In 2015, I left classroom teaching after a 20-year career due to professional burn-out. Sadly, self-care was not part of my vocabulary. I’m now on a mission as a teacher self-care crusader and advocate to talk about its importance.
Teaching is a profession that requires giving of one’s self to make a difference for students. The chronic use of empathy and depletion of emotional resources are strongly associated with emotional exhaustion and/or professional burnout (Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter, 2001).
There is a growing interest in the area of student well-being but everyone must flourish, including students, teachers, and administrative staff. Research studies suggest that learning happens best when teachers and their students are well but the added benefit is that as teachers flourish, relationships with students, colleagues and the larger community become more positive (Cherkowski & Walker, 2018). Therefore, the learning and working environment is sustaining for all when teachers increase their well-being and flourish through self-care practices.
"Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel."
Self-care is not an indulgence but the key to sustaining the joys and rewards of one’s teaching practice. Self-care is defined as skills and strategies used to maintain personal, familial, emotional, and spiritual needs while attending to the needs and demands of others (Newell & MacNeil, 2016). Without self-care, teachers are at risk of emotional exhaustion and/or professional burn-out.
Joys, Rewards and Gifts of Teaching
Teachers derive high levels of job satisfaction because of the close connection to others and the opportunity to help and teach. According to a recent study, students most often describe their teachers as caring, which is an essential quality in our work as teachers however in order for us to maintain the caring attitude, it must be strongly guarded (Skovholt and D’Rozario, 2000).
Although there are many joys from our teaching practice, the profession is not without its hazards:
- low motivation
- high level of needs such as trauma
- large classes
- no set boundaries
- boredom or meaning burn-out
- no or little support
- unrealistic workloads
- continuous or late enrollment of students (common in ESL classes)
- negative colleagues
- organizational bureaucracy
- ineffective leadership
- precarious work
- multiple jobs at multiple schools
- no health benefits or sick days for part-time/contract faculty
In addition to these hazards, teachers are among those professionals with the highest levels of job stress and burnout across many countries (Stoeber & Renner, 2008). Increased legislative and admin regulations, educational standards with little professional development opportunities, planning time, support and resources contribute to stress (Action & Glasgow, 2015, Spilt, Koomen & Thijs, 2011, Curry, 2012)
I encourage teachers to watch for warning signs. Christine Maslach has conducted extensive research in the area of burn-out and has designed a survey for educators which is available online.
Thank you to EFL Magazine for publishing my guest post. For the rest of the article, please click here:
Teacher Self-Care Workshop - May 25
I'm excited about my first Teacher Self-Care workshop being held on May 25 in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. If you live near the area or know a teacher who does, please pass on the information.
Patrice Palmer has more than 23 years’ experience as an ESL teacher, trainer and writer in Canada. She spent seven amazing years teaching in Hong Kong. She has taught students from 8 to 80 in a variety of programs. She has an M.Ed., M.A. and certificates in Positive Psychology and Positive Education. Patrice has transitioned out of classroom teaching and now works as a teacherpreneur doing the things she loves such as writing books and online courses and delivering workshops on teacher self-care. Her own personal experience with professional burn-out in 2015 prompted her to reflect on her own self-care and adopt positive psychology interventions which she now shares with other educators and administrators.
For more details on Patrice's next book on Teacher Self-Care, click here: https://www.alphabetpublishingbooks.com/book/teacher-self-care-manual/