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How Does Burnout Affect Teachers?

A lady feeling burnout
Photo by Chipolla/Shutterstock

In today’s complex educational landscape, teachers face unique challenges that our governments seem to make worse with each passing administration. From too large classrooms, to technological grey areas, to lack of diverse and updated educational material, and even worse, policies that encourage immoral or age inappropriate content. Then adding to that heightened racial, cultural or social issues that are often beyond their control. The increasing stress and pressure to handle everything with efficiency have significant impacts on teachers’ mental and emotional well-being.

If you’re a teacher feeling the effects of burnout, you may find this post quite useful. In this article, we provide valuable insights and practical strategies for educators in general and Black teachers in particular to cope with these challenges.

By exploring the role of self-care, professional support networks, and proactive communication, we hope to empower educators to thrive in the face of adversity and tools to help create inclusive learning environments for all students.

What is teacher burnout?

Teacher burnout is a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion that negatively affects educators in various ways. It can lead to a decrease in job satisfaction and productivity, and a decline in one’s overall mental and physical well-being.

Teacher burnout statistics in 2023 reveal that “65% of the teachers show signs of burnout and suffer from bad physical and mental health,” and that 57% don’t have much of a life outside of work.

Burnout can also result in increased absenteeism, higher turnover rates, and a decrease in teacher quality. External factors that contribute to burnout include:

  • Excessive workload with endless grading and extra time sourcing alternative materials

  • Lack of quality educational resources lead to excessive time and money spent looking for quality supplementary materials

  • Classroom behavioural issues often stem from a myriad of issues eg. poor nutrition or deficiencies

  • Disruptive or difficult parents who are not informed or educated about improved learning strategies

  • Lack of autonomy yet little administrative support

  • Low pay and increasing expenses

Additional stressors experienced by Black educators specifically include microaggressions or racial bias from administration, coworkers or parents. The stress on the part of the teacher can affect their performance in class and that of their students as well. Therefore, addressing teacher burnout is essential to improving the quality of education, student performance and retaining dedicated professionals in the field.

How can teachers avoid stress and burnout?

Teachers play a crucial role in shaping the future of their students. However, part and parcel of the teaching profession is high levels of stress. To minimize stress and prevent burnout, there are various strategies you can employ:

  • Establish boundaries and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Easier said than done but you must set aside time for hobbies, exercise, and relaxation, and ensure you get adequate sleep.

  • Manage your workload effectively. You must be able to say no and stand up to administration when there are unrealistic expectations on your time while at the same time ensuring you are prioritizing tasks, setting realistic goals, and delegating responsibilities whenever possible.

  • Collaborate with others and seek peer support. Working with your colleagues or peers can help ease stress, as doing so will provide opportunities for everyone to share experiences and come up with solutions. Especially when lobbying your educational board for improvements and policy changes.

  • Engage in regular self-reflection and find professional development opportunities. Many children learn in different ways and new educational philosophies have proven more successful than what is taught in teacher's college. You can improve your skills and your job satisfaction by getting better results with your students.

On a macro scale, the educational sector is a direct reflection of the society, government and country it is a part of. Addressing systemic issues like racial inequity and microaggressions to provide a healthier work environment, particularly for Black or other racialized educators is one way of improving the overall system.

Educators and administrators must work together to create inclusive, supportive environments that recognize and value the contributions of all faculty and staff members.

How do you fight systemic racism in K-12 education?

Fighting systemic racism in K-12 education requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses both the root causes of inequity and the symptoms that perpetuate it. One such symptom is teacher burnout, which disproportionately affects educators of colour, ultimately exacerbating the lack of diversity among teachers.

To address this issue, schools and districts need to implement comprehensive diversity and inclusion training, covering key topics such as anti-black racism, what being an ally truly is and how to dismantle white supremacy in our institutions. If your school is not talking about these things they are not truly interested in making change or growth that supports those worst affected.

Developing support systems for teachers, including mental health resources, professional development programs and creating safe spaces where they can discuss their experiences is essential to this shift.

Schools should also work on creating an inclusive environment by adopting curricula that reflect the diversity of students and emphasize the contributions of marginalized groups. Culturally responsive teaching practices should be promoted, including ongoing training for all educators on recognizing and addressing their own biases.

Photo by RODNAE Productions:

It’s also essential to foster a diverse teacher workforce by investing in recruitment and retention initiatives for educators of colour. This includes providing financial incentives, mentoring programs, and leadership opportunities to help combat the burnout that disproportionately affects Black teachers and other educators classified as people of colour.

By addressing teacher burnout and promoting diversity and inclusivity in the classroom, schools can take significant steps towards dismantling systemic racism in K-12 education.

Why are Black teachers quitting?

Black teachers are quitting because of a combination of factors, including burnout, microaggressions, and systemic racial bias. They often face unique challenges in predominantly white educational environments, such as tokenism and cultural insensitivity.

Moreover, Black educators disproportionately bear the burden of addressing societal issues like racial disparities in education. This extra emotional labour — coupled with the general factors contributing to teacher burnout, such as excessive workload, lack of administrative support, and low pay — makes it increasingly difficult for Black teachers to feel seen or values and want to remain in the profession.

Photo by Katerina Holmes:

Why is being a Black teacher important?

Black teachers play a crucial role in promoting cultural awareness and educational diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Having Black teachers in your schools is important because:

  • Black teachers serve as role models for students of all backgrounds, fostering a sense of belonging and inspiration, particularly for Black students.

  • They contribute to cultural competence and understanding by providing diverse perspectives and experiences in the classroom.

  • Black educators usually have higher expectations for Black students, so they can positively impact the latter’s academic achievements.

  • They can help address racial disparities in education by creating culturally relevant curricula and advocating for equitable practices.

Therefore, supporting and keeping Black teachers and other POC educators is crucial to ensure a diverse and effective educational system.

Be part of the solution

A significant portion of the work needed to promote an inclusive culture and spread cultural intelligence takes part within the four walls of the classroom. This is why advancing the interests of teachers in general and Black educators in particular is so important.

Whether you’re a principal, board trustee, Black educator, or a parent who simply want to see improvements in the educational system, it’s time to start those tough conversations that address teacher burnout and other pressing issues.

Together with Tough Convos, you can start DEI work in earnest in your community so your children benefit.

Let’s talk and spark real change.

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