By: Sam Frenzel
Biography: Sam Frenzel is a writer for OnlineCounselingPrograms.com where he collaborates with editor Syrenna Kononovitch, editor on creating content that supports future and current counselors in providing services to their clients, seeking education, and pursuing various mental health careers.
How can you fill someone else’s cup if yours is half empty?
Educators and counselors are in the best position to help their students when they are properly taking care of themselves. Unfortunately; because of stress induced by workloads, meeting state and district standards,and numerous other variables, it is common to feel burned out in these professions.
Self-care, when proactively and consistently used, can be one of the best defenses against effects of burnout for educators and counselors of all kinds. It is common practice for school counselors to be familiar with various self-care practices and they are absolutely necessary. Teachers, however, are often not as well-versed on self-care techniques. As a consultant and collaborator in the health of students and school, professional school counselors can help teachers identify signs of burnout and encourage engagement in self-care activities.
Specific Signs and Causes of Burnout
Being able to recognize burnout in colleagues is the first step to being an asset in efforts to reduce possible tension and stress in schools.
Career burnout can be seen in a variety of ways including: a decline in work performance and job satisfaction, a change in eating and sleep patterns, impairments in social and other interpersonal relationships, and an overall withdraw from the job, both physically and emotionally. To this end, burnout has the ability to completely alter one’s outlook on their career and, thus, is more important to address than most people realize.
“I see burnout when a colleague calls in sick repeatedly, especially Mondays and Fridays.” Says educator Jen Roberts of LitandTech.com “Other signs include losing patience with students, being unprepared for lessons, negative attitude, exhaustion, feeling behind, complaining about students, parents, or administrators. There are lots of signs of burnout, and all of us have shown some of those symptoms at some point.”
The stressors that lead to burnout in professional school counselors and educators are not all that different. The most commonly cited reasons for burnout in school counselors are increasing job demands, an overwhelming work environment with role confusion, and a lack of time to provide direct services to students. Similarly, educators point to “top contributors” such as intense workload, administrative issues, and student behavior.
This commonality between school counselors and educators is indicative of potential for collaboration in finding ways to relieve the stress. In many ways, the relationship between school counselor and educator is integral to the holistic success of their students.
How to Help Your Teachers
So how can school counselors help the teachers in their school combat the effects of burnout? The opportunities run the gamut from small, thoughtful gestures to helping address more systemic issues.
Below are eight practices counselors can integrate into their professional lives to be a source of support to teachers in need, from the U.S. Department of Education’s blog - Homeroom:
- Help teachers to understand the student as a whole being.
- Offer professional advice regarding troublesome students.
- Assist with tackling classroom problems, before they get out of hand.
- Become an empathetic listener to both student and teacher concerns.
- Work with teachers to implement guidance lessons into academic classes.
- Continually develop a collaborative professional relationship.
- Offer ways to mediate and resolve conflict between teachers and students..
- Provide professional guidance on a student’s mental health concerns.
Each of these practices play a key role in beginning to reduce teacher stress, and will help them develop and find the time for their own self-care techniques.
Using Rational Emotive - Social Behavioral Consultation Theory
Another way school counselors can leverage their expertise to help teachers is by applying theoretical frameworks to teachers who may be experiencing burnout. School counselors, for instance, can put the rational emotive - social behavioral consultation theory (RE-SBC). School counselors utilize RE-SBC to assess the social-emotional needs of both students and teachers and implement systemic services such as group consultation. In turn, this will create a multi-level tier of support and responsive services that will promote the overall positive mental health of teachers.
Should You Reach Out to Your Teachers?
Keep in mind that there are going to be times of the year where teachers are at a higher risk of burnout. The first few weeks back in the classroom, busy testing periods, and the end of the school year are a few specific points where it might be beneficial to reach out to staff with a show of support. A few ideas for school counselors to demonstrate solidarity and empathy are to send out a staff memo conveying your willingness to lend an ear and to hold “coffee with the counselor” sessions as an open forum for teachers and counselors to collaborate.
By being a source of support for both teachers and students, school counselors are demonstrating a commitment to their school and the welfare of its student body.