To date 5,346 teachers have completed my Teacher Burnout Assessment Tool .. I know of no larger collection of teacher burnout statistics.
I created this in consultation with my doctor and several other research sources, for teachers worried about the impact of the job on their health. It uses burnouts' biggest early warning signs to diagnose how close a teacher is to burning out.
I want to share the findings of this research - as it has important implications for individual teachers and school management ..
Q1. How Many Hours do you Work on Average Each Week?
Over 50% of teachers taking the survey, work what would be classified by many as 'unsustainable' working hours. Very few respondents (12%) reported working hours anything close to a 'normal' working week.
Do educational leaders realise that they require many teachers to work hours which affect significantly their ability to be parents themselves? .. and do teachers feel fairly compensated for these hours of work?
Conclusion 1: Teachers just beginning in the profession will be surprised at the level of commitment which the job requires.
Those with children or in mid-life, are unlikely to make the sacrifices required by many schools, indefinitely.
Workload is a big reason why many teachers leave the profession each year, and what is not talked about nearly often enough is the impact this has on recruitment too.
Q2. How do you sleep on the average day?
43% of teachers taking the survey, sleep less than 6 hours a night. How much of their difficulty sleeping is due to their job, we don't know .. but many teachers complain of problems with sleep due to the stress of working in school.
Even the 31% of people catching up at the weekend, are effectively borrowing sleep from their own time to substitute for their working week.
Conclusion 2: It is almost a badge of honour for some teachers who boast of the tiny amounts of sleep they have - as if doing so shows their commitment or strength. This is dangerous behaviour, as regularly getting less than 7 hours sleep a night is linked to numerous health problems including a lower life expectancy.
Teachers' wellbeing isn't a priority for many schools, and teaching staff need to be proactive in monitoring sleep and other health indicators themselves.
Q3. What kind of social life do you have?
Well over half of teachers surveyed, responded that they didn't have time for their own life because of the demands of their job.
Anyone who teaches will tell you the paperwork, marking, planning and assessment involved, takes significantly longer than the delivery of lessons.
Unrealistic increases in workload have crept up on the profession over recent decades. It is ironic that in a profession where many teachers are caring 'substitute parents' - that many complain of not having time for their own families.
Conclusion 3: The majority of schools fail to prioritise work-life balance for their teaching staff - and have unrealistic expectations of them instead.
School employers who want to retain the positive relationships which long serving staff have with their student population, would do well to note this result.
Teachers looking for employment need to take a measure of management attitude to work-life balance at interview - so they can make an informed judgement about the type of school they might be just about to join.
Q4. What is your mood on the average day?
This question is important because general irritability is an early warning sign that a person is having difficulty coping with stress.
Happily, a large percentage (32%) of teachers taking the survey are happy and don't feel stressed in their working lives. This is positive proof that schools do exist where staff have a healthy balance between hard work and enjoyment in the job.
68% of teachers aren't in jobs where this is possible however - leading to the conclusion that stress at work is a real problem for many teachers.
Conclusion 4: Stress at work is a very real problem for many teachers. This is made significantly worse in many schools by a blame culture, which discourages teaching staff from sharing how they feel.
These two factors combine in many schools to make burnout much more likely to occur in a teaching job than in many others.
Q5. How tired do you feel most days?
When you analyse the results of this question alongside the working hours many teachers have to commit to the job, this is worrying.
58% of teachers say they are constantly tired and are waiting for the next holiday to catch up.
While this result is subjective, and may be the case in many professions - the school holidays exist for a reason. Many teachers rely on them to cope with the all consuming nature of the job.
Conclusion 5: Being constantly tired can have serious consequences for teaching staff. School management and the politicians leading education policy, need to decide what they want most .. a continuous improvement in headline results and ever more control over it's delivery - or experienced teachers who want to stay in the profession.
The difficult choice many teachers make to step out of the classroom, is often a direct a result of how much the job demands of them.
Q6. How clearly can you think when you are at work?
This is an important question because an inability to concentrate is an early warning sign of burnout. The 15% of teachers that struggle to concentrate all the time (when they are tired or not), should be most worried about this.
Burnout is characterised by a reduction in your ability to be effective in your job. Monitoring how much of this is due to tiredness, is important to prevent burnout occurring.
Q7. What kind of conversations do you have with co-workers?
Dealing positively with workplace stress, is important for teachers to avoid burning out. Often this means sharing the burden with others in school.
However, many teachers say their conversations with senior leaders about the problems they face, are met with indifference - or much worse, with blame.
Conclusion 6: The current focus on 'accountability' in many schools, has resulted in a blame culture which discourages teachers from sharing problems positively.
Many school leaders need to balance the requirements they make of teachers - with additional understanding and support of staff who work in extremely challenging conditions.
Failing to do so will drive existing teachers out of their schools, and have a huge impact on the students they teach.
Q8. Do you suffer from any of the following physical symptoms?
Over 75% of teachers who responded to the survey complained of the health problems above, which are often associated with a failure to deal with stress.
This is a worrying sign that the pressure and workload of many teaching jobs, is having a very real physical impact on many teachers.
Conclusion 7: There are not many professions which make employees feel this physically unwell in the normal course of their duties. School leaders who relentlessly focus on 'improvement' and external inspections, risk their employees health as a result.
Many senior leaders in education appear not to care how unapproachable their management style makes them. This has a direct impact on the physical health of teachers working for them.
Diagnosis: Are You Burning Out?
This survey was completed by those interested in doing so - and as such the results might not accurately reflect opinions of the overall teaching population.
However 5,346 responses is a significant number - and at the very least this highlights trends in education which deserve investigation by those in charge.
65% of teachers responding identified signs they were burning out in their jobs. 85% were diagnosed as working 'unsustainably' .. with significantly increased risks to their health as a result.
At what point does the relentless drive to 'improve' outcomes, take account of the impact that this is having on the human-beings who teach in many schools?
This neglect of teachers health and wellbeing reflects very badly indeed on what is supposed to be a 'caring profession'.
If you want to take the Teacher Burnout Assessment yourself click here:
Whatever your experience of working in schools - please take a proactive approach to looking after your own health.
A 'broken' teacher is no good to anyone - and the impact which burnout can have on other parts of your life can be significant.
For teachers who realise they need to move career, this post might help - 373 Alternative Job Ideas For Teachers Tired of Their Classroom Job.
What is your experience of the pressures of life in the classroom?
Please add your comment below ..