Expert Perspective

Combating Teacher Burnout

Research shows the teaching profession has the highest burnout rate of any public service job. What can we do to keep the best and the brightest teachers in the classroom?

Some years ago, before personal computers and broadband telecommunications were ubiquitous in homes and the workplace, I left my high school classroom teaching job to take a mid-level management position at a women’s nonprofit professional association. While my reasons for leaving the profession weren’t burnout related, my experiences in the new position provided me reasons that made it unlikely I would want to return to the classroom.

As I was learning the requirements of my new position, I met with colleagues throughout the organization to get background and request assistance. The organization regularly held staff meetings organized by responsibility, special projects, or for all staff to share new information that supported all our work. In addition, I had secretarial support, an office with a door, a telephone on my desk, and an hour for lunch. In short, I was part of a professional organization that had developed structures to share information, provide support, and establish teams to accomplish our collective and organizational goals.

I had entered a work culture that respected my knowledge and skills as a professional and provided me opportunities to collaborate with colleagues both within and outside the organization. In contrast, teachers faced working conditions that didn’t allow them to perform as professionals, to collaborate with their colleagues within and outside the school, or to have the opportunity to continue to learn in a supportive environment.

That’s what I believed back then. Research has now proven this to be the case. Though we focus on ensuring that every student has a top-notch teacher who commits long-term to his or her profession (rather than the three- to five-year tenure most common), we have the evidence to show that this kind of professional longevity won’t happen unless we are intentional about improving working conditions for these valuable public servants.

In April, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) released the report, “Workplaces That Support High-Performing Teaching and Learning: Insights From Generation Y Teachers.”Gen Y teachers—that is, those under 30 years of age—account for at least one in five teachers in US classrooms today. They start out intending to make teaching a lifelong profession. However, according to the report, young teachers leave the profession at a rate 51 percent higher than older teachers and transfer to a different school at a rate 91 percent higher than their older colleagues. Studies also show that the national teacher-turnover rate costs school districts approximately $7 billion annually.

In the AFT/AIR report, young teachers say they want:

  • Feedback on their performance and to be evaluated in a fair way
  • Time to collaborate with their colleagues
  • Differentiated pay for high performance
  • Technology to provide engaging and effective lessons, as well as to support collaboration with other teachers through, for instance, videos and conferencing technology.

Gen Y Expectations
Gen Y teachers have higher expectations for technology than do their colleagues from earlier generations—for good reason. Improved instructional and networking technology is one important aspect of a modern high-performing workplace. This generational difference is important, since a majority of seasoned classroom teachers will be retiring in the next decade.

Newer teachers believe technology can be used to enhance not only teachers’ ability to implement engaging and effective lessons, it can also enhance school leaders’ ability to provide meaningful data-based feedback; support collaboration (through conferencing technology) and shared practice (through video); and enhance teacher evaluation through improved analysis and communication tools.

The National Education Association (NEA) has also invested in significant research to pinpoint strategies for retaining the most talented classroom practitioners. In July 2006, the NEA research paper, “The Workplace Matters—Teacher Quality, Retention, and Effectiveness,” authored by Susan Moore Johnson from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, detailed nearly a dozen benchmarks for creating working conditions that teachers reported as essential for their committing to the profession.

These benchmarks included working collaboratively with colleagues; providing support for new teachers that included ongoing observation of, interaction with, and advice from experienced colleagues; collective teacher responsibility for student achievement; and increasing opportunities for professional growth. It’s clear that today’s technology can help support the establishment and maintenance of these working conditions that teachers themselves say are important to providing the supportive culture essential to their and their students’ success.

Finally, Wharton School Professor Adam Grant offers another approach to address teacher dropout that moves beyond the physical and cultural working conditions. In his study of teacher burnout, he uncovered that teachers who felt they were making a significant difference in the lives of their students were better able to deal with job stressors. In other words, the teachers’ belief that they were making a lasting contribution to the lives of students mitigated their professional burnout.

Grant’s new vision for K-12 education is an approach he’s calling “No alumni left behind,” in which alumni of inspiring teachers give time back to the classroom and act as mentors to current students. This give-back approach has the potential to expand exponentially with the support of new media, social networks, and available technology.

The research is clear: Great teachers need supportive workplaces and feedback to both make them better teachers and to honor their influence and contributions to the students they serve. Increased turnover of young teachers is especially disturbing since they, like their students, are our future. Building a better workplace, with robust technology support and strong reciprocal relationships among professionals and students, is key to having the public schools we want and need. It’s too important to settle for anything less.

REFERENCES

Adam Grant, Wharton School, TEDxPhiladelphiaED, “Always Wear Dark Suits

AFT/AIR Report, “Workplaces That Support High-Performing Teaching and Learning,” April 2011

Susan Moore Johnson, Harvard Graduate School of Education, NEA Research Paper, “The Workplace Matters—Teacher Quality, Retention, and Effectiveness,”July 2006

Comments

Tue, Aug 12, 2014 Kathy Utah

I am getting ready to start my 8th year as a self-contained special ed teacher. I feel absolutely burned out and dread going back. I want to change professions but am at a complete loss as to what else I could do. Where do former teachers do for their second career?

