By Aviv Weiss, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Educators at Khan Academy and former Teacher
Teaching is an emotionally and intellectually demanding job that requires passion, patience, and dedication. However, with the increasing demands and pressures of the profession, many teachers face exhaustion, uncertainty in their career choice, and a specific kind of grind that can compromise their mental and physical health and ultimately lead to burnout. In this blog post, we will explore what teacher burnout is and how long teachers typically spend on each task. We’ll also provide examples and strategies for reducing burnout. In addition, we will examine how Khanmigo, Khan Academy’s AI assistant for teachers, can be an effective tool for reducing stress and giving teachers back the hours they need in the evenings and weekends to relax with their friends and families.
Understanding Teacher Burnout:
Burnout can occur in a variety of scenarios for teachers. Take these, for example:
- A 2014 study by Lindqvist et al. demonstrated that working in a school with high levels of student misbehavior or low academic performance significantly increases the risk of burnout.
- Stress can also accumulate when there is a high workload, with teachers often working long hours to plan lessons, grade assignments, and manage administrative tasks. A study by Dicke et al. (2015) found that teachers who worked over 50 hours per week reported higher levels of burnout.
- In addition, a lack of a supportive and collaborative work environment can contribute to burnout. Research has shown that teachers who feel unsupported by their colleagues and school leadership are more likely to experience burnout (Brouwers & Tomic, 2000).
Consequences of Teacher Burnout:
Teacher burnout is a combination of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion that results from prolonged stress and frustration associated with teaching. Research shows that teachers who experience burnout typically suffer from three main symptoms (Kyriacou, 2001):
- Emotional exhaustion: emotional exhaustion refers to the feeling of being emotionally overextended, unable to meet the emotional demands of teaching, and feeling drained and unable to cope.
- Depersonalization: depersonalization, on the other hand, involves distancing oneself emotionally from students and colleagues, as well as feeling indifferent and cynical about the teaching profession.
- Reduced personal accomplishment: lastly, reduced personal accomplishment entails a sense of ineffectiveness, low self-esteem, and decreased productivity in teaching.
The “Old School” Strategies for Reducing Burnout:
Tackling teacher burnout requires a comprehensive and individualized approach that considers the unique personality, life circumstances, and teaching context for each teacher. In the past, teachers have been told to “do even more things” to be happier at work. Some ideas are valuable, like setting priorities and focusing on essential tasks only. But other ideas, such as finding time for yoga during the school day or identifying an awesome mentor who actually has time for you, are just not realistic. They also don’t make an actual dent in the grind of your day-to-day life.
How Teacher Workload Exacerbates Burnout
Apart from the emotional, mental, and physical demands of teaching that contribute to burnout, the workload and time demands of teachers can also be a significant factor. Teachers in the U.S. spend an average of 52 hours per week on tasks, including grading, lesson preparation, and teaching (National Center for Education Statistics). Find me a teacher who doesn’t spend many hours on non-instructional tasks that are essential to keeping their classrooms and schools running smoothly.
You won’t! Because teachers spend at least 50% of their time on non-instructional tasks, such as writing progress reports, communicating with families, holding student conferences, and attending meetings (National Center for Education Statistics). So. Many. After-school. Meetings. The combination of long work hours and extensive tasks leads to chronic stress and fatigue, thereby increasing the risk of burnout.
Leveraging Khan Academy’s AI Teaching Assistant as a Burnout-Reduction Strategy
Khanmigo, Khan Academy’s AI Teaching Assistant, is a groundbreaking tool that can be used by teachers to reduce time spent on most tasks that are not student-facing. Every feature of Khanmigo is designed to save teachers time and is—we’ve been told—a true lifesaver for first-year teachers.
The features our AI teaching assistant has, as of September 2023, include:
- Teaching aid:
- Refresh my knowledge by topic and grade level
- Create humanities lesson plans
- Write learning objectives
- Co-create a rubric
- Create lesson hooks and exit tickets
- Create a fun class summary poem
- Chat with GPT-4 (all general teaching inquiries)
Your evenings are yours again without compromising quality
By understanding burnout and implementing strategies that give teachers their time back, educators can maintain their passion and commitment to teaching while protecting their well-being.
Lindqvist, P., Nordänger, U. K., & Carlsson, R. (2014). Teacher attrition the first five years – A multifaceted image. Teaching and Teacher Education, 40, 94-103.
Dicke, T., Stebner, F., Linninger, C., Kunter, M., & Leutner, D. (2015). Working hours and job satisfaction: the role of work-family conflict for teachers. Work & Stress, 29(3), 279-297.
Brouwers, A., & Tomic, W. (2000). A longitudinal study of teacher burnout and perceived self-efficacy in classroom management. Teaching and Teacher Education, 16(2), 239-253.
National Center for Education Statistics, Characteristics of 2020–21 Public and Private K–12 School Teachers in the United States Results From the National Teacher and Principal Survey, A Publication of the National Center for Education Statistics at IES