The era of the 'try harder, do more' teacher must end
- Teachers should resist the temptation to think they can salvage any student situation by trying harder and doing more, peer coach Johanna Rauhala writes for Edutopia, cautioning that they can get burned out, which only makes matters worse for the needy student, the other students and, of course, themselves.
- When teachers have tried every tool in their arsenal to turn a student around to no avail, the best thing to do is simply be a kind and steady presence in the student's life.
- Teachers who work in high-need schools can experience more stress and pressure to solve every problem than other teachers. A teacher being consistently asked to do more may be a sign of systemic flaw, which is beyond any individual instructor's power to repair.
Administrators can and should help teachers avoid burnout, first and foremost for the long-term benefit of teachers and students, but also to curb attrition rates at a time when teacher shortages are predicted to get worse. Teachers have higher rates of depression and anxiety disorders than the general population. It's a profession with rewards — and also myriad challenges. Potential sources of stress, which if left unchecked can cause a good teacher to give up on his or her career.
Early detection of a teacher reaching the end of his or her rope is important. Signs of impending burn-out include a change in personality — for instance, a normally friendly and patient teacher becomes short-tempered and snappish. Another sign is pulling away from social events, even the most basic ones, like eating lunch with colleagues in the teacher lounge.
While there are steps a teacher can take to prevent burnout — including cultivating a growth mindset (looking at setbacks as a learning opportunity) and not being afraid to ask for help — school administrators can employ a number of strategies as well. One is to regularly make a point to tell (and if possible, show) teachers that what they do makes a positive impact on the lives of students. Another is to address any conflicts teachers are having immediately — don't let dissatisfaction fester. Also, initiating professional development offerings for teachers — quality ones, that will facilitate the teacher's continual improvement — will go a long way. In a study published by ERIC, the primary preventative step for administrators to prevent teacher burnout is instituting organizational practices that give the teacher control over his or her daily challenges.