Wed, Apr 2, 2014

I am trying to decide my fate right now. I love teaching children, I am not very good at collecting mountains of data, APPR, behavior intervention plan and top down unrealistic expectations. I teach a self-contained class of 16 alternative assessment students, 5 grade levels of testing which I have to create, teach and test myself. I work from 6am till 8pm daily and still can not get it done. The union says don't do it but the teacher in me says I have to for the kids. I am now out on PTSD. I want to quit for my own well being but I stand to lose a lot of money. My family needs my income. Stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Sun, Mar 23, 2014

I am a first year teacher and a career changer too. I always dreamed of teaching science and inspiring young people the way my teachers did for me. Unfortunately, as a new teacher I was assigned the worst possible assignment: I teach 3 reg. ed classes and 3 sped with emotional behavioral disorder. I have become so burnt out in the last 7 months that I don't know how I will finish this year. Each week, I am added a new student who was kicked out of a nearby school due to behavior issues and I am expected to just integrate this child into my classroom. My biggest problem is with my reg. ed classes. They are all level ones and they all have been held back in previous years. Why are 14 year old children in 6th grade? I don't know, but I do know that I'm now responsible for the safety of 24 children of varying ages with no help. I am beyond burnt out; I have already seen a psychiatrist and take prescriptions just to get through the day. What kind of job is this??? I shouldn't have so much stress that I can't even sleep at night because I obsess about my students, planning, professional development, meetings, etc. I have routinely put 70 hours a week into my job, and in all honestly it has not paid off. Now that spring break is over, the kids have given up. They can't afford or care about bringing supplies to school and they would rather just sit around and talk than learn. Not to mention in my reg ed classes I have some extremely disrespectful students who try and push my patience daily, but I have made so many calls home that I don't even bother now. I feel terrible for the kids in my class that want to learn, but I don't have any choice- I'm pressured not to write referrals or send the kids out, but to use strategies to deal with the problem kids in class. I am very depressed and disillusioned with the teaching profession and never imagined it would affect my mental health in such a negative way. I do have supportive teachers, but still, they can't come teach my kids for me. It's a trial by fire job. They put the least experienced teachers in with the worst kids and then wonder when incidents happen. I am considering changing careers this summer, if I can even make it to summer.

Sat, Jan 18, 2014

I have realized that no matter what I do, I will always be devalued and never live up to my own potential. My administrators are bullies who often expect me to do their jobs, and I don't make enough money to even buy decent living room furniture. I am a 42-year-old teacher who came to this as a second career After 10 years, my enthusiasm is gone, I am in tears every weekend, and I dread going to work every day. But I have a young son, and I don't want to put him in daycare over the summer. It's so sad that this is the only reason why I want to stay in the profession anymore--just to get ten stupid weeks off every year.

Sun, Oct 13, 2013

Thank you all for your honesty. I wish all of the comments would be read by those who make the policies and blame educators for everything wrong with a system that is antiquated. But, if they didn't shame us then who would they have to blame for a child's lack of success? Certainly not the child who is told by their parent they can do no wrong. How about the parent who is more interested in the child having fun and being popular than being a scholar? The politicians who say they respect education but not educators are not to blame. The lack of funds causing us to furnish supplies for our neediest students is considered part of the job, right? How do I answer a parent who asks for their child to be evaluated for a learning disability so they can "get a check for that." Our government is bankrupt, blame an educator. Violence is on the rise, blame an educator. Our schools need repairs, blame an educator. But never ever take responsibilty for your child's failure, blame an educator.

Tue, Oct 1, 2013 Lily New York

I have been teaching for 22 years, 19 in two public high schools. I have a good principal, but I am still burnt out. The kids are different every year, and I do love them, but the job makes me feel like a child myself. Every day, the routine is the same, ruled by a bell. The curriculum is generally the same. The superintendent never taught, and gets a raise from the Board, while we get a pay and step freeze. The community thinks we make too much money - I have a Masters degree and make less than 55k. I have papers to correct every night, so I,don't work until 3pm; I work until 5 or 6pm. My solution is to use my absences. I am so happy when I don't have to go to work, I want to jump for joy. I would love time with other professionals and to be treated as a professional rather than a punching bag. I have 3 years to retirement, and I don't know if I am going to make it.

Wed, Sep 18, 2013 florida

WOW...I am not alone. I need to leave education after 18 years. I am going to blow up, or just continue to be way less than I expect of myself and have alsways delivered. Burnout has hit me hard. I cant take the ridiculous BS from admin and the abuse from parents and students who want to blame their lack of responsibility on teachers. I have been called a life coach and have had visits from students from a decade ago, but I am nothing but adversarial with my current group...........I have had it and if I could find a way to retire and eat, I would do it today.

