Now that we’re nearing the end of the school year, teachers have only a few more weeks before they head out of the classroom for summer break. But for teachers and students alike, pushing all the way to the last day of school can be tough. And with teacher burnout rates on the rise, end-of-year stress deserves some attention.
Administrators and community members are often unaware of just how heavily teacher burnout can weigh on their school faculty. Nearly half of all teachers experience high stress during the school year and are vulnerable to teacher burnout. But luckily, teachers don’t have to deal with it alone: schools can take steps to help them manage stress in healthy and productive ways.
Read on to learn what teacher burnout is and how to recognize some of the common causes and symptoms. Then, discover five tips teachers can use to prevent burnout at the end of the school year.
When School Stress Attacks Educators: What Is Teacher Burnout?
Burnout is one of the most common reasons that teachers are leaving their profession, and it contributes to the increased teacher turnover rate in the past few decades. K–12 in particular is known for high teacher burnout rates, and finding ways to prevent or combat burnout is a key current issue in early education.
Teacher burnout is an extreme form of chronic stress that can affect any teacher, regardless of how experienced or passionate they are about their jobs. One quarter of all teachers view their jobs as extremely stressful, and 46 percent report high stress daily during the school year.[4,5] This places teaching alongside nursing as one of the most high-stress occupations in the country.
With stress levels so high, it’s no wonder that many teachers suffer from burnout at some point during their career. And a teacher’s emotions can set the tone for the class, so when they reach burnout, their students’ learning experience may also suffer.
School-wide burnout isn’t only detrimental to a teacher’s health but can have the following consequences:
- Higher teacher turnover rate
- Reduced equity in education
- High school costs (over $4000 per year)
- Lower student scores
Common Causes and Warning Signs of Teacher Burnout
Teacher burnout is more than just the occasional stress that most educators feel at some point. It is a psychological condition that can cause teacher depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. For that reason, pinpointing both the causes and signs of teacher burnout is essential for an educator’s well-being.
A primary source of stress and burnout in the classroom is low self-efficacy, or a teacher’s lack of belief in themselves to achieve their goals. One of the main reasons a teacher’s self-esteem suffers is the tendency of parents and administrators to blame teachers instead of students for low standardized test scores. Placing too much pressure on a teacher’s shoulders can make teachers blame themselves for their students struggles and feel like they cannot make a difference.
Behavioral issues in class can also lead to teacher burnout over time. Teachers with particularly challenging students are more likely to feel they aren’t making a difference and become more cynical about their role in the classroom. But what’s more, a teacher’s judgments about student behavior can also affect their stress levels—educators who have negative perceptions of students with behavioral issues are more likely to suffer from chronic stress.
Symptoms vary depending on the level of burnout a teacher is experiencing, but they can include:[13,14,15,16]
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
- Low self-esteem and morale
- Anger, frustration, or sadness
- Job dissatisfaction
The Importance of End-of-School-Year Stress Management
The weeks leading up to the last day of school can be stressful, and the end of the school year is a key time for implementing teacher burnout solutions. The best way to prevent long-term burnout is to teach stress management for teachers in your school. Even little steps towards healthy coping mechanisms can add up.
Because stress is a natural response to challenging situations, feeling stressed is not necessarily a bad thing. In healthy doses, stress can help our bodies work hard when we’re overwhelmed. It’s all about finding healthy ways to manage it and reduce negative stress. Teachers should watch for unhealthy signs of stress, like exhaustion or low-self esteem, and try to pinpoint specific stressors in their lives.
Younger teachers are particularly vulnerable to burnout, and it can be hard for them to develop positive coping mechanisms during the first year of teaching. For that reason, mentorships with more experienced teachers can be crucial, giving new teachers someone to confide in who can help brainstorm solutions. Studies have found that teacher mentorships can both reduce teacher anxiety and stress, as well as improve a school’s teacher retention rate.
Finally, one of the best ways to promote mental health in schools is through social-emotional learning (SEL) programs. Many educators understand how SEL can help their students learn to both recognize and regulate their feelings, but these benefits often extend to teachers: schools with SEL programs also have lower levels of teacher stress and burnout. If your faculty struggles with chronic stress, try adding SEL lessons to your school curriculum.
5 Tips to Manage Teacher Stress and Prevent End-of-Year Burnout
Even the strongest teachers can get overwhelmed from time to time, especially at the end of the year. Knowing how to prevent and recover from burnout is not only important for a teacher’s personal health but for the well-being of the entire classroom.
Use these five tips on how to avoid burnout as a teacher and prevent chronic stress from taking over your school:
- If you’re a school administrator, give your teachers time during the day to take a break. A school assembly, teacher prep day, or free period gives educators time to recharge.
- Giving too much weight to grades instead of learning can overwhelm teachers with heavy expectations. Instead of standardized test scores, focus on student engagement and progress.
- Make time for self-care and personal health outside of work. You could, for example, try mindfulness meditation or go for a walk every evening. 
- Sometimes, it’s easy to focus excessively on what is going wrong. Take time to recognize what you’ve accomplished this school year and give yourself credit for personal achievements
- Know your limits! Avoid taking on more work responsibilities than you can reasonably handle, and let your supervisors know if you have too much on your plate 
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