Recognizing and Addressing Burnout Among Teachers

Recognizing and addressing burnout among teachers

Burnout in academia, specifically among teachers, is essential to recognize and requires work to improve. Since the start of the pandemic and the influx of political interest in schools, teachers have never before experienced such heavy scrutiny and stress. Learn how to handle stress in the classroom, and how to identify the early stages of burnout in teachers. 


What Is Teacher Burnout?

Most succinctly, teacher burnout is physical and emotional exhaustion stemming from chronic workplace stress, manifesting in feelings of negativism or cynicism, detachment, self-doubt, and anxiety. Teachers most often feel burnout when their workplace is highly stressful and there is little to no support in their management of stress. 

These stressors can come from a myriad of pain points in the workplace including the role itself. The role of a teacher is an emotionally demanding role, investing in their students while burnt out can be nearly impossible for some, which is why many educators leave the profession altogether. Investment in teachers and their well-being can aid in better teacher retention rates and overall student outcomes. 


Impact of Teacher Burnout

The key metrics that are impacted by teacher burnout are teacher retention and student outcomes. Specifically, how students test, their overall grade point average, and where students go in their pursuit of higher education and occupations. Teachers experiencing burnout without intervention tend to leave their school and even the profession. Burnout can affect anyone, but teachers are highly susceptible as their jobs can be incredibly difficult, are routinely underfunded in public institutions, and are underpaid at most schools.

Burnout has the capacity to affect not only students in the present but their entire life trajectory and the overall health of the teacher. Socially, there has been a movement by teachers to leave their teaching jobs in pursuit of more balanced careers. Noticeably there are states and regions that are increasingly experiencing teacher shortages which further compound the jobs of teachers left in these roles. Understanding, intervention, and support for teachers are of most critical need. 

55% of teachers are ready to leave the profession earlier than they planned, as a result of burnout in academia.
Statistic sourced from NEA (National Education Association

Causes of Burnout Among Teachers

Increasingly teaching has grown to be a difficult job and burnout is a symptom of this issue. Academic burnout signs stem from two key components, firstly the role has high emotional demands, and more so in recent years, the work environment for a teacher has become quite taxing. 


High Emotional Demands

The job of a teacher or educator is an emotionally demanding position. Much of the decisions and interactions teachers make throughout the day require emotional intelligence. Teachers need to connect with their students and offer tailored guidance, which can be time intensive and difficult with larger classes. As a whole, teaching can be emotionally taxing and requires time and effort to be done well. 


Demanding Teaching Environment

The role of an educator is often dubbed a “thankless job,” this statement does carry some weight as teachers are not always set up to succeed. In their roles, they have to manage large classes, prepare teaching material, and connect with their students. Teaching is an underfunded profession with increasing political scrutiny, which only compacts the difficulty and stresses of the job. Today the politics of a school or school district can affect the environment in which students and teachers need to perform. Administrative board elections and parents with strong political views have put pressure on students and teachers alike, often in conflict with best practices for teachers. Educators are losing the flexibility and freedom they need to do their jobs well, ultimately negatively affecting their work and sense of self-worth in their roles.


Signs of Burnout Among Teachers

There are three external academic burnout symptoms in teachers that can be self-identified or seen in others. Having one or multiple of these symptoms may indicate the early stages and onset of burnout.



Exhaustion is most heavily associated with burnout, and the improper management of stress is a leading cause of burnout in educators. Teachers often work long hours, in difficult work environments with inconsistent support from their schools. Fatigue can be managed in short bursts, with reprieve being granted from external support or rest periods. Consistent fatigue will lead to exhaustion, which can be emotionally paralyzing and quickly leads to burnout. 

Symptoms of fatigue in an educator will appear as tiredness during their lessons and slow response time in answering questions or problem-solving. Often fatigue will physically manifest as headaches or muscle soreness. 



Teachers typically join the profession with some certainty and aspiration to be good educators. Prolonged stress in the workplace can bring on feelings of self-doubt about their capabilities in their preparedness as a teacher or why they are in the profession at all. Teachers with high-stress report feelings of inadequacy, or meaning in their work. As an educator, it is important to feel a positive impact on students. 

Self-doubt symptomatically appears as anxiety about work performance or low self-esteem, plus procrastination or lack of motivation to execute routine aspects of the role. A major indicator can be difficulty in making decisions over problems or tasks you routinely had no issue with overcoming over your previous time as a teacher.



Physical and mental absence is a symptom seen in educators suffering from burnout. Absence in the physical sense can stem from increased time outside of the classroom due to illness. Individuals with high-stress jobs have a tendency to fall ill more frequently, teachers may notice during influx periods of stress in the school year, they may need to take more sick days. 

Absence in the mental sense is different, this is a form of emotional detachment from one’s work. Teachers who are mentally absent often feel separate from their work and less invested in their performance. Symptoms can manifest as a lack of interest in their students or subjects being taught, preoccupation with activities outside of work while still at work, and even avoidance of different components of their work. 


How to Prevent Teacher Burnout

Prevention is key when it comes to alleviating burnout, as once a teacher fully burns out they often leave the profession entirely or take years to recover and return. Learning how to deal with teacher burnout, means higher teacher retention, better prepared educators, and a stronger overall community. 


Train Teachers on Effective Coping

Taking time to train teachers on how to identify burnout and stressors in the workplace, and how to effectively handle these stressors is a great place to begin. Teachers and administrators that have tools and practice in identifying stress can prevent stress buildup. 

Holding training can open up teachers to sharing past experiences where stress impacted their work and how to prevent and handle these in the future. 


Keeping Open Communication

Even with coping tools teachers gain a lot of support through communication with other teachers in their department and from their administration. Having open lines of communication with individuals that can make impactful changes in their work environment allows teachers to feel heard and supported. 


Promote Well-Being

An environment that promotes well-being with genuine paths and messages of support is incredibly helpful to educators and students alike. Positive well-being has lasting effects on teacher and student outcomes, but promotion is only successful with tangible follow through from those implementing policy in an institution. 


Offering Support Resources

Tangible resources are the ultimate means of support for teachers in preventing burnout and for those who are on the cusp of burnout. Resources like adequate time off and staffing should be at the forefront. These are basic school necessities that teachers are finding more rare. Additional help in the classroom, teaching aids, and classroom supplies are great as it allows teachers to more flexibly utilize their time with their students. 


How does Teacher Burnout Impact Students? 

Academic burnout can be troubling for students. Teachers are critical members of the community and carry grave importance in the development of their classes. Teachers are primary examples for students, they provide instruction and understanding in new subjects. Most critically, however, teachers set the tone for how students view themselves, proper support of teachers equates to better support for students to thrive. Students in schools without strong support from their educators have lower confidence in their work, and understanding of their place in the world, which is outwardly reflected in lower grade point averages and poorer overall student outcomes. 

Dr. Michelle Rozen
Dr. Michelle Rozen

Dr. Michelle Rozen, Ph.D., is a highly respected authority on the psychology of change. She is one of the most booked motivational speakers nationwide as well as internationally, and a frequent guest on media outlets such as NBC, ABC, FOX News, and CNN on topics related to dealing with change in our world and in every aspect of our lives, so that we can do better and feel better.

Her most recent book, 2 Second Decisions helps people power through with their most challenging decisions through turbulent times.

Dr. Michelle Rozen consistently speaks for Fortune 500 companies and her clients include some of the most recognizable companies in the world including Johnson & Johnson, Merrill Lynch, Pfizer, and The U.S. Navy. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Psychology and resides in the greater NYC area.

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