Upton: Teacher burnout a real problem

Upton: Teacher burnout a real problem

May 28th, 2009 by Tabi Upton in Health

As the school year draws to an end, students aren't the only ones yearning for a vacation. Many teachers can't wait for the much-needed break from the halls of learning.

Societal shifts in family structure and attitudes toward authority have greatly changed the face of public education.

One teacher who lives in a nearby state told me the story of the day she got in a fight. When she was on car pickup duty one afternoon, a parent insisted on walking inside the school to get her child because she had no desire to wait in the normal car line.

When this teacher explained that she would indeed have to wait in line like everyone else, the parent argued. The teacher bravely stood her ground, and the parent struck her squarely in the eye. The spunky teacher shouted for help while holding the woman in a head-lock until the police arrived.

Teachers today are facing administrative politics, complex academic standards, troubled students and even unruly parents.

A teacher in a local low-performing middle school said he takes sick days as often as he can and isn't surprised when no one asks him a single question when he returns from his mental-health breaks. His peers just seem to give him knowing looks.

The children he teaches don't seem interested in learning, and he spends much of his day maintaining order in the classroom.

If you are a teacher and can answer yes to several of the following questions, you are most likely experiencing burnout according to the web resources for teachers:

* Do work activities you once found enjoyable now feel like drudgery? Have you become more cynical or bitter about your job, your boss or the company? Are non-work relationships (marital, family, friendships) affected by your feelings about work?

* Do you find yourself dreading going to work in the morning? Are you easily annoyed or irritated by your co-workers? Are you envious of individuals who are happy in their work?

Here are some ways any school system can help prevent teacher burnout according to an Web-based article called "The Rebooting of a Teacher's Mind" by Brenda Dyckthe:

* Offer professional development activities such as stress management workshops, relaxation training and time-management workshops.

* Provide nutrition, exercise and coping skills training.

* Work to improve working conditions, classroom environment and salary issues.

* Accommodate relevant cultural differences/issues of students and faculty.

* Celebrate holidays and other uplifting events

For now, thank God it's summer.

Tabi Upton is a therapist at Richmont/CBI Counseling Center. E-mail her at tabiupton@bellsouth.net.