top of page

When Passion Turns to Pain: The Disturbing Truth About Teacher Burnout

teachers in seol staging a mental health awareness protest

The recent suicide of a teacher in Seol, South Korea, has sparked outrage among primary school educators across the country. Over 50,000 teachers came together to hold a rally demanding protection from the relentless workload and harassment by overbearing parents.

On July 3rd, the teacher expressed her overwhelming stress and desire to escape from work. Sadly, just two weeks later, her colleagues discovered her lifeless body in a storage cupboard within her classroom. She had taken her own life.

This heartbreaking incident raises an important question: Are teachers on the verge of combustion?

The immense pressure and challenges from endless marking to dealing with rowdy classrooms and irate parents is pushing many educators beyond their limits. Are you one of them?

The suicide rate among primary school teachers in England is nearly two times higher than the national average, figures have revealed.

This article aims to shine a light on the dark side of teaching, diving into the depths of teacher stress, exploring the causes, symptoms, and most importantly, the ways others are coping with the pressures of the job.

The new school year has only just begun, and already teachers are feeling the stress of the demanding workload and high expectations. Teacher burnout is a real concern, as educators struggle to balance lesson planning, marking, meetings, and managing classroom behaviour. The pressure to meet these academic standards is overwhelming for many.

Teaching is often considered a noble profession, one that is fuelled by passion and the desire to shape young minds. However, behind the scenes, a dark reality lurks - teacher burnout. Teacher burnout is a term used to describe the state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion experienced by educators.

What starts as a passion for teaching can quickly turn into pain and despair, leaving teachers feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and ultimately, burnt out.

‍Teachers and principals experience frequent job-related stress at twice the rate of the general working population.

Understanding the Causes of Teacher Burnout

Teacher burnout is not a result of a single factor but rather a culmination of various stressors that teachers face on a daily basis. One of the primary causes of teacher burnout is the heavy workload. Teachers are often burdened with excessive lesson planning, grading papers, and dealing with administrative tasks, leaving them with little time to recharge. Additionally, the lack of support and recognition from school administrators and parents can contribute to feelings of frustration and burnout.

Another significant factor is the emotional toll of teaching. Teachers are not only responsible for imparting knowledge but also for providing emotional support to their students. This constant emotional demand can take a toll on their mental and physical well-being, leading to burnout. Furthermore, the pressure of high-stakes testing, curriculum changes, and student behaviour issues can also contribute to the overwhelming stress experienced by teachers.

Signs and Symptoms of Teacher Burnout

Identifying the signs and symptoms of teacher burnout is crucial in addressing the issue. Some common signs include chronic fatigue, irritability, loss of passion for teaching, decreased job satisfaction, and increased absenteeism. Physical symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, and frequent illnesses may also manifest. Teachers experiencing burnout may become more cynical and detached from their students and colleagues, further exacerbating the problem.

It is important for teachers to recognize these signs and take steps to address them, such as setting work boundaries, taking time off, building a sense of community with colleagues, prioritizing their own needs and mental wellness, and seeking support from schools and administrators.

The Impact of Teacher Burnout on Students and the Education System

Teacher burnout not only affects the educators themselves but also has a profound impact on students and the education system as a whole. When teachers are burnt out, they may become less effective in the classroom, leading to a decline in student performance and engagement. The quality of education suffers as teachers struggle to meet the needs of their students. Additionally, high teacher turnover rates due to burnout can disrupt the continuity and stability of the learning environment, negatively impacting student outcomes.

Suicide numbers among young people in Hong Kong almost double in less than a decade to record high, study finds.

Coping Mechanisms for Teacher Stress

In order to combat teacher burnout, it is crucial for educators to develop effective coping mechanisms to manage stress. One such strategy is self-care. Teachers need to prioritize their own well-being by engaging in activities that bring them joy and relaxation outside of the classroom. This may include exercise, hobbies, or spending quality time with loved ones. Seeking support from colleagues and creating a positive work environment can also help alleviate stress.

As educators, it is crucial to remember our own limitations as human beings. We must find a balance between our professional responsibilities and personal lives, making time for rest and relaxation. Each of us has a unique understanding of what constitutes good well-being and achieving a harmonious work-life balance.

Unfortunately, we often prioritize the needs of our students above our own. However, prioritizing self-care is not selfish; it is necessary. As the saying goes, one cannot pour from an empty cup. In order to provide the best education possible for our students, we must also invest in ourselves by taking care of our health and well-being.

