With the fall semester now begun, it’s a good time to ask if teachers are ready to return to the classroom (“Are You Demoralized or ‘Just’ Burnt Out?” National Education Policy Center, Aug. 15). I say that because people believe that the long summer vacation is more than enough time for teachers to recharge.
That’s not necessarily the case in light of what is now known about the difference between demoralization and burnout. Although both are related, they are not the same. Burnout occurs most often when teachers find themselves in a situation with too much pressure and too little support. It can be relieved or eliminated by rest, as occurs over the summer months off.
Demoralization, however, occurs when teachers feel a fundamental conflict between their professional values and their working conditions. It’s accompanied by a strong sense of humiliation. Rest will do little, if anything, to alleviate it. When teachers are constantly scapegoated as the cause of all the ills afflicting public education, they begin to ask if they have made the classroom the correct choice.
I don’t see things improving for teacher morale. On the contrary, as attacks on the profession intensify, I believe more of the best and brightest college graduates will shun the classroom, or at best stay just a few years before departing.
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