According to longitudinal studies conducted by Arvidsson et al. (2019), Skaalivik and Skaalvik (2010), Jacobson (2016) and Brouwers and Tomic (1999) teachers are more likely to experience burnout and other stress-related issues. Have you ever thought about why? Why are we susceptible to burning ourselves out?
text by Tanya Livarda(BA/ MA in TESOL,Delta (M3), CELTA), EFL teacher, Oral Examiner
Some of us might say because we work more than the normal while others might argue that he nature of teaching is such that you cannot stay still and you have to keep up to date with the latest trends in methodology. There are also those who could agree that a teacher is a lifelong learner, so somehow you dedicate your time to learn, read and experiment. In other words, we spend most of our free time on attending workshops, seminars, webinars or conferences. We also spend our time on designing effective lessons, on taking care of and meeting our learners’ needs, on adapting our instruction in almost every single lesson because a student does not have the same needs on Monday and on Friday.
Do you need more? Ok. We also combine different roles. We are not only teachers; we are coaches as we support our students in every possible way, we are observers, we are facilitators. We should also practice what we preach and have proper work ethos and be quite communicative, yet honest. We have to communicate effectively with various stakeholders (eg sponsors, parents, DOS etc) and to make quick decisions on multiple things. And on the top of that, Covid appears and we have to teach online. We have to face isolation, tech difficulties, lack of students’ –and not only- motivation and we have to reinvent the wheel every day because we really need to have fun and to feel engaged ourselves. Finally, these days multitasking has become our second nature, although we are aware that our brain cannot function in such a way. Do you need more? I suppose the answer is no.
So far, I have made reference to what our students need. But what about us? Where are our needs? We are human beings so don’t we deserve to pay attention to us as well?
Now that you have a clear picture of what we have to do daily, it is time to accept that we are emotionally and physically exhausted, tired and overwhelmed and all these affect our personal life as well. And this is how you can tell that you have reached the point of burnout. And that’s ok. It is normal. It happens. We have been through lots of different stages this year. We have dealt with deaths, panic attacks, health issues, lessons, family, insecurity, stress and so on.
However, every problem has its own solution. What can we do?
- Enjoy your summer break. By that I do not mean enroll in a two-month-course or work again (ooops guilty!). By that I mean go out –whenever possible-, go swimming, go hiking, cook, draw, read a non ELT book. Do anything that you have not had the chance to do so far.
- Hobbies. Do you remember what your hobbies are? No, ok. It is time to bring your hobbies back to your life.
- Set Goals/Priorities. Summer is a relaxing period so it is the best period to identify your real needs. And what you need from yourself, your family, friends and students. If you like organizing things, then this is the right time to set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based goals. This gives you a sense of direction and control of what you want (Camp, 2017). And by being aware of what you really really want, then you will be able to focus and make the right choices.
- Be mindful. Breathe. Pay attention to what you are doing now. When going for a walk stress your attention not to how I can make today’s lesson more engaging, but to how you are feeling, what you are smelling, touching.
- Sleep. And by sleep I mean sleep. At least 8 hours a day, and more if you wisah. Sleep lowers your risk for getting sick, reduces stress and improves your mood, helps you think more clearly and communicate effectively.
- Give yourself a break. Take a day off or a week off if you really need it. Do whatever makes you feel well and sane. And now you are going to tell me, yes but I have to work because I need the money. And I’m going to reply that yes you are right but I think that health is the greatest possession. Money comes and goes but health stays with you throughout your life. If you are not healthy, you cannot make money.
- Speaking of health. Stay healthy. Exercise, go jogging, sleep, eat.
- Talk to your friends, colleagues, families. They can offer you the best support. Friends make their friends laugh.
- Praise Feel grateful. No one will do that apart from you. Count successes. I am sure you have plenty. Write down all the things that you are proud of and let yourself be proud of your success.
- Dream! It is free. Stick to your goals/priorities and dream about how you will reach your goals, not what you have happened, if… .
- Express your emotions. You can grieve if you want, you can cry if you want, you can scream if you want as long as this makes you feel relaxed and think clearly afterwards.
- Unplug. Take tech brakes. Disconnect from everyone and every gadget that you have.
- Be unproductive for a day. It’s a challenge. Do only the things that please you. Eat this chocolate or this hamburger. Spend your money on food, cosmetics, books, materials.
And the most important tip; love yourself. If we love ourselves, we are happy. If we are happy, our students are happy as well. When we are happy, we enjoy every single moment in our lives. Hug yourself, accept and embrace your weaknesses and your ‘fail’ moments. Love reduces stress and endorphins, dopamine and oxycotin are released (Sprenger, 2020).
We are not robots; we are human beings. So, let your light shine brightly.
- Arvidsson, I., Leo, U., Larsson, A., Hakansson, C., Persson, R., Bjork, J. (2019), “Burnout among school teachers: quantitative and qualitative results from a follow-up study in southern Sweden”, BMC Public Health [Internet], Available from: <https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-6972-1>, [Accessed April 21st 2021].
- Brouwers, A., Tomic, W. (1999), “A longitudinal study of teacher burnout and perceived self-efficacy in classroom management”, [Internet], Available from: <https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/55534212.pdf>, [Accessed April 21st 2021].
- Jacobson, A., D. (2016), “ Causes and effects of teacher burnout”, [Internet], Available from: < https://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3938&context=dissertations>, [Accessed April 21st 2021].
- Skaalvik, E., M., Skaalvik, S. (2010), “ Teacher self-efficacy and teacher burnout: A study of relations.”, Teaching and Teacher Education, 26(4), [Internet], Available from: <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222821947_Teacher_self-efficacy_and_teacher_burnout_A_study_of_relations_Teaching_and_Teacher_Education_264_1059-1069>, [Accessed April 21st 2021], pp. 1059-1069.
- Sprenger, M. (2020), Social Emotional Learning and the brain: strategies to help your students thrive, Alexandria, VA: ASCD.