Applying Self-Care to Strategically Prevent Burnout in Early Career K-12 Teachers

Applying Self-Care to Strategically Prevent Burnout in Early Career K-12 Teachers

Nancy A. Walker, Bridgette M. Hester, Michelle G. Weiler
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6803-3.ch002
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This chapter explores potential sources of burnout for early career K-12 teachers, or those with less than five years of classroom experience. After a discussion of burnout and compassion fatigue, this chapter will present strategies for building positive relationships, developing and engaging in effective mentor programs, and current best practices in self-care. The discussion will include a presentation of steps one can take to promote and effectively manage mental and physical health to improve personal and professional relationships. This chapter will bring together resources, ideas, and information to help early career teachers to view themselves, their classrooms, and their relationships with students, parents, peers, and administrators from a different perspective through the building of positive relationships, collaboration efforts, and mentorship. The chapter will conclude with a list of examples of best practices in self-care to aid early career teachers in better serving themselves, their students, and their learning community.
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Few would argue that today’s teachers are experiencing tremendous pressure. In addition to the regular stressors which accompany the act of educating the nation’s youth, teachers are exposed to other stressors, such as problematic students or parents, disagreements with peers and administrators, and an increasing amount of federal and state mandated documentation. Additionally, life continues beyond the classroom, and many teachers also contend with raising a family, maintaining their marriage, concerns about the future regarding retirement, concerns with family, illnesses, other relationship issues with family and friends, and minor mishaps of everyday life. Often, these other responsibilities, coupled with the stressors from work, culminate in a seemingly endless struggle, and people often find themselves neglecting the person they need to take care of most–themselves. Many people achieve less than the optimal amount of sleep (Watson et al., 2015), neglect their diets, fail to exercise as much as recommended, and do not engage in activities that may serve both their mental and physical well-being (American Heart Association, 2019). Stress has been a source of research since the 1920s (Rosch, n.d.), and researchers in psychology have developed many ways to navigate stress in a healthy and productive manner.

Stress and self-care are not exclusive to any particular career field, but this chapter will focus on bringing together resources, ideas, and information that will allow early career K-12 teachers to view themselves, their classrooms, and their relationships with students, parents, peers, and administrators from a different perspective. After an explanation of burnout and compassion fatigue, and the theories from which they are derived, this chapter will present current literature on self-care practices and how the actions one takes to promote and effectively manage their own mental and physical health may affect other domains in their professional life and relationships. Two other sections in this chapter will focus specifically on building positive relationships, collaboration, and mentorship. As class sizes continue to increase and new online platforms are utilized, early career K-12 teachers may encounter additional challenges in avoiding burnout. Thus, understanding self-care and its effects on one’s professional relationships is essential. Lastly, the chapter will conclude with a list of examples as to how educators can practically utilize self-care information to better serve themselves, their students, and their learning community.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Positive: A state of thinking or development consisting in or characterized by the presence or possession of features or qualities rather than their absence. Positivity is constructive, optimistic, and confident.

Master Teacher: A teacher with significant experience in the profession who possesses the desire and ability to mentor another to use student centered strategies for instruction, classroom management, lesson planning and curriculum development, and peer, administrator, student, and parent collaboration.

Compassion Fatigue: A cumulative or acute condition specifically brought about by empathizing with others’ trauma related experiences, leaving the worker to feel unable to empathize or assist individuals due to feeling overwhelmed and unable to feel compassion; this can be a separate condition from burnout, or can occur simultaneously.

Mentor: A master teacher who guides an early career teacher in adapting to the profession and specific school environment or culture during the first years of their career by sharing their own past experiences, providing instructional support and guidance, and opportunities for collaboration.

Support: The act of showing a belief that someone or something is good or acceptable. It is the approval of someone or something. The act of helping someone by giving love, and encouragement.

Burnout: A state of exhaustion brought about by cumulative exposure to extended periods of stress causing an individual to feel mentally, physically, and emotionally unable to meet demands of life accompanied by feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

Early-Career Teacher: A teacher that has five or less years’ experience teaching grades K-12.

Connectedness: A state of being in which individuals share an established connection or sense of belonging or connection with another individual or group of individuals.

Self-Care: Any activity done purposefully by an individual to care of one’s psychological, physical, or physical health.

Relationship: The way in which two or more people are connect and connect for the benefit of those individuals or to aid others.

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