With extended hours and heavy workloads, teachers are increasingly falling prey to burnout. Burnout affects not only teachers themselves but also their students, co-workers and families. Symptoms of burnout include emotional exhaustion, depression, anxiety, depersonalisation, a reduced sense of personal accomplishment and lack of balance between home and work life.

What are the causes of teacher burnout? The teaching landscape is rapidly changing, and teachers struggle to keep up with an increasingly complex environment. They face multiple challenges, including increased class size, students’ negative behaviour and attitudes toward learning, children with complex needs, shifting curriculum requirements, extracurricular activities which create long workdays and for the past year, the uncertainty and complexity of teaching during the pandemic.

A Light on the Horizon

The promotion of emotional wellness and health in teachers and the building of healthy emotional climates associated with positive student learning are elements which are often missing from teacher education and professional development programs. What is needed is a way for teachers to manage the stress that they are increasingly experiencing and a way to become resilient to future stressors.

A study published last month in the journal Frontiers in Education shows that the Transcendental Meditation program can significantly reduce teacher burnout.

The study used a randomised controlled design with 78 teachers in the San Francisco Unified School District. Participants were assigned to either a group which learned the Transcendental Meditation technique or a control group which continued with their usual routine.

All participants completed a series of pre-tests, prior to the meditation group learning the TM technique. The tests measured levels of burnout, perceived stress, resilience, fatigue and depression. All the participants took the same test four months later, and the results of the meditators’ group and the control group were compared.

The authors found that the TM group showed a significant reduction in emotional exhaustion, significant improvements in depression, depersonalisation, and perceived stress, while experiencing an increase in resilience and feelings of personal accomplishment as compared to controls.

These findings are consistent with past research on TM showing benefits related to stress reduction and emotional health. This was the first study investigating the effects of a meditation-based teacher development program on burnout and resilience, two key factors associated with overall mental health.

“Teachers are under high levels of stress as they are asked every day to support their students’ learning amidst numerous challenges,” said Laurent Valosek, lead author of the study and executive director of the Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education. “This study demonstrates the benefits of [TM] meditation for strengthening teachers’ mental and physical health. There is a growing body of research on the harmful effects of burnout and the need for resilience. School districts are looking to give their teachers tools for reducing fatigue and emotional exhaustion to support a more effective, sustainable teaching experience and better student outcomes.”

In a time of increasing changes in the school environment, it is time to start thinking about tools that can help teachers navigate their complex workplaces. TM is proving to be a very effective aid in improving teachers’ well-being.

Click here to read the whole study.