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 Candace Pennsylvania

I did a mid-life career change because I love art and wanted to share that love and teaching to students. After 8 years in my district I'm searching for something else to do. The overcrowding, violence, disrespect of students. May students are just mental or emotional wrecks and don't belong in the public school but in a self contained setting or a mental facility. Administrators that don't listen to concerns and then make you out to be the problem has totally destroyed my dreams of teaching and I can no longer compromise my standards, mental and physical health and personal safety, for an obviously broken system. Try teaching art in a room that was created to house 16 to 18 students comfortably with room to work. My class sizes are now 28 to 33. I can't even visualize all the student if they are on either side of the room, it wasn't laid out for this number of people. My letter of resignation has been on my lap top for 2 years now, and as soon as I can find a job, any job, that will meet my budget, I'm gone.

Sun, Sep 1, 2013 Joy

While I do, to an extent, understand the complaints of many other teachers, I have to say that teaching is actually a pretty good gig, if you have the right mindset. I work at a rural, four-day-a-week school. My largest class size is 20--which is large for our school. I teach all the kids, all four years of high school. I know their families. Our admin isn't the greatest, and yes, I do struggle with demanding and/or deadbeat parents. I have six preps a day, so I am almost always planning in my free time. BUT I get to interact with different personalities every day; I'm good friends with all the staff (all six teachers!); and I'm like a mother (a young one!) to all the kids. What do I do about the stress? Forget about it! There's only so much you can do! Do what you can! Have a sense of humor! The more I realized that I couldn't do everything, the more relaxed I became. And I'm not a bad or lazy teacher--I'm simply a teacher of whom a lot is expected, so out of necessity, I focus on the big stuff and don't get down on myself for the little things. After all, as a teacher, not only do I get to plan fun lessons and learn a lot, I also get lots of vacation time! Cheer up, teachers! As Seneca wisely philosophized, disappointment is completely due to incorrect expectations. Align your expectations with reality, and you'll be satisfied with the good you do. Kids rock!!

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 amber

You use the term newer and older teacher. How did you define those? (Older teacher has taught for more than five years?,etc)

Sat, Apr 6, 2013 carol NH

I am completing my first year as a teacher as a second career and I must say, I am feeling exhausted and disillusioned. I was so excited to return to school and receive my certification; I felt like I could make a difference. Instead, I spend insane hours planning, attending meetings, purchasing materials with my own $ while being paid very little with zero benefits. There is no joy in this and I am so sad, so disappointed; I must move on and return to a job that enables me to have some balance as well as benefits again. Teachers are expected to do it all while parents have no standards they must achieve. Why are we held accountable for test results when parents aren't held accountable for providing the most basic of needs for their children who we are teaching? As much as I feel I can make a small dent in a child's life, the price I am paying personally isn't worth it. I intend to leave this profession and I am so bummed.

Sun, Dec 23, 2012

Just remember who ever enters the teaching profession in the U.S. make sure you will be able to deal with the mental stress and the bs that comes with dealing with other peoples kids and ppl who are no longer teaching or never taught telling u how to do your job. I made the worst mistake of my life taking the offer of teaching, there were perks that I enjoyed but I was misserable for over 6 years it was not getting any better I don't know y I ever gave up on my self and took the job. I am not one to deal with sooo much bull, its just not for me, I want to go home forget about my job and enjoy my life instead of taking all the burden home with me. I loved the learning experience but wish I had never gone through it I hate myself for not following my own career interests, I feelt like a failure that the most I could do with my life was be somewhere I hated to wake up to and do a subpar job. Its a lil bit of everything that got to me, it should never be taken as a stepping stone unless u want to deal in the mean time while something better comes up. My respect to the super teachers that actuallly do a great job and put up with all the bs, you know who you are. For all the other hating individuals u know who you are, let ppl vent please.

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 teachers, keep on teaching

I am in my 25th year of teaching, the past 14 and currently in high school. I am extremely burnt out on the disrespect from students and the complacency of everyone around me. No one cares, most are there for a paycheck, funny thing is, I make less now then I did 10 years ago! No raise in 7 years,,,truly sucks to teach in Florida. I do care for the kids and always will. I try to put my energy into the ones that are salvageable, but so many are too far gone. With 5 years left to reach a 30 year retirement, Im trying to hang in, but some days I dont know if I will make it. Thanks for listening and good luck to you all--this is a hard way to make a living, for sure.

Thu, Nov 15, 2012

Instead of complaining why don't we all get together and demand change or else. What would happen if every teacher in the country did not show up for work and noone wanted to enter the profession?

