Teacher burnout is a serious problem in schools.
I can say this with confidence because I see it every day in my own school.
If you’re a teacher, think about how many times you’ve heard a colleague say “ugh, I’m so over this”, or “I can’t wait to retire in 5 more years”.
This type of chatter is everywhere in our profession.
Even if they’re not saying it out loud, you can tell a burnt out teacher just by looking at them-shrugged shoulders, glazed eyes, very little pep, and seemingly going through the motions of the school day. They might not be verbally saying that they’re burnt out but they might as well be holding up a sign that says I’M DONE.
The sad thing is that teacher burnout is not a new topic of discussion. Teachers have been suffering from this and talking about it for a long, long time.
For this reason, there have been many articles written on the subject. But, the advice they give is fleeting.
You’ll read things like practice self care, talk about it with your colleagues, know when to take a break, ask for help when you need it, etc..
This type of advice is nice, but not very practical for the teacher that has worked for 25 years and has had enough.
In this article I will share how pursuing financial independence is the absolute best way to overcome teacher burnout.
What is teacher burnout?
Teacher burnout is a broad term to describe the collective symptoms of stress, anxiety, overwhelm, fatigue, frustration, boredom, and any other negative emotion experienced by a teacher.
Psychology Today defines burnout as
“a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.”
For the purposes of this article, I will be referring to teacher burnout as the point that teachers reach after those negative symptoms have built up over time.
So you wouldn’t call a teacher that had one stressful day amongst many great days a “burnt out” teacher. No, a teacher that you would label as being burnt out consistently experiences negative emotions day after day after day.
Signs of teacher burnout
In many cases, spotting teacher burnout is not difficult.
Common signs of burnout include:
- Constant fatigue
- Lack of concentration
- Poor body language
- Chronic stress
What causes teacher burnout?
There are a number of different internal and external factors that cause teacher burnout. Much of the writing about teacher burnout points to not just one, but the build up of multiple different factors.
Common causes of teacher burnout include:
- Student behavior
- Lack of autonomy
- Lack of support
- Feeling undervalued
- Lack of time to accomplish tasks
- Unfulfillment at work
- Long career
From my experience, teacher burnout becomes more prevalent the longer you teach. When you’re young, you are more imperturbable. New teachers are more willing to cope with things like lack of support and difficult student behavior. After teaching for 20+ years though, you can easily reach a point where you’ve had enough.
Why is teacher burnout a problem?
Teacher burnout leads to poor quality of education and more under-qualified teachers in the system.
This is obvious because when teachers experience chronic negative emotions about their job, they are unable to perform at their most capable level.
When a teacher is not performing at their most capable, it negatively impacts student learning.
Consider a 50 year teacher that is just going through the motions compared to a 30 year old teacher that puts their heart and soul into their work.
Which teacher would you want for your own child?
How to overcome teacher burnout?
Achieving financial independence (FI) is a guaranteed way to overcome teacher burnout. It’s the remedy that all educators should be working toward throughout their career.
Being financially independent is reaching the point where you no longer have to work. It’s when your net worth is high enough (25x your net worth) that you can live on the returns of your investments through the use of the 4% rule.
It’s the perfect combatant for teacher burnout, because financial independence gives teachers the option to leave the profession when they’ve had enough. A financially independent teacher that is experiencing teacher burnout can simply quit. No questions asked.
Additionally, it has a positive impact on both teachers and students.
Teachers will get to experience a great career and get out when they’ve had enough.
Students will have teachers that are not experiencing burnout.
It’s a win-win.
How to achieve financial independence?
For teachers, it’s important to start working toward financial independence early. Reaching FI does not happen overnight. It requires an intentional mindset shift about money, and small repeated actions throughout your career.
My advice for any teacher looking to reach financial independence before normal retirement age is this:
- Pay off your debt
- Find ways to earn more
- Value based spend
- Invest the difference in low cost index funds
Depending on how aggressively you take action in each of these areas will determine how quickly you reach FI.
The Bottom Line
Although teacher burnout continues to hold a tight grip on our profession, there is a way to fight back.
Pursuing Financial Independence is the solution.
Even if you think that you will never experience teacher burnout throughout your career, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
If you pursue FI from the beginning of your career and end up never wanting to leave the profession, then great, continue teaching! At least you know you have the option to stay or go if you need to.