Dealing with Sunday School Teacher Burnout

Sunday 10th December, 2006

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There are many reasons that burnout occurs. Sometimes a teacher simply overcommits. Work may suddenly take off. A family member may require hospitalization and lots of time and attention. A child may arrive at an active involvement age. Some teachers have difficulty saying "no." Others struggle with prioritizing.

But burnout can come from other sources. A personal medical condition or even a prescription may cause difficulty in focus and rest. Stress and life concerns may produce similar distraction and sleeping difficulty. A fast-paced schedule may lead to rushed, unbalance eating and little to no exercise.

What are some of the warning signs of burnout? In Dealing with Professional Burnout, Whiney Potsus lists the following:

  • persistent irritability;
  • quick tempered;
  • feeling unappreciated, taken advantage of, "put upon;"
  • persistent hopelessness (what's the point); and
  • detachment (who cares).

In addition, Stacy DeBroff adds:

  • restlessness;
  • combativeness;
  • fatigue;
  • inability to concentrate;
  • headaches and stomachaches;
  • loss of appetite;
  • stress or depression; and
  • being lethargic or unmotivated.

In Tired Teachers:  Ten Tips for Dealing with Burnout, Stefanie Reubell lists these symptoms:

  • a formerly dynamic teacher might endure quietly but deliver flat, lifeless lessons;
  • a previously long-suffering teacher might seem to lose patience easily with students;
  • a formerly faithful teacher might cease helping in other areas around the church;
  • a previously organized teacher might have trouble getting to class early or even on time; and
  • other teachers will simply give up, turning in their resignation with a feeble excuse and fading into the background of the church.

So, what is the answer? Almost every situation involving burnout can be avoided or dealt with. Here are some suggestions for heading off burnout and for dealing with it:

  • maintain your daily quiet time with God (don't try to do the work in your own power);
  • focus even more on resting, eating right, and exercising during times of stress and difficulty;
  • talk with someone you trust;
  • share about your teaching difficulties with your director, pastor, or teaching coach;
  • take time off from teaching;
  • learn to relax and to play;
  • enlist a class leadership team to give leadership to care, prayer, reaching, and fellowship tasks;
  • enlist and train an apprentice and ask the apprentice to share the teaching responsibilities;
  • evaluate and address your schedule and priorities;
  • see your medical doctor when appropriate;
  • seek to change situations creating stress; and
  • work on something new or different or that you have passion for;

Be proactive about burnout. Learn to identify the warning signs. Address burnout as soon as you recognize it. Don't let burnout control you and lead to mediocrity in your teaching. Deal with burnout and be revolutionary!

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