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What occupation has the highest burnout? Study points to your neighborhood school

Alleviating educator burnout has never been more important, according to Gallup researchers

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Kindergartners attend class at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Salt Lake City.

Kindergartners attend class at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. Newly released results of the Gallup Panel Workforce Study of 12,319 U.S. full-time workers shows 52% of K-12 teachers “always” or “very often” feel burned out at work — outpacing all other industries nationally.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Feeling really burned out at work? Odds are you are an educator.

Newly released results of the Gallup Panel Workforce Study of 12,319 U.S. full-time workers shows 52% of K-12 teachers “always” or “very often” feel burned out at work — outpacing all other industries nationally.

For K-12 employees across the board, 44% reported feeling “always” or “very often” burned out, compared to 30% for all other professions in the study.

While women educators reported higher degrees of burnout compared to male colleagues, male K-12 workers are significantly more burned out than their male peers working in other industries — 38% versus 26%, according to the study conducted earlier this year.

College and university workers reported the next highest burnout level, at 35%, making educators among the most burned out groups in the U.S. workforce.

Both were higher than health care workers and those in the legal profession at 31%. The least burnout was reported among people working in construction, community/social services and finance, according to the study. Just 21% of workers who work in finance industries reported feeling burned out “always” of “very often.”

Teaching has always been “a highly purposeful but challenging job — relatively low wages in comparison to other public sector workers, working with students and navigating family/parent dynamics, and continuously evolving national and state-level policies have made for a difficult job. But the pandemic exacerbated these challenges and added new ones,” according to Gallup News.

“In addition to the well-known problems caused by COVID-19, a growing number of states are navigating complicated political environments related to K-12 curriculum. And educators are experiencing the impact of that in conversations and interactions with parents and families.”

One consequence of teacher burnout is that educators are leaving the profession at a high rate, according to the study.

The study’s bottom line is, “For teachers nationally, a focus on alleviating that burnout has never been more important.”

The Gallup study buttresses findings of a University of Utah report published in 2018 that identified emotional exhaustion, stress and burnout as key reasons educators move to a different profession.

The report by the Utah Education Policy Center within the U.’s College of Education was published prior to the pandemic and social justice reckoning following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Teachers who either left the profession or moved to a new school cited education reform measures, salary, compensation tied to the performance of their students and level of support they received to prepare students for assessments as their top reasons for seeking change, according to the Utah report.

Mark Peterson, spokesman for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson, said state education leaders are “sensitive to the burden borne by our classroom teachers and support staff. We do listen to the calls and read the emails that come from teachers and staff. A recent audit showed that even though Utah has the overall highest retention rates, turnover remains much too high among new teachers, and this is at least partly indicative of the stress and job burnout in the field.”

Peterson said a climate survey of teachers, students and parents is underway to better identify factors that contribute to job burnout among educators.

“With all of this we do want to thank our partners in the legislature and governor’s office for recent teacher bonuses and weighted pupil-unit increases as a means of financially acknowledging the hard work teachers have put in and thanking them for that work,” Peterson said.

In recent years, Utah lawmakers have appropriated record amounts of funding to public schools, which has enabled most urban school districts to raise starting pay for educators above $50,000.

Murray School District, for instance, will raise teacher pay by 4% this coming school year. Its starting teacher pay will be $56,000 annually.