The emergence of COVID-19 has introduced a number of unprecedented challenges to both physical and mental well-being. And whilst no one could have predicted the personal and professional toll of these last few months, research shows that Australian professionals – teachers among them – were already on the fast track to burnout prior to the pandemic. Interestingly, 79 per cent of workers felt they lacked the endurance and flexibility to navigate changes in the workplace.
And for teachers, there have been changes aplenty. In fact, a separate survey called The Springfox COVID-19 People Survey found that the biggest challenge for teachers was adjusting to new ways of working – especially for younger teachers (25-34 years) and older teachers (45 years and older). In addition, heightened feelings anxiety and worry were felt by the majority of teachers across the board.
In the wake of national school shutdowns and the introduction of home learning, teachers were required to quickly upskill themselves and their students, learn new technologies and systems, deliver high-quality learning outcomes under extraordinary circumstances, and support student well-being all whilst battling their own personal challenges that come along with a stressful, world-changing pandemic. The result has been increased teacher productivity at the expense of longer work hours, blurred lines between work and home life, and an anxious and exhausted workforce.
Now, as teachers make the transition back to the classroom, there will be another set of challenges to face and obstacles to overcome – strict social distancing laws to adhere to and enforce, work to catch up on, students to keep safe, anxious kids to look after, and all of the usual challenges that come with teaching.
Given research consistently points to high levels of stress and burnout amongst those in the teaching profession, there has never been a more important time for teachers to invest in their well-being in order to prevent themselves from experiencing burnout as they return to the classroom.
Understandably, current and rapidly changing circumstances will continue to take a significant toll on teachers. As a consequence, this will in turn impact the rate of burnout amongst educators in the months to come if they don’t actively invest in their own resilience and well-being.
It’s been scientifically proven that people who are committed to building resilience are more likely to master stress, improve their mental well-being, grow from challenges and avoid burnout. There are a number of effective ways to build resilience, but here are some of the top ways to help teachers minimise the possibility of burnout as they transition back into the classroom:
To build on this, one of biggest drivers of stress for teachers stems from ‘over-caring’ about the needs, opinions or behaviors of others – whether they be students, parents or other teachers. In my work building resilience with educators, I’ve had to teach teachers how to step back from the emotionally charged work they do in their roles. It’s important to understand the emotions of others, without owning the emotion for yourself – this will allow you to respond constructively, without being weighed down by the situation at hand.
The pressure of being a teacher will always hang heavy, but there is a clear silver lining. The pandemic has highlighted the essential and invaluable role of teachers in society, prompting long overdue appreciation for their expertise, passion and commitment from students, parents, the wider community, and most importantly, teachers themselves.