Teachers and school administrators across the country are experiencing one very common condition – burnout. With the stress that COVID-19 brought to educators across America, many are still struggling to cope with its lingering emotional effects.
In today’s post, Thriving Learning Communities™ (TLC) explains how the science of character strengths combined with social and emotional learning curriculum based on CASEL’s five interrelated competencies— self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships skills, and decision-making, not only drives student engagement but also helps teachers and principals overcome burnout, reduce stress and enables them to thrive in their educational roles.
What is Causing Teacher Burnout?
The reasons are numerous, but many teachers cite the following:
- Low Autonomy
- Lack of Resources
- Feeling Overworked
- Lack of Appropriate Compensation
- Encountering Classroom Management Difﬁculties
- Poor Workplace Relationships
For educators, most stress-induced burnout comes from two broad areas: social difﬁculties (relationships with colleagues and parents) and emotional difﬁculties (decision-fatigue and work-related stresses).
The current teacher shortage and a slew of public health issues have only ampliﬁed these concerns.
How to Know if YOU have Burnout?
The signs of teacher burnout are easy to recognize:
- Difﬁculty ﬁnishing tasks
- Lack of concentration
- Lack of energy or passion
- Emotional Irritability
If you see yourself in any of these descriptions, there’s hope to change it for the better.
Take the First Step – Lean into your Character Strengths
One way to manage burnout is to understand your core strengths and learn how to lean on them when faced with challenges at work and at home. According to the researchers at VIA Institute of Character, we all have a unique constellation of 24 character strengths.
Tuning into your top “signature” strengths – whether they be humor, kindness, perseverance, hope or any of the other 24 strengths — helps you to “be in your zone” and build resilience so that you can muscle through and be your best self, no matter the stressors you may face.
SEL Activities for Teachers to Lower Rates of Burnout
SEL activities aren’t just for students. Teachers certainly beneﬁt too. Here are a few activities to reduce stress levels and optimize job performance.
Apology, Awareness, Applause – Forgive yourself for not being perfect since no one is nor will ever be. In fact, the best we can strive for as humans is being perfectly imperfect in any situation. Acknowledge and celebrate your unique character strengths and spot strengths in others to bring out everyone’s best.
Mindfulness – Mindful awareness of the body and any sensations brought on by emotional input can help to regulate stress levels. In a moment of crisis or when a sense of anxiety sets in, see if you can take a 90-second pause, to help you ﬂush out the raging adrenaline in your system. Breath deep and reﬂect on the “ﬁght or ﬂight” reaction your body is experiencing.
Name the Emotion – Become aware of your emotions in the moment, naming, accepting, and integrating them. Try to separate yourself from the feelings themselves and acknowledge how they are an instinctual response to the stressors at hand. When you create a little distance, you get some objectivity that can help you manage negative emotions.
Beneﬁts of SEL PD Based in Character Strengths
When teachers feel that they are effective, that feeling of strength, empowerment, and competency can have a signiﬁcant impact on classroom success. Research on the TLC program shows its strengths-based SEL program leads to enhanced feelings of teacher self-efﬁcacy.
Educators are equipped with a better sense of how to motivate and calm their students, as well as how to assist families through their day-to-day challenges.
Overall, strengths-based SEL development tends to help:
1. Nurture positive relationships between staff and students
Having strong emotional intelligence and leaning into character strengths such as kindness, social intelligence and creativity, can enhance your ability to build and sustain effective relationships with students, parents, and faculty, minimizing one of the greatest risks for burnout.
2. Reignite your passion for teaching
When students are shown how to lean into their top strengths, not only do they experience higher levels of academic performance, but they also realize improvements in engagement, attendance, and discipline. Seeing students succeed, realizing that you can make a difference in the classroom, and turning underperforming students into better versions of themselves, can reawaken a sense of passion for your role as an educator.
3. Avoid decision-making fatigue
Focusing on strengths helps you address issues through a lens that reﬂects your authentic style and inherent power. Stress impedes our ability to make decisions and, ultimately, leads to burnout. Having the tools and resources available to pause and reﬂect, while managing large workloads or difﬁcult classroom situations, removes pressure and improves job performance — even job satisfaction.
4. Maintain positive teaching environments
By understanding how personal character strengths inﬂuence you, your co-workers and your students, you’ll be better able to create an engaging, thriving classroom environment. By celebrating the strengths in the people around you, you can maximize individual opportunities and peer support networks.
Finding a Path from “Just Surviving” to “Fully Flourishing”
Lastly, knowing your strengths and working to increase your well-being will also help you better connect with your purpose. Remembering why you became a teacher in the ﬁrst place, the day-to-day challenges can become a bit easier to manage.
What brought you to education? Was it an opportunity to pass on the knowledge you’ve learned to young minds? (Was it your strengths of Love of Learning, Perspective?) Did you want to support and encourage the people around you on their journey? (Love, Social Intelligence, Kindness) Do you have a passion for asking and answering all the questions? (Curiosity)
When facing burnout, sometimes the simplest remedy is to take time to reﬂect. Tapping into the unique strengths that initially drew you to the ﬁeld will help you live out your initial sense of purpose. In turn, your core motivation can help propel you through challenging times.
“Being really anchored in your purpose, being really clear about what you want to be doing in life, helps you deal with challenges and setbacks.”- Elena Aguilar,
Contact Mayerson Academy for Strengths-Based SEL Resources Delivered Online
If you’re feeling burnout, don’t struggle alone. Our experienced team of educational consultants is dedicated to helping you and your students succeed. Start a conversation with us to ﬁnd out about Thriving Learning Communities’™ Hub24, our new just-in-time digital learning platform designed to meet today’s critical need for SEL. Connect here or call us at 513-263-2210 to receive a free demo of Hub24.
Getting Serious About Teacher Burnout, Tim Walker, NEA News, November 12, 2021
Job-Related Stress Threatens the Teacher Supply: Key Findings from the 2021 State of the U.S. Teacher Survey, Rand Corporation, Elizabeth D. Steiner, Ashley Woo
We Need to be Nurtured, Too: Many Teachers Say They’re Reaching a Breaking Point, Kavitha Cardoza, April 19, 2021