Burn out in special education teachers

Update to the blog: Check out the new page on preventing burnout and website sections on thriving as a special education teacher! After several years, and some burnout of my own, I am finally back working on materials to help teachers thrive!

Original Post

I wish I could say that everyone who enters special education stays but the fact is most people leave. They either go to general education, go to administration, or leave teaching entirely. The truth is that special education teachers have higher rates of burnout than other teachers.

I also wish I could say that the findings on special education teacher burnout surprised me but they don’t—they make all too much sense. This is going to be the first of a short series of blog posts on factors causing burn out—and some things I think we could do about it. Students with special needs deserve passionate, committed, competent teachers who are happy to be there working with them. They don’t deserve overworked, frustrated teachers who too often burn out or check out before they get the chance to really figure out how to do the job.

So let’s start figuring out how to reduce burnout and improve the teaching experience for special education teachers and their students.

Here are some of the topics I will be hitting in the blogs:

Vision: What is success in special education? What are we aiming for?

Job description: Do teachers or principals even know what their actual job duties and responsibilities are?

Resources: What materials do teachers need to be successful?

Feedback: How do teachers find out what they need to work on and what they are doing well on?

Rewards: What reinforcement do teachers get for being fantastic?

By the way, these issues come straight out of a needs assessment I did for a performance improvement class. The frameworks for performance improvement are pretty fantastic so I will be using them a lot in this blog! There are obviously a lot of other issues in causing burn out including stress, lack of support, and amount of work— which I will hit on later but the issues above are going to be where we start.