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 Marianne Chicago

Are we just preaching to the choir? My 17th year teaching middle school science Teaching is my second career (first graphic artist). The stress is at times insurmountable. The more a teacher cares, the more pressure one feels to reach out and create life long learning experiences and to really help kids chose a life path. I have three classes, two of the classes have 11+ sped students (more than half are at a kindergarten - third grade reading level, in 6th grade). I get no physical support and am expected to create individualized lesson plans, every day, for each of these 26 sped students AND keep the other general and gifted kids moving forward. The heartbreaking trend I see is less attention is being paid to our general education population and zero attention to our diminishing gifted (they are left to teach themselves). Every school has a sped program. Not every school has a gifted program. How do we fix this? Parents need to stand up and ask how many sped students are in their child's classroom. Parents need to know how many kids total are in the classroom, and how much physical support (another adult in the classroom working with the children) is provided. When a teacher is supported, the students are supported. I can change the world, but I sure can't do it alone.

Sun, Nov 4, 2012 South Carolina

After 12 years as a self-contained special education teacher I am calling it quits. I have resigned my position and will not be returning after the winter break. My reasons are simple: The expectations are insane. Government's answer to student achievement is to issue one mandate after another. It has just become too much. Regular education teachers are suffering too. We are victims of a system that has too many laws, rules, regulations, too much to do, and not enough time, money, and manpower to get it all done. it is sad what has happened to public education. I many not see it I'm my lifetime, but if this trend continues, the system will eventually collapse under it's own weight. The burden is already too heavy.

Fri, Nov 2, 2012

I'm so happy I found this article I can relate to each and every one of the stories. Thankfully I have found a new job. After 11 years in Title I schools in urban areas, I cannot do this anymore. I want my life back before I'm dead from a heart attack, ulcer, stroke, whatever.

Wed, Oct 24, 2012 TN

I am extremely burnt out! I can't take this job anymore. There's never enough time in the day, you work WAY more hours than the 37.5 hours you're paid for, and expected to bring students up two grade levels in one single year! So sick of teaching. I used to love it and would be happy to spend hours and hours on it, but I am tired of putting my family last. I'm already looking for something outside of the classroom next year. Don't get me wrong, I love my students and want enjoy seeing the growth they make. But seldom having a planning period, paperwork that never seems to end, not including over 2,000 papers to grade in a single 9 week grading period, is not enough for me to continue stressing about. You also have have the stress of administrators who are power-happy. They'll move you in a second if they don't like you or keep you "hostage' in a grade you don't enjoy. What good is that for the students??? Parents who take their child's word on EVERYTHING, and in 100% denial of their child's misbehavior. Teaching used to be an honorable, but with the extra we have to deal with, it's become less than deserved. If the government would leave teachers alone, let school be fun, and allow teachers to do what we were trained to do, so many teachers would not be leaving the profession. But as for me next year, I want nothing to do with being a classroom teacher!!!:(

Wed, Oct 24, 2012 TN

I am extremely burnt out! I can't take this job anymore. There's never enough time in the day, you work WAY more hours than the 37.5 hours you're paid for, and expected to bring students up two grade levels in one single year! So sick of teaching. I used to love it and would be happy to spend hours and hours on it, but I am tired of putting my family last. I'm already looking for something outside of the classroom next year. Don't get me wrong, I love my students and want enjoy seeing the growth they make. But seldom having a planning period, paperwork that never seems to end, not including over 2,000 papers to grade in a single 9 week grading period, is not enough for me to continue stressing about. You also have have the stress of administrators who are power-happy. They'll move you in a second if they don't like you or keep you "hostage' in a grade you don't enjoy. What good is that for the students??? Parents who take their child's word on EVERYTHING, and in 100% denial of their child's misbehavior. Teaching used to be an honorable, but with the extra we have to deal with, it's become less than deserved. If the government would leave teachers alone, let school be fun, and allow teachers to do what we were trained to do, so many teachers would not be leaving the profession. But as for me next year, I want nothing to do with being a classroom teacher!!!:(

Wed, Oct 24, 2012

Ditto...my wife is having the same struggles as a teacher and it has been really hard for her to entertain the thought of quitting when she grew up wanting to be a teacher. She could easily spend up to 12 hours in the classroom (with no planning time) and still only get by with the bare minimum...and for what? When you have kids that are constantly disruptive, even if only a few, the fruit of your labor does not show and you begin to doubt your abilities as a teacher...but the teachers need to come up with an "improvement plan"...it always comes back on the teachers...they are expected to be miracle workers and cannot make any excuses. Every few weeks I find myself having to console my wife who is in tears because she doubts her abilities and because she has no time for the joys of life...it'll be ashame when she quits because we'll be losing a great teacher. The system is set up to burn out the good teachers. Too much pressure, too many standards/changing standards, great responsibility, too little time, and the few disruptive students ruin it for the teacher.

Mon, Oct 22, 2012 STL

I am a student in college on my way to becoming a teacher. I understand everone's comments but at the same time i am very excited to become a teacher. Im sure most of you were at some point as well. The only thing i dont understand is how all of you can be so misserable when i know so many teachers who have worked over a decade and still love their jobs.

