We can usually spot a passionate teacher, someone who is on fire for the profession, a mile away. But it’s often harder to spot a teacher who is burning out. So that you’re not broadsided by a teacher’s sudden (or what appears to be sudden) resignation, we’d like to share five common burn-out symptoms from Barbara Brock and Marilyn Grady’s book, Rekindling the Flame. In our next blog, we’ll follow-up by sharing a few ways principals can better engage teachers and help them rekindle their fire for teaching.
Teachers who are burning out often experience chronic exhaustion, which leaves them unable to complete tasks or face other people. Sleep patterns are disturbed; these teachers may either experience difficulty sleeping or sleep excessively.
There are other physical symptoms we can be on the lookout for: Recurring physical ailments such as migraine headaches, anxiety and social withdrawal.
Burnout often inhibits teachers from making what would ordinarily be considered simple decisions. These folks may also delay or vacillate in their decision making.
Additionally, they may also have difficulty processing information or experience an inability to focus on a single task because they are distracted by all of the competing issues. Some people appear preoccupied, dazed, or overwhelmed. Others are easily angered and resentful of their workload.
Brock and Grady also point out that burnt out teachers often withdraw from colleagues and students or report that they feel too exhausted to engage in hobbies or to socialize with friends after work hours.
With burnout, teachers are less likely to be sympathetic or to become involved in their students’ problems. Instead, they behave in a callous, cynical, or indifferent manner, and they display a lower tolerance for classroom disruption.
When the teacher does communicate, it is usually to indulge in cynicism and caustic humor to release frustration. The teacher lashes out at colleagues and students and is contemptuous toward the administration or school district. Humor takes the form of malicious jokes with references to students, parents, colleagues, and administrators.
Initially teachers deny the existence of burnout. Later, the teacher may project blame onto someone or something else rather than identifying the source and attempting to address the issue. Paranoia becomes a problem when teachers doubt their own competence and become defensive, competitive, and territorial—safeguarding their jobs. Trust becomes distrust.
Like we said in our first paragraph, we never like discussing problems without offering solutions, so stay tuned for our next post where we’ll offer a few teacher-engagement strategies.