It is important to carve out time for activities that bring us joy: spending quality time with loved ones, immersing ourselves in nature's beauty or pursuing hobbies that bring fulfilment. By planning ahead for holidays and weekends, we can resist the temptation to solely focus on work. Remembering to give ourselves breaks is essential.

The Role of School Administrators in Addressing Teacher Burnout

School administrators hold a significant responsibility in addressing and mitigating teacher burnout. They must prioritize the well-being of their staff and provide the necessary resources and support systems. This includes regularly checking in with teachers to assess their well-being, providing access to counselling services, and implementing policies that promote a healthy work environment. By acknowledging the challenges faced by teachers and actively working towards solutions, administrators can create a positive and sustainable teaching environment.

hong kong flag

In March 2019, a tragic incident occurred at TWGHs Leo Tung-Hai Lee Primary School in Hong Kong, where a teacher named Lam Lai-tong fell to her death. An independent inquiry later revealed that Lam's suicide was partly driven by her school principal's management style and poor working environment. The principal, Law Yuen-yee, was criticized for her failure to communicate and work well with her staff, as well as for not consulting them about new policies. Lam had reportedly been under pressure and made to work while unwell prior to her death. This incident has shed light on the issue of abusive school management and the rise of teacher-related suicides in Hong Kong.

Support Resources for Teachers Experiencing Burnout

For teachers who are already experiencing burnout, there are support resources available to help them through this challenging period. Depending on where you are in the world, many government education departments offer services specifically tailored to the needs of educators. Additionally, professional organizations and online communities provide a platform for teachers to connect, share experiences, and seek advice. Seeking assistance from a therapist or joining support groups can also be beneficial in navigating the complexities of burnout. Here's a few you may want to consider.

The Teacher Self-Care Podcast Join Franchesca as she interviews teachers from around the globe to discuss teacher mental health.

Happy Teacher Revolution logo

Happy Teacher Revolution An international movement with the mission to support the mental health and wellness of teachers.

Hong Kong Education Bureau logo

Education Bureau Teacher's Helpline Supporting teachers and principals with work-related pressure.

MindHK logo

Mind HK Mind HK is a mental health charity that ensures no one has to be alone when facing mental health challenges.

Personal Stories and Experiences of Teacher Burnout

Hearing personal stories and experiences from teachers who have battled burnout can shed light on the severity of the issue. These stories serve as a reminder that teacher burnout is not a sign of weakness, but a consequence of a demanding profession. By sharing their stories, teachers can create a sense of solidarity and encourage others to seek help. It is essential to break the stigma surrounding teacher burnout and create a safe space for open dialogue and support.

a teacher suffering with burnout on World Suicide Prevention Day

The disturbing truth about teacher burnout cannot be ignored any longer. It is imperative that we address this issue head-on and work towards creating a sustainable and supportive education system. Schools must prioritize the well-being of their teachers, and administrators must take proactive measures to prevent and mitigate burnout. Teachers themselves must prioritize self-care and seek support when needed. Together, we can create an environment where teachers can thrive, resulting in better outcomes for both educators and students.

A survey conducted by the Hong Kong Education Association in 2018 produced the following findings:

  • more than 70% of the interviewed teachers worked more than 50 hours a week ,

  • 30% of the respondents worked more than 60 hours,

  • and 10% worked more than 70 hours.

These excessive working hours contribute to increased work-related stress. According to the survey, teachers who put in 55 hours or more per week experience more pronounced symptoms of depression, and there is a direct correlation between the number of working hours and overall work pressure.

While we may perceive teaching as solely imparting knowledge, interviews conducted with educators reveal that they feel overwhelmed by the demands placed upon them. The teaching sessions, responsibility for numerous students, and additional administrative tasks create an overloaded schedule. As a result, their workload becomes increasingly burdensome leading to extended working hours and heightened pressure.

Although education relies on passion and dedication, expecting teachers to work without compensation due to the inherent nature of their profession can be seen as exploitative.

If you or someone you know is experiencing teacher burnout, reach out for support. Remember, you are not alone, and there are resources available to help you through this challenging time. Let's work together to create a healthier and more sustainable education system for the benefit of all.

The Samaritans is a 24-hour hotline providing support for anyone in emotional distress or at risk of suicide.

Their 24-hour hotline is 2896 0000.

Suicide Prevention Services provides a 24-hour hotline service to anyone in emotional distress or at risk of suicide. Their number is 2382 0000. They also provide a suicide prevention services for the elderly and education programs for youths.

IAMAlive is an online crisis chat service. For those who prefer to reach out to someone via an online platform, this can be a good alternative.

16 views0 comments


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page