Teaching is both an incredibly rewarding and an incredibly stressful career. Certain signs can indicate whether a teacher is experiencing more of the former or the latter. Avoid potential pitfalls by being alert to symptoms of teacher burnout.
Loss of Enthusiasm
Teachers have a certain spark that drives them. Other educators can see when the spark is gone. It happens when teachers are no longer excited when the struggling student passes a test or when past students come back to visit and share their successes and struggles. Many teachers experiencing this loss tend to avoid the company of others and isolate themselves, because hearing how well other teachers are doing can be even more discouraging. And if what little interaction you do seek out consists of complaining with colleagues about the trials of the day, rather than the joys, you may be on moving toward burning out.
Frustration with Students
Where you once had patience with those hard-to-teach students, do you now find yourself easily frustrated? Dealing with challenging students can cause a teacher to feel stressed and even question his professionalism. Over time, the consistent toll of difficult students can lead to low self-esteem for teachers. If you've started to notice this shift from empathy toward irritation, it's a sign that you're probably being worn down.
Early on, teachers typically put in many hours as they work through the learning curve of a new career. This is true especially of young teachers, defined as those entering the profession before age 30. When long hours are logged, however, the potential to get discouraged is high when it seems like little or no progress is made. If you start to feel like nothing about your situation will change, either for yourself or your students, it's possible the fatigue of burnout is beginning to set in.
Lack of Drive
One of the key signs of discouragement and eventual burnout is a sense of apathy toward professional development. When lessons plans are recycled continually and you find little motivation to seek out more experienced teachers for advice, it should be a red flag that a deeper issue is taking root. Quality teachers often feel a drive to learn as much as they can, as quickly as they can, so that they can benefit their students. When this drive begins to wane, it can stifle professional growth and should be a sign that you need to question whether or not you're hitting the wall.
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