How to Overcome Teacher Burnout


l Back l Feedback l


The challenges South African teachers face are real, complex, and take a heavy toll. There is an overwhelming burden of administrative tasks, frequent meetings, challenging interactions with parents, undisciplined and abusive learners, and the complexity of managing multi-racial classrooms, among other issues. Many teachers find themselves disheartened, exhausted, and uncertain.

If you are one, how can you rediscover your love and passion for teaching in these circumstances? Here is a multi-pronged approach built to help you try and rekindle your passion:

1. Focus on the Success Stories:

  • The "Joy Jar": Every day, write down one positive thing - a learner's breakthrough, a supportive interaction, anything that made you smile. Revisit these regularly to remind yourself why you chose this path. Reconnect with the passion that led you into this profession. Focus on the positive impact you can have on learners' lives.
  • Celebrate Small Wins: Acknowledge and celebrate small successes in your teaching journey. Recognize the positive moments, whether it's a learner's improvement, a successful lesson, or a positive interaction with a colleague.
  • Learner Feedback: Ask for anonymous comments on what learners enjoy about your classes. You might be surprised by the positive impact you didn't even realize.

2. Prioritize Self-Care:

  • Boundaries: Set firm boundaries between work and personal life. Leave schoolwork at school whenever possible.
  • Recharge: Pursue activities that genuinely relax you outside of work. Even small pockets of "me-time" make a huge difference.
  • Support System: Lean on supportive colleagues, friends, or family. Vent, share experiences, and remind yourself you're not alone.

3. Manage the Workload:

  • Departmental Issues: Respectfully advocate for streamlined administrative processes. Can repetitive tasks be simplified or automated?
  • Set Realistic Goals: Break down your tasks into manageable, realistic goals. Prioritize your responsibilities and focus on achievable objectives. This can help you regain a sense of control and accomplishment.
  • Delegate: Where possible, enlist help for non-teaching duties. Is there a parent volunteer or learner aide who could assist with basic tasks?
  • Prioritize: Focus on what truly matters for learner learning. It's okay to let some less-critical 'nice-to-haves' slide.

4. Lean into Your Strengths:

  • Interests: Integrate your passion for a subject to reignite your own enthusiasm. A project on your favourite topic can be infectious!
  • Collaboration: Team up with colleagues to design engaging lesson plans or workshops. Sharing the load can spark new ideas.

5. Address Difficult Issues:

  • Parents: Aim for open communication, focusing on the child's well-being. Establish clear expectations at the outset.
  • Learner Behaviour: Seek support from school management authorities (SMTs) to establish consistent disciplinary standards. Can behavioural support services be involved?
  • Multi-Racial Classes: Embrace this as an opportunity! Build lessons celebrating diversity, fostering respect, and exploring different cultures.

6. Professional Development:

  • Learn: Attend workshops or courses that offer new strategies and perspectives. This can re-energize your teaching.
  • Incorporate Variety into Your Teaching: Introduce new and innovative teaching methods to keep things interesting for both you and your learners. Experiment with different activities, technologies, or teaching approaches to bring freshness to your lessons.
  • Mentor: Seek guidance from an experienced and inspiring teacher for new approaches. He/she may offer guidance, share his/her own experiences, and provide valuable perspectives.

7. Important Considerations:

  • Focus on Positive Relationships: Cultivate positive relationships with your learners. Building strong connections with them can be a source of joy and fulfillment. Recognize and appreciate the positive aspects of your learners' personalities.
  • Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help: Talk to your school leadership about the overload. Systemic issues need to be addressed to protect your and your colleagues' well-being.
  • It's Okay to Take a Break: If the situation becomes truly unmanageable, consider a leave of absence to reset. Discuss it with your principal. Sometimes, distance can provide clarity.

Remember: You're not failing. You care enough to seek solutions, which is a sign of strength. Please know that these challenges don't diminish your dedication.