We all committed teachers, sometimes we are excessively committed. This can lead to teacher fatigue reducing the quality of our teaching and the results we achieve. How do you react in this situation? Do you try to invest extra effort in class and spend extra time in planning your lessons?
This response to fatigue can lead to greater fatigue and sometimes to teacher burn out.
Perhaps you supervise other teachers. How do you spot the signs of fatigue? What advice do you give your colleagues?
Please share your ideas and experiences.
I think I have experienced this teacher fatigue, only now I know that is what that phase is called.
Unconsciously, I took a drastic step - went on ahead and changed my teaching style. Instead of book reading, students were given the chance to do their own research and make a presentation for the rest of the class.
Not only that, but I think using a lot of teaching aids could also be a solution.
I think your change in teaching style was a good reaction. After all, students learn largely as a result of the work they do! The teacher's energy input is clearly important but in my favourite phrase, students only learn because of their own mental activity.
When teachers experience teacher fatigue and notice a reduction in their students' learning, teachers blame themselves and try to give extra energy in their lessons. This just increases the teacher's fatigue but does not result in better results. If the teacher then tries to supply even more energy to lessons, this just produces a downward spiral towards burn out.
As you have found, the correct response to fatigue is often for the teacher to do LESS rather than MORE. If the teacher does less, the students have to do more and, as a result, they learn more.
I think many teachers experience periods of fatigue and this topic should be addressed on training courses. How do you feel?
Great question, and I like Ambreen's answer and your exegesis.
With teacher fatigue, I think prevention is better than cure. When I was teaching full time at a language school in London, I'd always schedule some 'low-intensity for the teacher' time: a weekly session in the Self Access Centre, an extended viewing of a video, student presentations, a visit to a gallery or museum. This gave me some breathing space to look forward to. I realise not all teachers are so privileged to have these options, but any change in routine can help. I'd also try to avoid standing up and being the centre of attention all the time (it's exhausting!).
If it is addressed on training courses, I am sure it will benefit all of us.
JJ's technique of avoid standing up, I have tried, it works. In such senarios - I allow a student to use the electronic board to display their understanding of the subject under discussion.
Yeah, standing up can be a big drainer. My first year or so I constantly had sore legs. I had a few employers that insisted that I stand all the time. Then I decided it wasn't necessary to stand all the time. I think the advice above is a good one. About using videos and going out for extracurricular activities.
I would also add that as important as it is to be "active" there should also be times for more "passive" ESL activities. More concentrated work like worksheets and some of the activities on that page. And instead of circulating around the room to correct students work you could take a break and then let the students bring up their work for you to correct.
Ian, following on from your comments on JJ's reply, teachers have learnt that in lesson planning they should balance high concentration and more relaxing activities for students. Maybe we should also plan for more relaxing periods for teachers.
In fact, if we create balanced lessons for our students, they will also be lessons which are more balanced for the teacher. JJ talks about the strain of being "in the spotlight" for long periods. But if JJ is "in the spotlight", what are the students doing? Excessive teacher spotlight suggests an unbalanced lesson for students.
You speak of "active" and "passive" ESL activities. It might be better to speak of "intensive" and "extensive". "Intensive learning" is usually structured learning using a structure planned by the teacher. "Extensive learning" is usually less structured and any structure is chosen by the learners. Because of these differences, there is usually less pressure on the students during extensive learning. The pressure on students during intensive activities often comes from the teacher. Applying this pressure consumes large quantities of teacher energy.
Students require both intensive and extensive learning. Although extensive learning is not structured, it still has geat learning value. Fifty classroom minutes seems to be a very short time. We tend to over-pack our fifty minute lessons with too many high intensity structured learning activities. (which are exhausting for both students and teacher.) Extensive learning, being less structured, is given lower priority and usually assigned as a homework activity.
Teacher-contact time is a valuable commodity. Extensive learning activities require less teacher input, so are they a waste of teacher contact time? No, they are necessary "coffee breaks" during a fifty minute lesson -- necessary for the learners AND the teacher.
I believe that teacher fatigue comes from repetition. We need to be inspired and to inspire our learners so we and they move forward. Once we find the passion in our teaching, then teacher fatigue becomes a thing of the past. To do that we need to be inspired. If we can't find that spark, we need to keep looking until we find some!
To overcome fatigue, first teachers should try to discover the reasons behind it. Some teachers may feel tired due to working overtime. In this case, they should reduce the number of hours that they teach and allocate some time to recreation. Some others may feel exhausted because they have motivational problems due to low salaries, conflict with the adminstration and students, contradicitve objectives, incongruent expectations, to name just a few. In this situation, they should try to be realistic and self evaluate themselves to come up with a better undertanding of the situation. Keeping a journal to include accounts of the feelings and daily events and possible solutions can be a good strategy for self evaluation. As some of you mentioned, fatigue may come about as a result of the monotonous routine in teaching. we may add variety by teaching different levels, having students particiapate in the teaching process, and giving them a chance to watch movies (insructional ones). Remember that like yawning, teacher fatigue is contagious and can be tranferred to students.
Message was edited by: korosh Irani
You make some really good points, and I especially like your idea of keeping a journal.
There is one contradictory note here, though. You correctly point out that teachers often have 'low salaries'. That's why they work overtime or teach in two or three schools and give private lessons. It's not so easy to 'reduce the number of hours that they teach and allocate some time to recreation', particularly if they (we) have a family to feed and bills to pay.
Believe me a few years back, I had the same position as you do today. Sometimes, I worked 12 or ten hours a day. I really felt worn out. It led to the present state that I have today. I do not feel like taking many classes. I become tired very soon. I am very impatient and easily get of control.
All the best,
Korosh, I can sympathise. Just for the record, I don't teach full-time - I'm a writer - but I remember those days of teaching overtime, along with many other exhausted colleagues!
Nick, I strongly believe that a student has to work harder than a teacher.
Change your style of teaching, they will learn more by doing things by themselves.
Teach what they cannot learn without you: grammar, techniques of effective communication, rules for pronunciation vs.spelling ect.
When you give out tests, don't bring them back home: correct them with the class (the corrector-student has to sign his name on the paper as well) and then pick them up (so you really see whether the corrections are good ones). It's easier to go over a test that way and it's more constructive: you see whether they all really understood things even after correcting or not.
Let them be responsible of their own success. That's their job. Yours is to HELP them achieve it, not DO it for them.
See the difference? Once you see it that way, the sky clears up
Some years ago, I led 60 groups of student through the units of Kernel Lessons Intermediate. Was this boring? No, because each group of individuals had different reactions to the material. Their discovery of the characters and stories was constantly refreshing. It is now a book which is past its era, but it was an icon at its time.
The source of teacher fatigue is that the teacher becomes bored with the students. Teaching becomes a treadmill because the teacher is teaching the material, not the students.
My experience with tells me that teachers get fatigued when they are not doing what they love. Instead they are doing what they have been told to do, think they should do, believe they need to do but not what their heart tells them to do.
Answer to this, while it is seldom so straightforward, is to follow your heart - not of course leaving your head behind in the process! :-) If you don't know where that is anymore ( and I am not joking, it is easy to get lost...I know, I have been there) go and get some inspiration from somewhere.
To be effective at teaching or learning we have to have our heart in it...otherwise we are just get through the steps..a recipe for disillusionment, fatigue etc.