How Overworked Are You? A Scale For Teachers

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A four-stage framework can help teachers understand the overworked process and what they can do to protect their well-being and career.

For decades, researchers have sought out ways to measure Overwork. While some methods have gained popularity in research, all overwork measures face criticism. Many argue that Overworked cannot be easily diagnosed, let alone understood, making any method of measurement questionable at best. Unfortunately, the lack of clarity makes it more difficult for burned-out workers to find solutions.

While each individual case of Overwork has different causes, variance in symptoms, and varying thresholds, there are noticeable trends. These trends can help teachers see how burned out they are and what they should do immediately to overcome that stage of Overworked. This scale has identified four levels.

LEVEL 1: INTENSE WORK BUT OVERWHELMED

Passion can lead to Overwork. It’s very difficult to burn out something you don’t care about deeply. A passion for teaching leads to commitment, which encourages you to work harder and take on more tasks. This tipping of the scale begins the cycle of Overworked. The following are some indicators:

  • Low feelings of self-efficacy
  • Negative coping strategies
  • Limited pursuit of passions or hobbies outside of work

If you identify with this first level of Overworked, it’s time to employ positive, proactive coping mechanisms. 

LEVEL 2: OVERWHELMED AND BECOMING DOUBTFUL

“Celebrate your self-worth with a positive mind”.

While the first level is infused with passion and a variety of positive feelings, level two of Overworked may be the first time you actually feel exhaustion. At this point, you begin to take on an unmanageable load of work and pour your heart into your students. Instead of seeing the hoped-for results, you notice more work and responsibilities being sent your way. This is the point where you may begin to feel doubtful toward the profession.

The indicators are as follows:

  • High levels of stress
  • Quick to become irritated (at work and home)
  • Bringing work home and not completing it
  • Feeling like there is never time for friends or family
  • Guilt from not doing enough for students

LEVEL 3: IN TWO MINDS AND APPROACHING EXHAUSTION

Continuing from level two, the third level of Overworked reaches you at your most doubtful point. You may feel like it is impossible to be a good teacher. This stage may have you feeling like everybody and everything is at fault for the state of education. You continue to take on too many tasks and overextend yourself at school, but without the feeling that it will make a difference. The exhaustion of this step may follow you home, impacting relationships and time spent outside of work.

Once you have reached this stage, two strategies can create a positive, meaningful impact. The main support is to take mental health support from outside of the workplace are both effective ways to mitigate the damage of the third level of Overworked.

LEVEL 4: COMPLETE EXHAUSTION AND BREAKDOWN

My sincere hope and wish is that no reader of this article identities with level four. Once you have reached this point, there are two options: quit or recommit. Overworked has spread throughout your life, challenging your personal wellness and your professional goals. Level four is pure survival mode, leading teachers to decide to leave the classroom or to dig deep and restore their initial passion for teaching.

The following are signs of level four:

  • Feelings of exhaustion every day
  • Drastic increase in sick days/mental health days
  • Lack of optimism for career and personal life
  • Unusually frequent physical symptoms 

All hope is not lost at level four, but it’s vital to take action before your health deteriorates further. At this stage, prioritizing and purpose seeking are two incredibly useful strategies.

It’s never too early to work against Overworked. Wherever you fit on this scale, try applying these strategies to protect your wellness and your career.

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