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Understanding and Avoiding Teacher Burnout: A Guide for a Joyful Holiday

The Educational Coach

12 Dec 2023

We explore both passive and active coping strategies that teachers can employ to ensure a restful and enjoyable holiday season.

As the festive season approaches, it's crucial for teachers to reflect on their well-being and take steps to prevent burnout. Research synthesized by Maslach, Schaufeli, and Leiter highlights two main contributors to burnout: individual factors and situational factors. Let's delve into some key findings and explore practical strategies to ensure a rejuvenating holiday break.

Individual Factors: Demographics, Personality, and Coping Mechanisms

  • The relationship between burnout and demographic characteristics, such as gender and marital status, is complex and varies across studies. While some suggest a higher prevalence of emotional exhaustion in female teachers (Schwab et al., 1982), others find no consistent trend (Ackerley et al., 1988). It's essential to recognise that burnout is a personal experience, and individual differences play a significant role.

  • Personality factors. Many contemporary personality psychologists believe that there are five basic dimensions of personality, often referred to as the "Big 5" personality traits. The Big 5 personality traits are extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. Neuroticism and the Type A behaviour pattern (competitiveness, time urgency, and a tendency toward workaholism), have been identified as predictors of burnout. Individuals that demonstrate high neuroticism, characterised by anxiety and emotional instability, are more susceptible to burnout. Similarly, those with a Type A behaviour pattern, driven by competitiveness and a fast-paced lifestyle, may be vulnerable to job stress and burnout.

  • Coping mechanisms also play a crucial role. Teachers with higher self-efficacy, resilience, and positive attitudes experience lower burnout. Active measures, such as establishing positive relationships, maintaining a work-life balance, and engaging in self-reflection, contribute to effective coping.

As is well proven, coaching has a positive impact on well-being and mental resilience. Why not check out what we do at The Educational Coach and make now the moment that you begin your coaching journey.

Situational Factors: Navigating the Work Environment

Research emphasises the impact of the work environment on burnout. Job characteristics, organisational climate, and leadership styles significantly influence teacher well-being. Role conflict and ambiguity, lack of challenging opportunities, overwork, and organisational climate all contribute to burnout.

For instance, a positive school organisational climate correlates with lower burnout levels, while bureaucratic leadership and larger school sizes may increase burnout rates. Identifying and addressing these situational factors is crucial for creating a supportive work environment.

Practical Strategies for a Joyful Holiday Break

Understanding the factors contributing to burnout is the first step. Now, let's explore both passive and active coping strategies that teachers can employ to ensure a restful and enjoyable holiday season.

Passive Measures:

  • Emotional Coping: Acknowledge and express your emotions without directing them negatively towards others. Can you name your most prevalent emotion?

  • Withdrawn Behavior: Focus on main elements required to do your job successfully in order to protect yourself. What are the core elements that must get done?

  • Avoidance Strategies: Take breaks, wait for weekends or holidays, and use these periods to recharge and recover. If you had 10 mins, 1 hr or 1 day, how would you use that time to rest?

Active Measures:

  • Positive Relationships: Establish connections with colleagues and students for emotional support and problem-solving. Reflect on who 'your people' are both in and outside of school.

  • Healing through Balance: Maintain a balance between work and personal life to overcome excessive immersion. What is the current percentage split? What would you like it to be?

  • Balance is Key: Acknowledging the importance of a balance between personal and professional life becomes even more critical in light of the additional support offered by coaching programmes.

  • Self-reflection and Recovery: Reflect on your practices, seek professional development, and engage in hobbies to recover from burnout. When, where and how do you feel replenished in energy?

The inclusion of coaching mentoring programmes, as evidenced by Wright's study (2020), emerges as a tangible and effective school-based intervention to enhance teachers' stress-coping abilities and mitigate burnout. Policymakers, governments, LGBs and trusts are urged to prioritise the implementation of school-based awareness and intervention programmes to promote the overall well-being of teachers. The wellbeing of your staff is a priority, and one which all good schools have - see how The Educational Coach can support with this goal.

In conclusion, recognising and addressing burnout is crucial for teachers to enjoy a well-deserved holiday break. By understanding both individual and situational factors and implementing effective coping strategies, educators can ensure a rejuvenated and joyful festive season. May your holidays be filled with relaxation, positivity, and the energy to start the new year afresh.

References and further reading: 

Oh, H. (2023). Characteristics, Impacts, and Countermeasures of Teacher Burnout Syndrome in Education Field.

Schwab R, Iwanicki E. Perceived role conflict, role ambiguity, and teacher burnout. Educational Administration Quarterly. 1982;18(1):60-74. DOI: 10.1177/0013161X82018001005

Wright, C. (2020). Examine the mediating effect of coaching mentoring programs on teacher burnout.

Ackerley G, Bumell J, Holder D, Kurdek L. Burnout among licensed psychologists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. 1988;19(6):624-631. DOI: 10.1037/0735-7028.19.6.624

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