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A teacher’s day does not end when they leave school, lesson planning, organising events and marking can often mean they are working for several hours into the evening or over the weekend. Resulting in less free time where they can recharge and switch off from work. While this is manageable for some, for others it can lead to teacher burnout.
Teaching is considered to be one of the most stressful careers, long hours and challenging environments are two of the biggest factors that can lead to teacher burnout. In fact, the Teacher Wellbeing Index 2021 found that 72% of teachers described themselves as stressed – a 10% increase on 2020.
The Teacher Wellbeing Index 2021* asked Staff who described themselves as stressed what they thought their symptoms were a sign of. The responses broke down into:
44% – Anxiety 29% – Exhaustion 28% – Depression
Another big factor that can lead to teacher burnout is the lack of a supportive management structure. Feeling as if you are unsupported by leaders can cause staff morale to nosedive, cause unhappiness amongst the teaching team and ultimately impact on their wellbeing.
A good headteacher should understand how to get the best from their staff, and be sure to praise them when they achieve good things. They should also recognise when their staff need support and have procedures in place to ensure they help relieve pressures before they reach boiling point.
Whilst their role is to lead the teaching team, headteachers themselves are at risk of burnout. A recent survey from Edurio** found that the number of school leaders considering leaving their jobs has increased from 34% in 2020-21 to 42% in 2021-22. Amongst the reasons given for considering leaving were stagnant pay, high levels of accountability, huge workloads and inadequate school funding.
As a teacher, it is crucial that you recognise the signs that your stress levels are increasing and could lead to burnout. So let’s take a look at some of the main signs of teacher burnout.
If you are experiencing feelings that your enthusiasm for the job has waned, it could be an early sign that you are becoming stressed and need some time to take a break to recharge and focus on your wellbeing.
Trouble sleeping or feelings of constant tiredness and lethargy can be a sign that you are heading for burnout. You may also be finding it more difficult to concentrate and stay focused both at work and at home.
If you are feeling that you are not as patient as you once were, you could be stressed. Whether you notice signs of less patience at work or at home it could be a big sign that you need to take some time to reflect and concentrate on yourself.
Many careers once you have been working in them for a while can become stressful, and burnout is certainly not a problem that is exclusive to teaching. But recognising the symptoms is the first step to taking action to prevent burnout. Here are some of the things teachers can do.
While family and friends can be a good sounding board, other people that work in teaching will fully understand the pressures, strains and stress that come with teaching and can be a great help when you are close to burnout.
As the saying goes “a problem shared is a problem halved”, and this is certainly true when it comes to teacher burnout. Sharing your feelings and talking to colleagues will help you feel as if you are not facing this on your own and colleagues may even be able to help alleviate your workload.
We can all be a bit guilty of thinking everything on our to-do list is a top priority and must be completed now. But quite often this isn’t the case, and thinking it is will only serve to place you under extra pressure and stress which is avoidable.
Plan your workload to ensure you include time for rest and relaxation, consider which tasks can wait a day or two and just focus on those that need completing straight away.
Self-care is important, especially when you work in a stressful career. It is imperative that you factor in time to take care of your physical and mental health. Whether that is making the time to exercise, have a spa day or spend quality time with friends and family – you need to make sure you regularly book time in your schedule to take time for yourself.
While teacher burnout is a very real problem, understanding the signs and ways to prevent it can help you avoid it before it takes hold. At some time in their careers, many teachers will have experienced burnout either themselves or see a colleague struggling, but many will tell you that recognising it is the best first step to preventing it.
Consider becoming a supply teacher to help you create a better work/life balance. As a supply teacher you can still do the job you love and make an impact on students’ lives but without getting bogged down with the worries of managing a class long term or the lack of support from the management.
Supply teachers are often happier and at less risk of teacher burnout as they can go to work, complete the job they love and then go home without the stresses and strains of a permanent teaching job.
If you are looking for help to find a school with a supportive management structure, join the Vision Teaching community to help you find your next rewarding role. As specialists in all aspects of school recruitment, we help every borough in London attract and retain high-quality teaching, support, and administrative staff. We have a wide range of opportunities across London in both primary and secondary education settings.
Browse our teaching jobs and find your next role: https://visionteaching.co.uk/job-search/