Navigating the problem of burn-out among early childhood educators
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Sector.
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) is a demanding profession. Early childhood educators shoulder multiple responsibilities at work such as driving curriculum outcomes for children, engaging them in learning through different activities and ensuring their overall growth.
These massive responsibilities expose them to everyday stress which over time takes the form of burn-out.
Burn-out can manifest as emotional, mental and physical exhaustion. The problem is further aggravated when their burn-out remains untreated and they keep getting fresh exposures to stress everyday at work. To add on to the troubles, low wages expose them to financial stress which further enhances burn-out among early childhood educators.
While much emphasis has been placed on the importance of ECEC to maintaining a strong economy, educators are often not spoken of in the broader discussions about burn-out in the education sector as a whole.
Burn-out suffered by early childhood educators is a major reason for high turnover in this profession. Without urgent action a shortage of talented early childhood educators will result as educators leave the profession in light of poor conditions and low wages.
It is important for leaders to address the issue of burn-out in early childhood educators. The following actionable steps may support to reduce burn-out in educator teams and increase staff retention:
- Appreciate them for their efforts:
Appreciation has a magical effect. It has the power to comfort an aching heart and make the person feel good. As the feelings of goodness get triggered, burnout slowly starts fading away and motivation takes its place. But, this is not a sudden process, it happens slowly and gradually. So, first of all, leaders should make it a habit to appreciate early childhood educators for their efforts on a regular basis. Although they may not see their efforts bearing fruit initially, over time and through regular appreciation, they’ll see the early childhood educators getting healed of burn-out. Their increased happiness, enhanced energy and better performance will let them know that their efforts are bearing fruit.
- Make them feel important:
Everyone desires to feel important. When this doesn’t happen people can feel sad, upset and stressed. Educators often feel that they are not viewed as important, or that communities view “real teachers” in primary and high schools as being of more significance Leaders should try to change their perception by making them feel equally important. This can be achieved by extending public recognition to them, celebrating their special days and extending helping hands to address their concerns.
- Introduce group exercise in their work schedule:
Exercise offers excellent stress relieving benefits. This is because it enhances the production of happy hormones in the body, which act as an antidote to the stress hormone – Cortisol. As the levels of stress hormone get reduced due to the impact of happy hormones, stress relief takes place. If leaders are able to introduce a group exercise session in the work schedule, they will experience benefits not only in terms of stress reduction, but also a boost in team camaraderie. Group exercise sessions are also instrumental in the formation of good relationships among the participants. As a result, they become friends with each other, which also helps relieve burn-out. This is because spending time with friends triggers the production of oxytocin, which is again a happy hormone.
- Offer them with opportunities for growth:
Growth is a fundamental desire of all human beings. No one wishes to have a stagnant career. If it happens, burn-out is a natural consequence. Just like everyone else, ECEC professionals also have the aspirations to enhance their skills and grow in their careers. As such leaders should offer them growth opportunities both professionally as well as financially. This will not only make them feel good about being a part of their respective organization, but it will also save them from getting burned out because of the lack of growth opportunities.
Early childhood educators play a really important role in the education sector. They get the children ready for their journey of education. While putting in enormous efforts to shoulder their responsibilities well, they often get exposed to burn-out. This makes it important for leaders to look into this issue and take actionable steps to heal ECEC professionals from burn-out.