When talking to almost any new teacher about their first years in the teaching profession, a similar topic arises: stress. New teachers are struggling to keep their head above water because they are consumed with learning new curriculum, developing lesson plans, dealing with students’ behavioral issues, all while trying to meet the needs of parents, peers, and administrators. These issues can overwhelm teachers and eventually lead to teacher burnout.
The prevalence of teacher burnout is one of the greatest issues currently facing school administrators. The examples of the term “burnout” that are listed in the dictionary clearly demonstrate that burnout is a major concern in education. The following are examples of burnout used in a sentence in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
“Teaching can be very stressful, and many teachers eventually suffer burnout.”
“the burnout rate among teachers” (Merriam-Webster, 2018).
Teacher burnout has become an international epidemic and the United States is certainly no exception. Nearly half a million (15% of) U.S. teachers leave the teaching profession on a yearly basis (Haynes, 2014). More than 40% of teachers leave the profession within the first five years of their teaching career. Teachers are becoming discouraged by the direction of public education and the effect it has had on their profession.
Many people believe that teachers have an easy job because they only have to work seven hours a day and get all of the summers off. The requirements placed on teachers make their schedule more demanding than it may seem. Teachers who are exceptional at their job are often working in unsustainable conditions. Many work an average of 60 hours per week which is far beyond the working hours obligated by their contract. Many teachers stay an average of three to five hours beyond the traditional, contractual school day for grading, organizing, meetings and other administrative or volunteer events. This continual time and workload commitment leads to stress and exhaustion which is the precursor to teacher burnout.
Other stressors include the lack of support from administration, the lack of collaborative time with colleagues, difficulties with classroom management, and limited educational funding (Roeser et al. 2013). Research has shown that school administrators must make new teacher support a priority to reduce the number of teachers leaving the profession within the first five years (DePaul, 2000). Teachers must also know that administrators are invested in their success. Teachers need to understand that administrators support them in issues concerning students and parents.
Administrators should support all teachers’ participation in professional development activities, especially those teachers with five or less years of experience. It is essential for administrators to understand that learning to teach takes time. No matter how well new teachers are prepared in college, they will require guidance, support, and opportunities to learn from more experienced educators as they make the transition from being a student to having students of their own.
The lack of time and emphasis on teacher collaboration is another issue that must be addressed to alleviate teacher burnout. Teachers should be encouraged and allowed time to work together in order to collaboratively identify and solve common problems of practice in much the same way that they encourage their own students to engage in the classroom. Administrators must find ways to allocate more time for teacher collaboration and brainstorming.
All of these suggestions will not completely stop teacher burnout. However, if administrators will strive to implement these suggestions, teacher burnout could be reduced. Our teachers deserve the best work environment with constant support from their administrators.