Our new teachers are overworked, over-stressed and in need of urgent support.
A recent Monash University study found that one in four new teachers suffer from emotional exhaustion, with some even experiencing forms of post-traumatic stress.
The main causes behind teacher burnout were found to be a lack of administrative support and onerous compliance measures. Associate Professors Paul Richardson and Helen Watt of Monash University made their findings from surveys of 612 primary and secondary teachers.
The cost can also be significant financially, as the Victorian Education Department found out when it awarded about $1.2m in damages in September to a former teacher who developed chronic depression in the classroom.
While much has been written on the subject, it seems very little practical support is available to teachers. So why are schools falling behind in such a crucial area? Could it be that staff are simply too overworked to help their colleagues?
A recent Staff in Australia’s School’s (SiAS) Report showed that class sizes and workloads in Australian schools are much higher than the OECD average.
The research revealed that in addition to our classes having more students than the OECD average, our teachers are also working an average of 42.7 hours per week, compared with the OECD average of 38.3.
It’s understandable that these conditions are fertile ground for burnout. So here are five quick tips teachers can use when burnout strikes.
The most important thing to do when you feel stress coming on is to breathe. This tip might sound simple, but it can make a huge difference to how you feel physically and mentally. Breathe deeply and steadily, and clear your mind. This prepares you for the next step.
It’s important not to let the negativity associated with a challenging workload or tight deadline get the better of you. Stressing about it won’t help. You didn’t become a teacher by stressing and thinking negatively. Your can-do attitude got you here, and it can get you through whatever challenge faces you.
Have fun with your students
Your students are the people you spend every day at work with, so it’s important to have a healthy relationship with them. Exploring ways to make your lessons fun and interactive (i.e., quizzes, brain-teasers and jokes) can lighten the mood of both your students and yourself.
Remember you’re not alone
Remember that as teachers, you’re all in it together and a share the burden of stress. Connecting with your peers and (when possible) planning together throughout the day will prevent the feeling of isolation. As a teacher, you’re part of a team. A helping hand is never too far away.
Don’t forget your other life
It’s understandable that you want to be the best teacher you can be, but you have a life outside the classroom. Staying involved in social activity is important. Spending the entire weekend planning and grading is a shortcut to burnout. Remember that looking after yourself will help you look after your students even better.
If you feel that you’re a victim of depression and anxiety, please visit www.beyondblue.org.au