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Teachers should watch for signs of burnout

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2013 10:57 AM

Being a teacher can be stressful. As a result, educators who work in states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards should be mindful of the symptoms of burnout. After all, transitioning to a new curriculum while completing a teacher's usual duties is certainly challenging. Whether instructors feel like they are at risk of succumbing to burnout or know someone who is, they should keep the following in mind:

The signs of burnout
The Mayo Clinic states that burnout is a special type of job stress. It is characterized by a combination of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion, as well as doubts about the importance of work and the quality of one's job performance.

Avoiding burnout and its harmful health effects hinges on how well individuals can spot the symptoms of this stress. Feelings of disillusionment, changes to sleep or appetite and trouble being productive on a consistent basis are all warning signs, according to the Mayo Clinic. A lack of control, poor job fit, dysfunctional workplace and a work-life imbalance all have the potential to lead to burnout.

In academic settings, stressors may include pressure from school administration, a lack of classroom resources, high expectations for student test scores and low pay, according to the National Education Association's NEA Today.

How to overcome burnout
According to the Mayo Clinic, individuals may be able to handle burnout if they make changes to their attitude, manage their job stressors and, of course, seek support from others.

Recent research from Pennsylvania State University revealed that a combination of techniques can also improve teachers' well-being. The researchers looked at what impact the Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE) for Teachers program had on participants.

CARE, which provides emotion skills instruction, compassion-building activities and mindful awareness practices, was found to have a positive effect on teachers' ability to do their job.

"Today, teachers are experiencing high levels of stress that can have a negative impact on their teaching and the learning environment," said Patricia Jennings, an assistant research professor at Penn State. "CARE is designed to provide the tools they need to manage the emotional ups and downs of teaching. The program combines mindful awareness practices and emotion skills training applied to the specific challenges of the classroom environment."

Educators do not have to participate in the CARE program to avoid burnout. However, they may want to borrow a few of its strategies if they feel stressed.