Unfortunately, teacher burnout is a very common occurrence in the field of early childhood education.
As teachers, we’ve pretty much come to terms with it. At some point in our careers, we will end up getting burnt out.
The statistics may come as a shock to the general public- but a few years ago, the experts realized that as many as 25 percent of teachers leave the field due to burn out.
This leads to two vital questions:
- What is causing teacher burnout?
- What are some ways we can prevent becoming burnt out?
Through the years, it seems that teaching has become so much more than simply educating our students and then going home to our families.
In one single day, we can put on many different hats, including: mom, maid, counselor, nurse, referee, and educator to our students.
Let’s take a look at the reason teacher burnout happens and then we’ll take a look at a few ways we can avoid it.
Causes of Teacher Burnout
1. Classroom Management
When we have a classroom full of children who don’t want to learn or are always misbehaving, it can be quite distressing on their teacher. After all, who wants to come to a job every day and have to deal with arguing, threatening, or mediating wrong behaviors.
Sure, it can be argued that this is just simply part of the territory of the profession of early childhood education- but the effects compound and can have an effect on us outside of the classroom.
2. Pressure by Administration
By nature, we as teachers are fairly creative. Therefore, when the administration puts pressure or constraints on us to teach in a specific way, it can be quite discouraging. For example, with the new Common Core Standards, many teachers are feeling pressured to change the way they are teaching to fit these standards. This puts even more pressure on those teachers who already have challenging students.
For teachers who have been in the field for years, it can be a major struggle to adapt to the new methods after being used to teaching through the years. On the other hand, the teachers who are new to the field and full of optimism and excitement feel tied down to the standards, and want to leave before they get started good.
3. Lack of Support
In addition to the pressure placed on the teachers by the administration, there is the lack of support that can cause frustration and burnout.
After all, it can take lots of effort and courage to approach those in charge with your own new ideas/suggestions- let alone full reports on how the district can/will improve with just a few minor changes.
Sometimes it seems that this information is simply pushed to the side and never really acknowledged. This leaves the teachers feeling helpless and unable to really have much of an effect on the students.
4. Refusal/Inability to Call in Sick
The reality is that obtaining a substitute is much more of a hassle than it’s worth- so, most of the time, we go in sick. Substitute teachers are not bad- but there’s just so much extra effort- both physically and mentally- that you must deal with to prepare for a missed day- and the truth is, it’s really not worth it.
However, if we really think about it- the more days we come into school sick, the sicker we will end up being by the weekend, with our own families. Plus, as much as we feel we want/need to be there for our students, we’re really not able to be much good when we’re not feeling well.
Instead, we need to be willing/able to call out sick so that we can recover and get back to performing well for our students.
5. Refusal to Set Boundaries
Unfortunately, most teachers are guilty when it comes to this- even if we have to take our work home and stay up until the wee hours of the morning to create that perfect lesson plan, we’ll do it.
However, staying up late to grade papers or create lesson plans instead of taking time for ourselves to relax/unwind in the evenings can cause stress to build up quickly.
We’ve got to remember that it’s just as important for us to take time for ourselves as it is to do that extra work for our class.
Tips for Preventing Teacher Burnout
As you can see, there are several reasons- and this isn’t all of them- that teachers tend to become burnt out and end up leaving the field of early childhood education.
As a teacher, you understand why people give you that sad, knowing nod when you tell them you’re an early childhood professional.
However, we teach because we enjoy it and we want to make an impact on the lives of the little ones.
Following, you will find a few ways that you can prevent yourself from getting burnt out.
1. Teach in the Moment
One way to do this is to use mindful meditation and breathing techniques. This will help to center you in the present- which means you’ll be much more in control and proactive in those difficult situations.
One study revealed that subjects who spend time using mindful meditation have an increased level of gray matter in brain scans.
2. Smile & Laugh
While it may sound like a simple suggestion, for teachers it seems almost crazy. After all, how in the world can you really smile when you have so much to do and so little time to do it- not to mention you’re not being paid what you’re worth?
However, according to research, smiling actually changes your body chemistry and will keep pushing you forward when you feel like giving up. Plus, smiling will improve the mood of those around you as well.
Laughing recharges your batteries and is contagious. When you allow yourself to laugh at a stressful situation, it brings perspective- and will help keep you healthy and happy.
3. Avoid Conflicts
As teachers, we know that this is nearly impossible- but it’s a very important skill to possess. Unfortunately, conflict comes at us from all different angles, and avoiding it will save lots of time and energy.
You can avoid conflict by remembering the old adage, “Pick your battles”- some things are just not worth it.
4. Be Aware of Your Feelings
Learn how to pay attention to your body/brain and at the first sign that you’re starting to be overwhelmed/burnt out, take a deep breath and a step back.
You should never keep internalizing and bottling up the stress so that you end up exploding over some minor issue.
5. Take a Day Off- Or at Least Slow Down
Sometimes, when it seems like everything just keeps piling on you and taking more of you than you have to give- it’s time to take a day off.
Many times, this is exactly what you need to keep going. This is not a sick day or a holiday- but your day. Many people often refer to these as “mental health days.” Then, when you get back to work, you’ll be able to be there fully for your students.
If it’s just not possible to take a day off- at least take the time to slow down. Step outside and breathe in the fresh air. Sit down and just let your mind wander- don’t think about anything.
Remember to take your time, you don’t have to rush through everything.
6. Get Adequate Sleep & Exercise
This should actually be first and foremost on your list for preventing burnout.
The truth is that teachers don’t get enough of either. After all, you have so many other things on your plate, taking care of yourself tends to take a backseat.
However, when you’re getting adequate sleep and exercise, your mind is much more clear and you’re more alert and powerful.
7. Know Your Limits and Enforce Them
As mentioned above, refusal to set boundaries is one of the reasons teachers get burnt out so quickly. However, you know as well as anyone else, pushing yourself too far only encourages failure. You know you’re doing too much when your every day life begins to seem a bit chaotic.
Learn how to say ‘no’- and mean it.
8. Take Your Own Advice
Finally, as teachers, we love to give advice, especially when it’s supposed to make everything perfect in the world- right?
However, we rarely actually heed our own advice. Think about the expectations you have for your students and whether you actually utilize the advice you’re giving them. You may be surprised at how often you’re giving instead of receiving.
The world or early childhood education is a very challenging one- and teachers often get burnt out.
This leads to high turnover rates, which has an effect on many different aspects of the childcare setting: from upsetting the balance for the children to affecting the revenue of the center itself because parents don’t want to place their children where there isn’t consistency.
Follow these tips to keep yourself from getting burnt out so that you can be the constant face that your students see when they come to the classroom.