Teacher Burnout, Unhappy And Exhausted Teachers: How And Why Everyone Is Affected
“Teaching is not a profession. It is a never-ending entry-level vocation, divorced from foundational understandings of training, accountability, and advancement. If we are to enact meaningful reform, we must rescue teaching from its status as vocation and volunteerism, and recast it as a profession of rigor, creativity, and unlimited impact.” -From “Teaching in the 408”
According to Michele McNeil of EdWeek: “Not since the battles over school desegregation has the debate about public education been so intense and polarized, observers say, for rarely before has an institution that historically is slow to change been forced to deal with so much change at once.” All levels of education, from preschool through higher education have been affected in some manner. Many teachers are experiencing teacher burnout within five years. Institutions across America are dealing with rapid changes, new teaching demands, the Common Core, shocking assessment policies, and levels of technology not seen in years. Taking a look at the big data for this site specifically, the four most common phrases typed in via Google that bring teachers to this site are:
-Why did I become a teacher
-Companies that hire teachers
-How teachers can make more money
Combining these four simple phrases brings me to the conclusion that we have many teachers who are unhappy, looking for work outside the classroom, lacking funds, and are ready to leave the field all together. As a teacher and writer myself, I am personally aware of the reasons why effective educators leave the classroom. There are vast concerns across the scale, however, the bottom line is the following: if we have teachers all over America who are unhappy in their roles, we have students who are suffering in both academic and non-academic ways. For these issues, numbers, statistics, blue ribbons and test scores deem themselves meaningless and do not provide a true picture of what is taking place daily across classrooms in America.
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If our teachers do not want to be in the classroom, it is only natural for students to feel this resentment and displaced animosity. This situation begs to ask the question: Why would students want to be in the classroom if their teachers do not want to be there? As education leaders, we set the tone, the mood, and deliver the expectations in the classroom on a daily basis. From the minute our kids walk into the classroom, the energy shared from the teacher sets the tone of the day, either positive or negative. Our non-verbal language sends messages in which we are not aware, and thus, travels to each and every student. I remember when I first started teaching, and saw the cover of the book, The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher, by Harry Wong. Quite vividly, a few pages into the book, I remember the image of Harry standing at the front door of his classroom, stressing a power smile and a handshake with each student. His smile never left my mind. Could I smile like that daily? I wasn’t sure at the time.
Facts about the education profession and teacher burnout:
- Teacher job satisfaction has dropped 15 points since 2009, from 59% who were very satisfied to 44% who are very satisfied, the lowest level in over 20 years.
- Teachers with lower job satisfaction are more likely to report that in the last year they have seen increases in: average class size (70% vs. 53%), students and families needing health or social services (70% vs. 56%), students coming to school hungry (40% vs. 30%), and more students leaving. Teacher burnout is a major factor.
- One third (33 percent) of current public school teachers do not expect to be teaching in K-12 schools five years from now.
- Nearly 50% of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years.
Teacher burnout; Reasons why teachers leave the profession:
- New teachers cannot afford to pay back loans and sustain a middle class lifestyle
- Poor working conditions
- School bureaucracy is too difficult to deal with
- NCLB and required test scores are deemed impossible to meet
- Lack of support to meet the various needs of students (ESL, special education, gifted, etc.)
- Lack of collaboration among teachers; feeling isolated
- Compounding discipline problems with students
- Underpaid and underfunded for resources
- Teacher burnout happens very rapidly
- Simply exhausted with the responsibilities, lack of respect, and feeling that their job is not considered a profession, but rather a volunteer type of vocation without growth
Education has changed across every scale. However, as a teacher myself, it was the only profession where I knew I was truly making a difference. The gifts our students bring every day can never be replaced. Teaching is a gift, an honor, and should be treated as such. I want to thank my former students (who are now college graduates), as they made coming to work every day special. Did you leave the profession? Are you experiencing signs of teacher burnout? Do you know how to avoid teacher burnout? Do you plan to stay? Why or why not? Are you experiencing teacher burnout?
To read more about teacher burnout and how to survive it, please visit NEA. Can you share more teacher burnout articles?
Sources: (2013, May 7). EdWeek. Rifts Deepen Over Direction of Ed. Policy in U.S. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/05/08/30debate_ep.h32.html
MetLife Survey of American Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/contributions/foundation/american-teacher/MetLife-Teacher-Survey-2011.pdf
National Center for Education Profile of Teachers 2011. Retrieved from http://www.ncei.com/Profile_Teachers_US_2011.pdf
National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF). Retrieved from http://www.nctaf.org/NCTAFWhoWillTeach.pdf.pdf