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 ethiopia

i ve been teaching for almost 12 years. ehhhh--- i have decidded to find another job, if not i will keep on teaching because i have no option.

Sat, Oct 6, 2012 Pat South Florida

I am burned out like the rest of the people here. I left after one year of teaching then I came back to it after a decade of being in the business world. I enjoy the kids but the BS is too much. Everything is spinned and it is always the teacher's fault. It is a thin line between abuse on the teacher from students, administrators, parents and then of course the media. I wish I would have never gone back to teaching. There are no rewards anymore. The pay is awful, the respect is gone and we are a wiping board for the nation. No one wants to get real about the problem of our youth learning today--they are lazy and cannot hold up a pencil, or too high to care about learning, but wait that is the teacher's fault as the media would say. Teachers have become indured servants to the states now. If we complain, we are told you should be glad to have a job! No one mentions that the job is abusive and we as teachers get bullied from everyone-parents, media, students and adminstators. We are glorified babysiters to most parents, yet we are to cure all of society's problems too. They want robots to run the classroom now days. You just have to agree with every stupid new teaching method that you know will not work, but remember like they say, oh well at least you have a job! A job that may cause you to go insane and question yourself everyday why you chose a professtion that is not respected at all!

Thu, May 3, 2012 Rhode Island

Seventeen years teaching High School and if I could walk away right now I would...no regrets. As many have said, my health, both physical and mental, is suffering. Kids don't care. Parents think their kids are perfect. Building administration thinks everything is wonderful. District administration tells us "content doesn't matter." Yep. Heaven forbid kids know our own nation's history.

Tue, May 1, 2012

Is it burnout, or is it degredation? Being degrated by the administration, parents and the public. I truly love teaching, but that is becoming harder and harder to do. You must remember, adminstration works for us! our school is top-heavy with admin and councelors that do nothing. After 14 years of high school science with no student accountability, i give up. But i will not quit. It's time to let teaching not rule my life, i will no longer be a teacher first. It is now just a job and not a career. I will take, but i will not give. PS..i'm one hell of a teacher.

Tue, Apr 24, 2012 Debbie in NC

I've been a teacher in NC schools for 24 years and I can honestly say I"M DONE! I DREAD each and every day of going to a job, (and yeah, it's become a job) where I am immediately on the defense about each and every child..where parents blow off coming to meetings where their child is failing in their grade, where I'm having to document each and every single shread of paper that goes through my room just to 'cover' myself in the event that I"m challenged by anyone....principle, teachers or parents that want to criticize my daily efforts. I was brought up to teach strong work ethics which has become a joke....if I push a student to do his/her work, then I'm a pushy teacher because the parents complain to my principal. I'm sure that I'm not the only one out there who feels this way. And.....in NC we won't get a paycheck for FOUR months this summer until the END OF SEPTEMBER! Wonder where all that interest is going??? HMMMMMM!!! Let me guess?? Well NOT ME or anyone deserving who is constantly in the trenches, but some 'law' maker who thinks that he/ she knows what I should do buy hasn't set foot in a classroom in years if ever. Do I sound angry? Yes! I am actively searching for a consultation job where my opinion is rewarded and I am valued as a person and a professional. I am a Nationally Board Certified Teacher with a renewal who has a lot more to offer than be a professional babysitter. Oh, did I mention that I also work as a waitress to cover the living expenses that my monthly salary doesn't cover. You betcha....for more than a year now. Debbie in NC

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 Towanda! Upstate NY

I left teaching after almost 19 years of teaching. I was having such panic attacks about all the demands, that I guess I had what people call "a nervous breakdown".. The sad thing is, I am a great teacher. I really reached my students and they WANTED to be there to learn and discover. It was all the other "stuff".. administrators that do not have a clue, or are playing favorites, all of the standardized testing-- I am a "right brain" type of teacher and now teaching has become far too left brained. It isn't fair to kids and teachers are stressed to the MAX!! Don't even get me started about how political all of the teacher bashing is--- big business is cashing in on trying to break up unions, get charter schools going, I could go on and on!!! I am so disgusted. I am on disability now but I am becoming active in PARENTS ACROSS AMERICA. We have to unite to fight this degradation of public education in the US.

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 Towanda! Upstate NY

I left teaching after almost 19 years of teaching. I was having such panic attacks about all the demands, that I guess I had what people call "a nervous breakdown".. The sad thing is, I am a great teacher. I really reached my students and they WANTED to be there to learn and discover. It was all the other "stuff".. administrators that do not have a clue, or are playing favorites, all of the standardized testing-- I am a right brain type of teacher and now teaching has become far too left brained. It isn't fair to kids and teachers are stressed to the MAX!! Don't even get me started about how political all of the teacher bashing is--- big business is cashing in on trying to break up unions, get charter schools going, I could go on and on!!! I am so disgusted. I am on disability now but I am becoming active in PARENTS ACROSS AMERICA. We have to unite to fight this degradation of public education in the US.

