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Posted by SASTA

on 12/03/2024

The changing nature of the workforce post-COVID has seen unparalleled effects on pedagogical practices and the neurological state of teachers. As teachers have returned to work, new and challenging environments are being faced with their role as educators. (Pressley, 2021)

As a High School Physics, Biology and STEM teacher I know all too well about the current predicament encapsulating the profession. Teacher Fatigue, Burnout and Resilience are the foundation for the research I am currently embarking on, as a research candidate in the Medical Innovation Neuroscience and Data Analytics (MIND) unit of TD school at University of Technology Sydney.

So what does this all mean, and how does this affect you?

As secondary teachers, we have a multitude of roles alongside classroom teacher. We are admin officers, mentors, confidants, parents, and sometimes proverbial punching bags.

As a teacher for almost a decade now, there has only been one reason for staying – the students. However, it has been increasingly difficult to remain focused and not allow changes within the profession to overwhelm me into burning out.

But the question still begs - Why is the statistic that 50% of beginning teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years of entering the teacher workforce?

There has been a marked increase in reports of teacher stress and burnout which has been reported in numerous studies. According to a recent study, teachers have reported heavy workloads, health and well being concerns and the overall status of teaching as predominant factors for burnout and projections for leaving. (Heffernan et al., 2022)

Highlighted factors that contribute to the mental load of exhaustion are through:

  • Vocal Fatigue – Over exertion of the vocal cords. In the teacher profession this occurs with regularly projecting our voices. “No Timmy, you can NOT break a thermometer for fun!”. As educators, our voices are our biggest tools when teaching concepts and gaining the attention of a class.
  • Emotional exhaustion – Accumulation of stress, negative thoughts and feelings from repetitive and challenging events in your life. As teachers we are the first point of call for a lot of our students. We interact with them on a daily basis and establish meaningful connections. This can also result in a depletion of your emotional health when you are consistently supporting students. You feel empathy and want to help each student to the point of exhaustion. (Marić et al., 2022)
  • Depersonalisation – In which you see yourself outside of your body. Where you can recognise your thoughts but feel detachment within yourself. (Akin, M.A. 2019)
  • Mental exhaustion – This one leads to fatigue and burnout. This can be associated with feelings of apathy, cynicism and irritability. Statistically speaking, once at this point, projections of leaving the profession proliferate exponentially.

So what can we do about it?

In an ideal world, there could be workload reductions, increase in trust and respect of teachers and ultimately changes in policy to help support teachers who are still hanging on.

Although we are trying to change the world, one study and teacher advocacy at a time, there are things we can do to ensure we survive the school year.

  • Create work life balance – This is critical in creating boundaries with both students and staff alike. Up until a year ago, I would continuously refresh my phone and check emails. I even replied to students on Google Classroom when I was on my honeymoon! I cannot stress enough how imperative it is for our mental health to NOT dedicate every waking moment to the job. Establish boundaries.
  • Create health habits that support mental health – This could as be simple as mindfulness practices, breathing exercises, yoga, vocal cord exercises, eating better and getting regular sleep for appropriate hours.
  • Identify if you are burning out – By the time you realise you have burnt out…it is too late. As a beginning teacher mentor, I cannot advocate enough for my mentees to take care of their mental health. Especially in the formative years of their career.

In saying that, teachers of all stages of their career should be mindful of their fatigue levels and potential for burnout. When in doubt, ask yourself how you feel about a series of question:

  • Do you ever feel tired even before the day has begun?
  • Do you feel like working with people all day long requires a great deal of effort?
  • Have you become more insensitive to the people at work (colleagues and students alike?)
  • Do you often feel emotionally drained after work?
  • Do you feel frustrated at work, often?

These questions are derivative of the Maslach Burnout Inventory (Maslach & Jackson, 1979). If you answered yes to any of these, it might be time to gauge the status of your mental health.

By Shaheen Ali

Research Candiate

TD School, University of Technology Sydney

High School Teacher

Bonnyrigg Partially Selective High School NSW

Shaheen Ali Bio picShaheen is a Research candidate for the University of Technology Sydney.  She is currently investigating Teacher Fatigue, Burnout and Resilience from a sociology and neurology perspective as a member of the Medical Innovation Neuroscience and Data Analytics unit of TD School. Shaheen brings to the project, 10 years of experience as a secondary Biology, Physics and STEM teacher where she has also gained numerous experiences as an academic for the Faculty of Life Science at University of Technology Sydney.


Akin, M.A. (2019) An Investigation into Teacher Burnout in Relation to Some Variables [Preprint].

Heffernan, A. et al. (2022) ‘“I cannot sustain the workload and the emotional toll”: Reasons behind australian teachers’ intentions to leave the profession’, Australian Journal of Education, 66(2), pp. 196–209. doi:10.1177/00049441221086654.

Marić, N. et al. (2022) ‘Occupational Burnout among teachers: Is it seasonal?’, Archives of Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology, 73(3), pp. 233–240. doi:10.2478/aiht-2022-73-3582.

Maslach, C. and Jackson, S.E. (1979) ‘Maslach Burnout Inventory’, PsycTESTS Dataset [Preprint]. doi:10.1037/t55656-000.

Plata, T., Haynes, J. and Raye, M. (2022) Work burnout signs: What to look for and what to do about it, Boston University. Available at: (Accessed: 26 February 2024).

Pressley, T. (2021) ‘Factors contributing to teacher burnout during COVID-19’, Educational Researcher, 50(5), pp. 325–327. doi:10.3102/0013189x211004138.