Teaching is an incredibly rewarding profession. Watching students grow and learn, not just academically, but also as human beings is a beautiful thing to behold.
However, it's also a very stressful job. Research has shown that teachers are prone to stress and burnout, especially at the beginning of their careers(due in no small part to the many tasks they have to juggle).
Teachers who feel burnt out are less effective at their jobs and more likely to leave the profession entirely. That's why it's so important for us all—administrators, colleagues, parents and community members—to step up and support our educators.
To get you started on this task, we've rounded up some of the signs that a teacher might be feeling burnt out:
"I'm not sure if I can do this anymore."
If a teacher tells you that they're not sure if they can do this anymore, listen carefully. This is their way of saying that their compassion has been drained and they're exhausted by the constant feeling of being overwhelmed. Don't brush off their concerns or tell them to just get over it—that's not going to help anyone. Instead, offer support and an ear for them to vent without fear of judgement or criticism.
"I'm just not feeling like myself."
If a teacher is feeling burned out, they may not be able to identify the cause of their feelings. They'll simply say that they're just "not themselves" or "out of sorts." This is because burnout has a lot in common with depression, anxiety, and other disorders. When teachers are overworked and underpaid (ahem), it's easy for them to feel sad or depressed without knowing why exactly that is.
If your child's teacher seems to be struggling with their mental health lately, try asking if anything is wrong before jumping to conclusions about what might be going on at home or school.
"I'm too exhausted."
When a teacher is emotionally exhausted, it's obvious. It's not just the fact that they're tired and cranky; they often display other signs of burnout as well. Emotional exhaustion is one of the most common things you'll see in teachers who are overworked and underappreciated.
If you have a teacher that regularly seems tired, agitated or apathetic—and especially if they exhibit any of these behaviours towards students—it could be an indicator that their emotional needs aren't being taken care of. This can become especially problematic when said teacher has been working long hours for months or years on end without taking time off to recharge their batteries.
"I just don't know how to change things."
Sometimes, a teacher will say something like, “I just don’t know how to change things.” They may be overwhelmed with the situation, or they may be frustrated with themselves for not being able to fix it. If you hear your co-teacher say this, try to help them by asking questions like these:
- What do you feel is causing the problem?
- What would need to change before there was progress?
- Which parts of the system need changing first?
When people are feeling lost and hopeless, they can often find their way by taking small steps toward a goal that seems achievable but significant enough that success feels like an accomplishment.
"I can't seem to get away from work."
You can tell a teacher is overworked when they can't seem to get away from work. For example, teachers are always thinking about their students and what they need and want. Teachers also think about colleagues and school administrators who may be asking them for more than they have time to give. Teachers also think about how their community needs help and ways that schools can help them.
"I think I might be coming down with something..."
If you’re feeling run down, and have been for a few days, it may be stress. Take care of yourself! Remember that if you are sick, don’t teach. If money is tight and taking time off isn't an option at the moment, ask for help from your colleagues.
These indicators should be kept an eye on as stress can be a trigger of disease:
- Headaches or dizziness
- Muscle tension or pain
- Stomach problems
- Chest pain or rapid heartbeat
"I need to give it everything I have, every day."
It doesn't matter how much you love your job, or how important it is to you to be a good teacher. If you're exhausted, your students won't get the full benefit of your experience and expertise.
You can't give 100 per cent at work if you're not taking care of yourself away from work. That means getting enough rest, eating well and exercising regularly—even if that sounds like an impossible task on paper (or in your brain).
The more energy and stamina you have for teaching, the better off everyone will be: students, colleagues and administrators alike will notice when teachers look healthy and happy at school.
The solution is simple: You need to prioritize your teachers’ well-being.
You can start by asking for their input, and encouraging them to voice their concerns about how things are going.
If you notice any of the signs of teacher burnout in someone on your staff, it’s important to discuss this with them as soon as possible.
The most important thing to remember here is that teachers aren’t just employees—they’re real people, who care deeply about what they do and the students they teach. As a result, they will feel all these issues more strongly than other employees might, so it’s up to you to make sure that you give them the support and tools they need to succeed in their work.