The Causes of Teacher Burnout: What Everyone Needs to Know

This blog was originally published on February 28th, 2018. It has been updated with new information and links.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that the demand for teachers will continue to increase through 2026 estimating the need for more than 250,000 educators. This demand is occurring partly due to changes in student-teacher ratios and student enrollment, however, the largest reason for the increasing need for additional teachers is due to attrition. Learning Policy Institute (LPI) documented this teacher attrition rate in a recent report.  

 

The LPI report also points to new teachers leaving at a rate between 19 and 30% in their first five years as a major impact to the increased demand for educators. Additionally, the overall rate of attrition in teaching averages 8% which is double the attrition rate in countries where educator retention is a high priority.  

 

There are several reasons teachers leave the profession including, but not limited to, a lack of resources, poor pay, and challenging political environments. The reasons teachers leave the profession mirror the main causes of teacher burnout. 

Causes of teacher burnout include: 

  • A lack of administrative support  
  • An over-emphasis on standardized testing  
  • Evaluation of teachers based on standardized testing scores  
  • Increasingly difficult student behavior with increases in frequency and severity  
  • Home lives of children that teachers cannot control  
  • A lack of personnel/proper staffing  
  • Forcing teachers to teach outside their area of expertise  
  • Inadequate prep time  
  • Extreme amounts of paperwork  
  • A lack of respect for the profession   
  • Challenging interactions with parents  
  • A lack of resources  
  • A lack of training for new initiatives and technology 

I’m sure you can add to the list based on your experiences or those of your colleagues.

More important than listing the issues is sharing the information and raising awareness. Consider writing a letter to the editor of your local paper or asking the superintendent to discuss the issue at an open school board meeting. Maybe an email to your legislative representative is in order. No matter what you decide, remember the importance of developing possible solutions. While solutions should be the focus, it is important to understand the causes of this growing problem. By understanding the reasons for burnout, we can keep an eye out for warning signs, develop strategies to decrease or reverse it, and instead increase teacher resilience. This information is valuable to teachers (pre-service and veteran) and administrators, but parents and community members need to understand this as well. Teacher burnout is not a problem that can be solved in isolation, so we must raise awareness outside the field of education. 

Download Self Care for Educators and share it with colleagues and leaders to renew the conversation around working together to decrease stress and increase teacher retention! 

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Other Teacher Burnout Resources:


To learn more about teacher burnout or methods for decreasing it, check out Course 5124: Goodbye Teacher Burnout, Welcome Teacher Wellness.

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Resources: 

  1. Burns, J. (2013, January 2). Teacher morale ‘dangerously low’ suggest survey [Web log post]. Retrieved January 12, 2018, from http://www.bbc.com/news/education-20877397
  2. Ingersoll, R.M. (2012, May 16). Beginning teacher induction: What the data tell us: Induction is an education reform whose time has come. Education Week.Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/05/16/kappan_ingersoll.h31.html 
  3. Seidel, A. (2014). The teacher dropout crisis. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/07/18/332343240/the-teacher-dropout-crisis?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social
  4. American Federation of Teachers (2015). “Quality of Worklife Survey.” Retrieved May 17, 2017, from http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/worklifesurveyresults2015.pdf
  5. Sutcher, L., Darling-Hammond, L., & Carver-Thomas, D. (2016). A coming crisis in teaching? Teacher supply, demand, and shortages in the U.S. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.

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