Sun, Apr 22, 2012 LA

God, please help me remember why I became a teacher in the first place because I am just too tired to care anymore!

Sat, Apr 14, 2012

I've been teaching for 25 years and I am DONE!! I'm having a mortgage burning party next weekend and I plan on a simple life of just cleaning houses for a couple years. I've taught in upper suburban districts, inner city districts and rural (like WAY rural) districts. They're all the same!! Hello Vacuum! Good bye parent teacher conferences in the grocery store. augh!

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 Julie

After 20 years as a high school English teacher, I have walked away from the profession. Trust me, this decision has not been without extreme amounts of guilt, shame, fear, and did I say guilt? However, after just three months removed from the chaos of lesson planning, grading papers, and sleepless nights, I am finally understanding how detrimental this career is to my emotional, physical and spiritual health and well being. Teaching takes over my life, and I am no longer willing to invest this much of my life in something that leaves me depressed, anridden ridden and constantly questioning my self confidence. My advice is... Don't be afraid to stop doing what makes your life unmanageable from an emotional stand point. I have no idea how my career plans will evolve. But, I love waking up in the morning not dreading my day. Even if I am not making as much money, peace of mind is priceless.

Wed, Jan 4, 2012

I have not had a name to put with how I have been feeling, but burn-out it is. Reading different descriptions of burn-out on the web have brought tears to my eyes. I am not alone. I am not the only one who would rather go anywhere else besides school today. I have read of teachers on disability with a real physical condition called burn-out. My body has not quit functioning, yet, but I know if I continue doing what I am doing now, I will have health consequences. I have made plans to leave the teaching profession after 11 years. June cannot come fast enough this year. Thanks for letting me share.

Mon, Dec 26, 2011 KWinters Albuquerque, NM

As a first year teacher in 2006, I entered the classroom motivated as any new teacher should be. Teaching strategies, assessments, and fun activities turned my students to become engaged learners during my first three years. My next three years made me see a more shifting trend in leaving no child behind by school districts. Accountability became an even louder tagline in teacher meetings. New programs were prescribed for our school and teachers thus either embraced or resisted the continued initiative. I found myself moving out of the classroom and into other supplemental programs for students; RoboRAVE (robot technology) and engineering activities (model rocketry, model racecars, etc). I also found myself involved with community based activities and programs; mentorship program (for local Native American community students), performing arts partnerships (supporting community projects using film, creative writing, music, and spoken word). The question of burnout seems far from my work with students and the community and I do feel I make lasting contributions to my students' schema and hope they become positive contributing citizens. In Williams' article she addresses research showing teacher dropout rates lower when teachers stand firm on their philosophy of making a difference in their students' lives.

Sun, Nov 27, 2011

I'm another burnt out teacher with a Masters degree. I search for jobs every day but it's tough to make the transition. After five years in the field, I hope I can get out soon. Can't take much more.

Tue, Nov 22, 2011 North Carolina

I have been teaching for ~9 years and I am burned out! I am a NBCT with 18 hours of a Masters of Arts in Education and current working on my MBA because I have decided to make the transition from education. I started out loving and enjoying every single day as the years past the demands and lack of respect for our profession has taken its toll. We have not received a pay raise in over 4 years yet have continued to pile on more and more work. The community, politicians, parents, and those who govern education blame everything on the teacher. It is my opinion that if these parents would discipline their children and stop trying to be their friends, make them accountable for their action we would have better students. Now NC is not paying until after we have worked 30 days which pushes our pay day into Septemeber. It is a shame at how educators are treated. God Help Us All!!! Here is an idea how about paying teachers by weekly and stop collecting the interest on our money by only paying us once a month.

Sat, Nov 19, 2011 Florida

I am an aid for $11 an hour and burned out from the social work profession; working with violated children and families in high risk areas in Cincinnati, Ohio and Lawrenceburg, Indiana. My problem is the teacher. She is retiring this year and we all work in a 'Green Beret' public school that serves children who don't qualify anymore for regular ed programs or the special ed within those programs. So we have the worst of the disabled: mentally, physically, emotionally and behaviorally. She uses belitting, bitterness, and cruel challenges to keep our 2nd and 3rd grade class in line and the m.o. is to attack me on the days that they are too whipped to fight. It is a situation of administrative neglect as well since I won my stripes as a whistle blower last year over something I ethically chose to challenge in a classroom with an abuse call to Child Protective Services : the teacher informed the parent of my name. This is the documentation style I was taught to use in my last profession and what a tragic surprise I got with the reception I got from the teacher and the administration! Needless to say, my feedback from administration ranges from "this is your last chance as an identified trouble maker" to "you surpise us, you are so well behaved this year." I am 60 years of age: how insulting to my integrity and the integrity of a school that could be so state of the art if it was not so worried about losing its funding. So I toss this out to all of you to chew on.

