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  • Writer's pictureSpritely

Teacher burnout

Updated: Mar 12, 2019

Over the last 2 years we’ve had the privilege and pleasure to work closely with a prestigious Junior school in the Southern suburbs of Cape Town on a Social-Emotional Wellness Programme for both staff and learners. 

We’ve learnt that children, also those from the most privileged households, are in desperate need of social-emotional support and that these skills need to be taught and learnt much in the same way as academic skills. We’ve also learnt a bit about the demands on teachers… how do they survive without super powers?! We’re not surprised teacher burnout is considered an international epidemic. In many schools the emotional needs of teachers are often overlooked. We found that even when teachers work in an extraordinary supportive environment, they are incredibly grateful for a platform that affords them the space to pause, reflect, connect, offload, unpack, brainstorm and innovate.

We focused on enhancing teacher’s self-awareness and used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) to gain understanding of the personality preferences of the entire staff complement from administrative to class and specialised teachers. The MBTI® is based on 50+ years of solid research, it’s used internationally and by many Fortune 500 companies, and more than 2 million people are assessed with it each year. The MBTI® is very popular in business, but also proves to be a very rich (and somewhat overlooked) tool for teachers.

Type influences the way teachers teach. It influences how information is presented, how lessons are designed, and how classroom rules are devised. Conversely, the student’s type preferences influence how information is received and how information is shared. The process of teaching and learning involves a relationship between teachers and students, and the more that can be done to promote healthy relationships between the two, the more learning can occur.

Staff found it tremendously valuable to discover a tool that helped them better understand themselves, their colleagues and even their loved ones. They learnt to value and leverage their differences, embrace their own strengths and ask for help on tasks that best suit a colleague’s strengths. They learnt to adapt their communication and expectations, taking type differences into consideration to get the most out of their interactions. From these interactions, the need for further support was met by means of individual counselling and coaching or facilitated group discussions. Staff reported that they felt supported and have fostered more authentic relationships with one another, plus have more energy available for the task at hand.

As their awareness of personality type preferences increased, they were able to recognise type preferences in their learners and respond accordingly. A teacher with a Sensing preference shared how she came to realise that she teaches in the way that she prefers to receive information: practical, with detailed instructions, and relevant to the present moment. It dawned on her that she might be missing an opportunity to fully engage the Intuitive learners who need to see the big picture and often become impatient with details.

Does your child have an introverted or extraverted preference? Teachers who use type awareness will learn how to best communicate with your child. For example, to draw an Introverted child into a conversation, it is recommended to talk to the child instead of asking questions and to pause between statements to allow an opening for the Introvert to talk.

There were several examples of how teacher’s awareness lead to small adjustments in their methods with significant results on their relationships with learners. The concepts of psychological type thus provide a workable framework for understanding differences between children and teachers that have an impact on the way they communicate with one another. Elizabeth Murphy said “personality is the one human component that provides the greatest insight into how children form their social relationships and how they prefer to learn.”

As we continue to learn from our practical experience and ongoing research, we become more aware of the tremendous benefits of the recognition and utilisation of type preferences in educational settings.

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