Avoiding Burnout

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When teachers and leaders alike head to work each day, keen to give of their best, few expect they will experience ‘burnout’ as a result of their dedication to their job. However, this is a reality for some of our most dedicated educators who do not recognise the warning signs and do not proactively put in place procedures and processes to guard against this debilitating outcome.

Burnout is often talked about but not often clearly defined or understood. It is a work-related condition with three main symptom clusters:

  • emotional exhaustion (EE) ( I’m not physically tired, I just can’t cope anymore)
  • depersonalisation/cynicism (DP) ( I treat you like a number, not like a ‘real’ person)
  • reduced sense of personal accomplishment (PA) ( I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere or doing anything important) (Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter, 2001).

To mitigate against burnout, teachers need to be proactive in understanding what resources they have and reactive when they become aware of the danger signs in their own life or in others they work with.

To mitigate against burnout, teachers need to be proactive in understanding what resources they have and reactive when they become aware of the danger signs in their own life or in others they work with. Achieving a healthy work engagement is the first proactive step. This is defined as having ‘a persistent and positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterised by vigour, dedication, and absorption’ (Schaufeli, Salanova, González-Romá & Bakker, 2002, p.74). This is not a false optimism and it does not mean that difficulties will not be present but rather is an on-balance positive engagement with the work. Christian teachers can also draw on spiritual resources that have been demonstrated to mitigate against burnout. They are composed of:

  • attachment to God – knowing that God is active in your life and in your situation
  • collaborative religious coping – being able to share concerns with like-minded people and praying together about the situation or issue
  • a calling to the work – a sense of being where God wants you.

Being reactive may involve recognising and naming bullying behaviour, taking well-recognised steps to look after one’s health or seeking support in dealing with the stressors and one’s personal responses to these.

Becoming informed is the first step to avoiding burnout.

 

References

Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W.B. & Leiter, M.P. (2001). ‘Job Burnout’ in Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 52:397-422. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.397

Schaufeli, W.B., Salanova, M., González-Romá, V. & Bakker, A.B. (2002). ‘The Measurement of Engagement and Burnout: A Two Sample Confirmatory Factor Analytic Approach’ in Journal of Happiness Studies, Vol. 3:71–92. DOI: 10.1023/A:1015630930326

Online Professional Learning Courses

This article provides an insight into some of the content of EdComm's online Professional Learning course: Banish Teacher Burnout: The secret of long-term success for educators.

Banish Teacher Burnout: The secret of long-term success for educators is available at both Proficient and Lead levels. It is accredited by NESA for six hours at Proficient level and eight hours at Lead level.