Upskilling can help teachers manage burnout

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New Delhi, October 6 (IANSlife) Like most professions, teaching is a demanding job too. With new-age edtech catalysing a shift towards a blended learning environment, the need to navigate, adjust to, and manage the online as well as offline modes of teaching simultaneously has added to the workload of teachers.

This is aside from their pre-existing regular non-teaching responsibilities such as handling administrative tasks, coordinating extracurricular and other school events, tracking and maintaining student performance records, and attending important intra-school meetings including parent-teacher meets, among others.

And with government school teachers in India often being entrusted with out-of-school tasks such as election duties and census work, the workload tends to only become that much heavier for them. As a result, the likelihood of burnout and leaving or switching their teaching job - for both government and private teachers - prematurely increases even further. The landmark National Education Policy 2020 envisaging a complete overhaul of the education system has made the transition challenge more acute for school teachers.

What is burnout?

Burnout is essentially a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion stemming from long-term involvement in work situations that are emotionally demanding and is accompanied by chronic stress, energy loss, and negativity and cynicism related to the job.

As such, the employee or teacher in this case feels both cognitively and emotionally increasingly disconnected from his job thereby leading to a decline in teaching efficacy.

Already, there is sufficient data to show that a large number of overworked school teachers in the country are facing increased burnout and diminished efficiency, therefore necessitating the addressing of overworking and burnout issues of school teachers.

In what ways can provision for upskilling and continuous professional development (CPD) programmes for teachers help them manage work burden, job strain, and burnout?

NEP 2020, a challenge and an opportunity for teachers

The introduction of the National Education Policy 2020 has sought to revamp the broader educational system envisaging restructuring of school curricula and pedagogy, flexibility to students in course choices, multilingualism and curricular integration of essential subjects, skills, and capacities such as sweeping and wide-ranging transitions can be further said to exacerbate the job-related burden of teachers.

However, even as the recency and the transitory nature of the NEP 2020 have made it more challenging for teachers, it has also endeavoured to provide help and assistance to teachers by way of prescribing minimum duration of continuous professional development (CPD) programmes for teachers.

Upskilling imparts multi-dimensional impetus to teaching

It is important to note that any upskilling programme that teachers undergo is not merely confined to their subject domain and the skill and proficiency levels related to it, but also extends to new pedagogies vis-a-vis foundational literacy and numeracy; formative, adaptive, and summative assessment of learning outcomes; and competency-based learning.

As a result, an upskilling programme gives a multi-dimensional impetus to a teacher’s proficiency which in turn lends an enormous psychological boost as an antidote to the feelings of stress and burnout. Indeed, the NEP 2020 has mandated that all teacher education institutions (TEIs) in the country have to convert to multi-disciplinary institutions by 2030 and offer an integrated teacher preparation programme that would include a grounding in psychology, among many other subjects.

Teaches psycho-social coping and adjustment strategies

Speaking of the psychological component and since psycho-social factors contribute to a substantive part of teachers’ feelings of burnout, an upskilling programme is often also designed to help them negotiate and deal better with their emotional demons.

In effect, they are taught different coping strategies that help them regulate and control their emotions more effectively. Those teachers who learn these skills can not only predict cognitive and emotional behaviour in students and other colleagues with a greater degree of precision and efficiency but also conduct better self-evaluation.

As a result, they can handle their own emotions in a much more constructive manner, a response that serves as a buffer against any simmering emotions of stress and burnout. This also improves their cognitive performance which in turn elevates their teaching efficiency in the classroom, all of which serve as anti-burnout impulses.  

Stress management techniques deter feelings of burnout

Related to the above, the upskilling programme would also coach teachers on several stress management, meditation, and relaxation techniques. Certainly, these would serve as powerful deterrents to feelings of burnout and exhaustion among teachers.

Teachers would also be encouraged to adopt practices such as taking periodic breaks and participating in physical and other sporting activities. Effectively, the values of adopting a better work-life balance would be inculcated among them.

Development of ICT skills boosts self-confidence and energy levels

In an increasingly tech-driven learning landscape, any upskilling programme would necessarily include skilling and training with ICT and related tools, platforms, and processes. Research has shown that a large majority of teachers have experienced considerable stress due to the pressure to pivot to remote and online teaching tools and platforms as quickly as possible, especially due to the immediate pandemic-induced mobility restrictions.

However, teachers who undergo adequate training in ICT would display enhanced self-confidence and high energy levels. Consequently, their susceptibility to burnout and the related stress would diminish.

Therefore, for a demanding as well as rewarding and fulfilling profession such as teaching, upskilling programmes can prove to be a great help for teachers in their battle with feelings of burnout and stress.

The National Foundation for Education Research has found that teachers experience more stress than any other professionals. So, if India is to truly realise its so-called demographic dividend, it is time that teachers are provided with periodic upskilling programmes that would prevent their early burnout.