Teacher Burnout

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The term 'burnout' was first introduced by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in 1974, to describe the state of physical and mental exhaustion among people in ''helping professions,'' whose work requires contact with people in need (Sęk 7). Since this term was introduced, burnout research has been continued by many investigators all over the world to examine this phenomenon, and diverse definitions flourished as a result. One of these individuals was Christina Maslach who gathered empirical data on this syndrome and found the tool for measuring it, which is known as the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). She describes burnout as a ''syndrome of physical and mental exhaustion, which includes the development of negative concepts of ‘I’, a negative attitude towards one’s work, a loss of emotions and contact in relations with other people” (Maslach 8). It is commonly experienced by service oriented workers; such as nurses, teachers or doctors all over the world (Sęk 8). The burnout syndrome among Polish teachers in secondary schools is caused by job stress and significantly affects the performance of their pedagogic duties as well as the learning and motivation capabilities of their students. Burnout manifests itselfs in the form of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of felt accomplishment in working with others. Emotional exhaustion is the depletion of an individual's emotional resources and the feeling of having nothing left to give and share with others at the psychological level. The depersonalization phase manifests itself in the form of a cynical attitude toward learners, parents or workmates. Finally, reduced personal accomplishment manifests itself as a feeling of ineffectiveness in working with others ( Maslach 15). A 2002 research study, conducted on 200 Polish teachers revealed that 53% of them suffered from burnout and that the majority of these teachers worked in secondary schools (Tucholska 103). Burnout does not occur as a sudden crisis. Instead, it developes progressively in a slow manner that drains teachers' spirit, who often do not recognize it, or do not want to admit that they are experiencing it (Sęk 95). Their job demands constant interaction with students and a facing of their problems, which requires a strong emotional engagement. They have to oscillate between being warm and friendly and keeping their distance in relations with their students, which is a hard and demanding task. It was assumed that teachers perform the second most stressful job, which after bus drivers, pilots and policemen causes the highest risk of heart attack (Kretschmann 15). Why does the job which for many seems to be an easy and pleasant one drive so many professionals to the state of emotional and physical burnout ? The behaviour of students is definitely one of the main stress providers. A lack of interest, attention and motivation towards learning are prevalent among students, which often leaves teachers with the thought that they are neither appreciated nor respected (Sęk 150). When we add to this overcrowded classes and noise in the corridors, the problem becomes even bigger. Each class is made up of students with different abilities, various backgrounds who have various problems. A teacher has to be able to meet each individual learner's needs, and this becomes a very difficult task in large classes. Moreover, it is probably that in most classrooms can be found at least one distruptive student who makes it difficult for a teacher to teach the rest of the class and sacrifice enough time for the rest of students. In these conditions, even one student with severe behavioural problems may seem like an overwhelming problem. Also, the stress level caused by school violence has recently increased significantly. Violence is most common in junior high and secondary schools, where some students experiment with drugs or alcohol and encounter bullies (Sęk 150). The acts of agression towards their...
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