Burnout: The Cure
Gairre Henry and Sharon Pettey-Taylor
“My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night.”
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Our profession, particularly in the New York City metropolitan area, is booming with highly-talented and gifted beginning teachers, thanks to the creative recruitment strategies reaching across the nation. The zeal to transform or renew our teaching practices, after some brief initial training, is made evident in the large number of our newest colleagues, present in every school district.
All this vibrant, invigorating enthusiasm to “make a difference” would make one assume that it is contagious or will naturally rub off on teachers already fully-established and for all practical purposes, halfway to a reliable pension. However, even as many veteran teachers reflect on all of their accomplishments in contributing to the betterment of their school communities, after many years a kind of contentment may slowly overtake their ongoing, professional development.
According to recent research studies, teachers, along with air traffic controllers, general practitioners and lawyers, rank high for experiencing the greatest percentage of burnout-related symptoms. Although it is quite possible that apathy, chronic fatigue and absenteeism could be indications of underlying, serious health issues, work-related problems are more prevalent factors threatening one’s quality of life and well-being.
The Professional Teaching Standards provides us with some ideas as to how we can remain fresh and vibrant for as long as we serve our constituencies. They are as follows:
Initiate professional development opportunities to collaborate with other colleagues (including administrators, education specialists, paraprofessionals) to discuss improved teaching practices.
Plan staff retreats offsite to inspiring and/or tranquil settings.
Visit your peers’ classrooms frequently-- learn from each other.
Participate in schoolwide, decision-making processes.
Engage in thoughtful and reflective dialogue with other colleagues.
Resolve personal or professional conflicts early, thereby nipping in the bud prolonged anger, resentment, lowered morale, and diminishing performance.
Take on leadership roles within your chosen specialty, initiating a special project that truly holds your interest.
Strive to maintain balance in your professional and personal life.
Continue to challenge yourself intellectually, never settling for “just getting by.”
As we expand our knowledge base and seek out resources for help, using the critical lens of self-assessment while simultaneously recognizing the red flags that foreshadow negative behaviors, we will be well-equipped to maintain a healthy self-esteem and positive outlook that may never be compromised.
All the best,
Gairre & Sharon
For further information, kindly refer to:
Developing as a Professional, Professional Teaching Standards
See also: Relax, Refuel, Renew, Reflect and Plan by Theresa London Cooper.
Do you have a comment, question, or suggestion about this article? E-mail Sharon.