Teacher Burnout: How SEL Can Help
Burnout has been an important issue in the teaching profession for over a decade; however, it has been rapidly increasing. In fact, an October 2021 study found that teachers were reporting extremely high levels of anxiety and burnout amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic is certainly enhancing burnout, it is an important issue even in better times. Let’s take a deeper look at teacher burnout and how an SEL curriculum can help address this issue.
What is Teacher Burnout?
Have you ever awoken on workdays filled with dread about going to work? You may have been experiencing burnout. Burnout arises from a state of toxic stress related to the working environment that ultimately leads to negative emotional health outcomes. People suffering from teacher burnout are likely to feel exhausted both physically and emotionally, cynical, and detached from their work.
The teaching profession is naturally predisposed to burnout as a profession that is relationally intensive. However, there are a number of factors that can lead to increased teacher burnout. A literature review assessed the existing evidence-based articles to investigate this issue further, noting that teacher burnout is increased by a number of social factors. These include a lack of support from administration and peers, poor staff relations, and high levels of negative interactions with students. These factors can constitute an environment of toxic stress that leads to burnout.
Research from Kierstin Nygaard confirmed that social factors have a strong role on creating teacher burnout. This research also noted that burnout can develop in teachers who are new to the profession and veteran teachers alike. The reality is that teacher burnout is alive and well within the profession and failing to act on it will only allow the problem to continue to develop.
How Does Burnout Impact Schools?
Teacher burnout obviously has negative impacts for individuals experiencing it including an increase in toxic stress, decreased resilience, and a negative impact on quality of life. However, teacher burnout does not only harm teachers; it hurt school and school districts as well. In fact, many people argue that the ultimate solution to teacher burnout lies not with teachers themselves but rather with school districts.
There are a variety of ways in which teacher burnout has a negative impact on schools. One of the most notable is teacher attrition. It has been widely reported that the number of teachers retiring early or leaving the profession altogether have increased dramatically in recent years with many areas documenting significant teacher shortages which further hurt educational goals. Attrition is certainly a major problem that schools face.
However, teacher burnout affects schools in other ways. Research discussed the role of teacher burnout in affecting the general reputation of the profession as well, leading to would-be teachers deciding not to enter the profession and to pursue education in other areas instead. This ultimately leads to a smaller pipeline of new professionals to fill the shoes of those who are leaving.
According to the Niroga Institute, this also has a significant financial impact on school districts. It is estimated that teacher burnout costs over $7 billion nationally each year with schools in urban areas seeing the brunt of the financial impact. Burnout likely costs many large urban areas millions of dollar annually, illustrating that the true costs of teacher burnout are social, physical, psychological, and financial.
The Role of an SEL Curriculum in Preventing Burnout
With teacher burnout increasing and having such severe effects on educators, students, and school districts, many administrators are seeking ways to reduce teacher burnout. While there are a myriad of things that schools can do to address this issue such as providing stronger supports to teachers, it is a multi-faceted issue that requires a comprehensive proactive strategy that addresses all causes.
As discussed earlier, one of the notable causes of teacher burnout is having extensive negative interactions with students in the classroom. When prevalent, these types of interactions can make an enjoyable job quickly devolve into one that is frustrating, planting the seeds of burnout.
One important tool in a school district’s toolkit towards reducing teacher burnout is an SEL curriculum. SEL stands for social and emotional learning and is an important component of student development that often does not get enough attention in the K-12 setting. Poor SEL skills can result in lower academic achievement for students, low levels of self-esteem, and extreme behavioral problems, contributing to teacher burnout.
Fortunately, schools who implement an SEL curriculum to teach students important emotional wellness skills have found that negative student behaviors – a contributing factor to teacher burnout – are significantly reduced. Research found that a CASEL framework – the framework utilized by Clymb – was effective in promoting positive emotional health and reducing negative behaviors in students.
Meanwhile, a research study of over 1,100 fifth and sixth graders found that integrating SEL skills into a literature class resulted in improved relationships, better learning, and improved student behavior.
The literature on the matter concludes that an SEL curriculum is an effective way of reducing negative student behavior. In fact, schools who work with Clymb have saw the fruits of this proactive strategy. Clymb is a student-centered approach that uses evidence-based assessments to individualize an SEL program for each student.
Schools who work with Clymb are able to implement it in only a few minutes per day. Among the benefits expected from integrating this SEL curriculum include greater student resiliency and improved emotional health. However, schools can also expect a reduction in bullying, fewer suspensions, less frequent behavioral outbursts, and – as a result – lower levels of teacher burnout. While teacher burnout is a growing problem that has a significant financial impact on schools and educational impact on students, leveraging an SEL curriculum can prove to be an important centerpiece of a proactive strategy at reducing burnout.