Burnout among young teachers appears to be contagious, indicates a recent study from Michigan State University.
The study found a significant link between burnout among early-career teachers and exposure to both a school-wide culture of burnout and burnout among the young teachers' closest circle of colleagues. Surprisingly, the link was stronger to the school-wide culture of burnout than it was to burnout among close colleagues. "If you are surrounded by people who are downcast or walking around under a pall of burnout, then it has a high chance of spilling over, even if you don't have direct contact with these people," said study author Kenneth Frank. "This study is one of the first to provide evidence that the organisational culture in schools can make a notable difference for early-career teachers' burnout levels."
Frank added teacher burnout is also tied to the current education policy environment. Controversial policies such as evaluating teachers based primarily on student test scores, merit pay for teachers and lack of voice in assignment of students to teachers can bring added pressure. "If school administrators and policymakers are serious about promoting retention and reducing burnout among novice teachers, they should be aware not just of the curriculum they are advocating, or their rules and policies for teachers. They should also attend to how the organisational culture in their schools can have direct effects on burnout levels of their faculty."