Thu, Nov 17, 2011

I work in a really hostile school environment. The way some of the students behave would remind you of a prison movie. The admin is so unsupportive, sometimes it seems like they're trying out to get us. Maybe to prove to their superiors that the school's failures are all the teacher's faults. No teacher in my school is content. Everyone is miserable. The building is like a dungeon in hell. And like others said, the demands are immense! It's totally impossible to do this job well, be a good parent, cook a good meal for your family, keep a clean house and be happy when you get into bed at the end of the day. I am seriously considering seeing a doctor for this depression and stress that this job has caused me. Either that, or finding a new job. Is teaching enjoyable anywhere? Is it just inner city public schools that are a disaster? Is it possible to find a job somewhere more, like an actual school? I hate it so much. I've only been teaching for 5 years and I'm ready to quit. At this point I'd rather work behind a desk and answer phones. That's how bad I feel about it. And THAT fact makes me even more disappointed, because I wanted to impact lives, help young people, make a difference, be important. But all I do is FIGHT all day. I cannot keep doing this.

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 north carolina

I wanted to teach in the public school system for years. This is my 3rd year and I am drowning. I loved the fact that we are out for summer while my own children were out too. If I could win the lottery tonight, I would retire by December. This is taking a toll on my mind, soul, health and family. I just want to do my job and not spend most of the class time dealing with unruly children. I want to shake a few parents for not disciplining their own children before they dump them on the school system. Then when you call home they act like it is your fault. Some need to be reintroduced to spanking or being the adult and not their friend. I do not know how much longer I can hang in. Now with the new not getting paid until September is ridiculous. Do they realize we have to live also. All these stupid meetings is crazy. Then they want to know why people do not want to volunteer. We are freaking tired and underpaid and the economy is still rising. May God have mercy on all teachers. We really need a revival in our lives. I never knew my job would feel like a anchor around your neck. GOD WE NEED YOUR HELP!!!!!

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 Texas

After 10 years of teaching, I am considering leaving and finding an 8-5 job that I could leave my work at work. Just as mentioned above, the paperwork, the demands placed by school district, pressure I am passing on to Kinder students, not enough resources, budget cuts, no support for Kinder, and so much more! My work day starts at 6:00am and I get home at 7:00pm, Saturdays I work on school work at home and then Sundays I am back at school for another 8 hours preparing lessons for the week. You never get caught up. Collaborating with other teachers is a joke, it is like everyone is out for themselves, support from administration is a joke they are always playing around in the office. Then there is the superintendent, who has little teaching experience and is making more money than our President. I can say much more but never gets listened to.

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 Amanda Charlotte, NC

Another NBCT with a master's degree here who is contemplating leaving the profession to better myself and make time for my personal life. I have been teaching for ~10 years and already feel the burn...I just want a job where I can call in sick and not have to "deal" with sub plans or a job that ends when I walk to my car! I agree with the comment about summer break...what is that? Now with NC's plan to not pay us next August, that is just more fuel to my fire of wanting to find a new profession.

Tue, Nov 8, 2011

I'm currently working on NBC and getting a MA in curriculum and instruction, and I frequently ask myself why. This is only my fourth year teaching, but I am so burnt out already. I never get to do fun things with my kindergarteners because we are told, down to the minute, how much time to spend on each subject with a mandated curriculum. Somehow, my students always pass with flying colors despite the fact that they are at least 50% ELL and low-SES. Still, I wonder if I am burning them out and teaching them to hate learning because everything is push, push, push. I work at least 70 hours a week on school stuff, but I never feel like I am caught up. There is no such thing as summer vacation because I take tons of classes for recertification and work on projects thinking next year will be easier if I just get this and that done before then. It hasn't gotten easier yet, and I don't think it will. I am so sick and tired (literally) of crossing my legs all day because I never get a break. I don't even get a lunch break because I have lunch duty EVERY day. Recess time is nonexistent because my students are absent so frequently that they have make-up work constantly. I can't send it home because mom and dad don't speak English, and they probably don't understand what to do anyway. I had always dreamt of becoming a teacher and was going to make it a lifetime career, but what I thought I was getting into is definitely not what I got. So much for being teacher of the year and nominated for national teaching awards already. None of that matters to me if I don't like what I'm doing.

Sun, Nov 6, 2011 Meg Florida

I too am an NBCT with a Masters degree. My salary has dropped by 20% in the last five years as Florida has cut NBCT bonuses and other programs. It also bothers me that administrators do veiled threats of "non-negotiables" that no one could complete within a regular school day. As a group, we are conscientious to a fault, so we sacrifice ourselves and our families for the sake of our students... Yet if the county would differentiate with teachers, as they want us to do with students, they would see that half of the documentation that they want us to create is hurting our practice in the classroom by taking time away from actual teaching. A seasoned teacher does not really need to produce a five page document for every lesson plan. We were effective before that requirement. Unlike this author, I started in business and went into teaching as a second career. My body was in shock for the first year at the lack of rest... 12-16 hour work days with little time for food or breaks. I too am considering if I can keep up the pace and justify the lack of pay for those long hours. I love teaching... this will be a difficult decision, but with only 9 years until retirement, I can't afford to be in a job that is making me work harder than I ever have for less money than I have ever been paid. But then I wonder, who will be left who can afford to teach in the public school system?

