In 2013, Monash University researchers published a report on their research in which they surveyed and tracked 1651 beginning teachers for the first 7 years of their teaching career. They found 27% of those teachers “burnt-out and worn-out” within that time period. Headlines in the United Kingdom have since cited a figure of 4 out of 10 teachers quitting within a year of qualifying (Weale 2015).
Many education departments have created and implemented policies that address and improve teacher quality through improving the academic standard of new teachers entering the profession. However, the successful implementation of these policies assumes that teacher quality is measured solely by academic achievement or knowledge. These policies seem to be having no effect on burnout rates and, in fact, may even be contributing to them further. According to a study in the American Journal of Education (Santoro 2011), many teachers are quitting because they are demoralised by rigid education reforms created in the pursuit of improving teacher quality. The study found that many of these ill-conceived reforms strip the value of teaching and replace it with performance-based initiatives. The end results of such reforms are high levels of frustration and a general feeling of helplessness among existing teachers and self-doubt amongst new or perspective teachers.
So how do we address the epidemic of increasingly burnt-out and demoralized teachers?
We can make a huge wish list of what we would like our education system to be, but the fact is that our education system is far from perfect and beyond the reach of change for most of us mere mortals to tackle, so where do we start?
We start by truly appreciating ourselves as teachers and expressing that appreciation to our colleagues around us.
True appreciation offers someone the ability to know that all they do has a purpose and it is having an impact. It is letting a person know that everything they do and even the way they carry themselves has an impact on the whole school system. No one teacher can be everything for everyone, however, the part that they offer has a profound effect on the whole that makes up someone’s life, and this should be truly appreciated.
Self-care: To fully appreciate another and oneself you have to first be completely respectful and caring of yourself. This is the key ingredient to true appreciation. Self-care is the key that allows appreciation of yourself and others to be felt throughout your day and whole life. Respecting and caring for yourself helps you nurture yourself and supports appreciation to remain strong and steady, which in turn then becomes your focus over and above all the workload, stresses and pressures.
Teachers appreciating themselves and all that they bring to teaching, restores commitment and balance to work. It also helps teachers to remain strong in their commitment to ‘the real reason’ they originally chose to enter the profession.
The Teachers Are Gold project is an organisation dedicated to offering foundational support to all teachers and educators. It brings together over 50 teachers from around the world who work together, share, inspire and support one another to celebrate and honour everything that teachers bring to our lives.
For more information visit – www.teachersaregold.com.au
Monash University (2013). Monash University News and Events, accessed 1 November 2015, http://monash.edu/news/show/early-burnout-puts-heat-on-teacher-education
Santoro, D. (2011). Good Teaching in Difficult Times, American Journal of Education, 118(1), 1-23
Weale, Sally (2015). The Guardian, accessed 1 December 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/mar/31/four-in-10-new-teachers-quit-within-a-year