How Bad Education Policies Demoralize Teachers

We often hear the term “teacher burnout” to describe how some educators feel overtaken by the pressures of the classroom. But are these really cases of burnout or have many educators become “demoralized”? These are similar but also distinct forces, says Doris Santoro, Assistant Professor of Education at Bowdoin College, and both are driving dedicated and talented teachers out of the profession.

In a recent article for the American Journal of Education, Santoro argues that demoralization at the hands of rigid education “reforms” is often misdiagnosed as burnout, a condition that has more to do with how an individual responds to everyday stress. Demoralization, according to Santoro, occurs when much of the value of teaching has been stripped away by rigid, ill-conceived education reforms, creating a high level of frustration and helplessness among teachers. “Burnout” is not the issue. As she explains to NEA Today, the work of teaching has changed and it is therefore up to school communities and policymakers to help restore the “moral rewards” of teaching.

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