Sat, Nov 5, 2011 Alan Matan

In order for us to lessen the phenomenon of burnout, we need to reflect on how we are prioritizing our responsibilities. There are many tasks that teachers juggle on a daily basis from planning, teaching, grading, coaching, managing behavior and others. Of these pieces, grading is probably the most time consuming. We must ask ourselves “Why are we grading this piece of work?” If it is to put a grade in the gradebook, we must reevaluate our thought process. I’ve seen too many teachers grade for the sake of grading. Why do I say this? What do students do after getting their graded assignments? They look at the grade on top and put the paper away. We could have spent 20 minutes correcting an essay, with the student looking at the paper for 10 seconds. Burnout can be decreased by grading assessments that are focused on measurable skills being learned in class around a 4-point rubric and holding our students accountable in becoming proficient in a particular skill.

Fri, Nov 4, 2011

I have less than 10 years w/a masters in curriculum and instruction in reading, teacher leader, special education, & intervention teacher. Teaching to the test has burnt everyone out. Principals and teachers are now being strong-armed into a valued added evaluated based on student test performance. Isn't that a clever idea? We are killing ourselves for something that makes no sense. I work on weekends, so that I can stay afloat for the next week. My hard work pays off to get kids below grade level to pass the assessment, but my colleagues refuse to put in extra for struggling students. Why are they paid the same as me? May be they are smarter, but I do care about students as if they were my own. However, I would change careers if an opportunity came open right now.

Fri, Nov 4, 2011 Kentucky

I can echo all of the responses written here. After 15 years, I have decided that I will leave the profession within the next 6 years. The inane decisions made by central office personnel, weak leaders and 60-70 hour work week has really taken its toll. My passion for teaching has been taken away by the unmanageable amounts of paperwork and the struggle to "comply." What happened to teaching the students? After a BS, MAED, EDS and National Board Certification, I am questioning why I just didn't take a vacation and save my tuition money. Teachers are not treated as professionals, the number of degrees and the types of certifications are not rewarded or supported.

Fri, Nov 4, 2011

The working conditions in schools are poor. I have been teaching 15+ years and I've just about had it. I see 13 different classes each day. I teach from 9:30-3:30 with a half hour lunch. (I rarely eat during that time because I am cleaning up from the morning and preparing for the afternoon.)There is time before 9:30 and after 3:30 to plan, (on the rate days that I don't have meetings or that I don't have students coming in for extra help) but how can I make any personal connections with my students when there are over 300 each day. It seems that people think we only work when we are with students. I work at least 10 hours every day. The six hours that I see students is only part of my day. I can't do this for the next 20 years. I could go on, but no one ever seems to hear us.

Fri, Nov 4, 2011 Barb Virginia

Yes, burnout hits the seasoned teachers, also. Twenty-seven years, two master's degrees, National Board Certification, department chair, and I still didn't earn enough or was allowed to make my own decisions! One hundred percent of my students passed the state-mandated assessment every year since its inception, which was another positive for me. Could have used that secretary and the work culture that valued my skills. Maybe I would have stayed just a few more years.

Fri, Nov 4, 2011

"Burn out" has been a hot topic of discussion in my home this year. I too feel that for the sake of my "self" I too must leave after nearly 25 years of teaching. The inane paper work, the decisions that are made by people who are not teachers, the lack of support for getting help for struggling students, the disaster that the emphasis on early literacy has brought to kindergartens, are all factors in my (very tearful) decision to leave teaching. I know that the community will be losing an excellent kindergarten teacher. I also know that my younger colleagues will be losing a valued mentor. The guilt is overwhelming but I guess need to do what I need to do.

Fri, Nov 4, 2011 Pam Gastonia, NC

It is not just young teachers who are burning out. I left the profession after 22 years, still loving the art of teaching. No pay increase would have changed my mind because I was not in it for the money. Most of my extra salary from having a M.Ed. and National Board Certification went back into my Title I classroom and students due to state budget issues, and the fact that my county did not provide developmentally appropriate materials for me to teach with. (They did supply plenty of worksheets.) Even at 80+ hours a week, I was unable to be the teacher I really wanted to be because of the burden of central office decisions that were not in the best interest of my inner city population. I decided that I had to put my family first. My main priority had to be my own children. After representing my county on a state team for 3 years, my opinions and active, fun classroom still did not matter at all to the powers that be. I had to get out for the sake of my mental and physical health. I had to leave while I was still good for children.

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