feel as if you are completely drained of your energy and have nothing more to give. The goal is to recognise your stress before it escalates into burnout.

Once you’ve identified you’re stressed or burnt out, try to understand the root cause of it and discuss how you’re feeling with your manager, HR, or your colleagues. If it becomes too much, you may consider finding a different job.

It’s also a good idea to set boundaries at work, and stick to them. For example, ensure you log off at a certain time and try to avoid doing work tasks at home. It can be easy to quickly start to associate the two, and soon the boundaries between work and home become blurred. If you work from home, setting boundaries can be even more tricky. Consider having a dedicated space to work, and, if possible, try to avoid it when you’re having downtime.

When you’re not at work, make sure you find ways to release your feelings of stress. This might be through walking, reading, or doing yoga. It’s also a great idea to try to plan time to unwind with friends and family, though be careful not to cram too much into your weekend to avoid feeling more tired!

For teachers feeling burnt out from this year, try to enjoy the Summer break. It can be easier said than done, but taking the time to switch off, unwind and practice self-care can help you reset your mindset ready to conquer the new term!

Read the original article from The Guardian.

If you're struggling to manage stress or are feeling burnt out, reach out to a coach on Life Coach Directory.  

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