PREVENTING TEACHER BURNOUT
by Gary Hogan
This class deals with the frustrations and motivational problems we all face from time to time. It assumes we are dealing with spiritual people. If we are experiencing frustrations with our class every Sunday and if those frustrations are derived from the lack of the Holy Ghost in our lives, the only solution for that is —the altar!! No lecture, seminar or special training can ever replace the dynamics of the spirit.
UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM
To burnout and to backslide are not the same!!
To “backslide” denotes a spiritual condition. Burnout happens regardless of a person’s spiritual status. The phrase “teacher burnout” was coined to describe a condition that occurs when teachers feel emotionally drained. To these folks Sunday mornings are more endured than enjoyed. At one time merely working or cleaning in their classroom was a real joy. Every craft was a creative challenge. Every little hyper, squirming body that filled their room on Sunday was a possibility daring to be discovered. But no more!
It began so subtly. It was unnoticed at first. Then after some particularly harried Sunday morning, it all gushed out. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me! I’ve lost control of my class! I can’t handle teaching any more! My nerves feel like they have been drug across a grating board! I’m uncreative, uninspired, (Except when I’m yelling at the kids) and very frustrated!!
Psychologists point out that both our physical and emotional needs run in cycles. Such as the recurring need for food, water and sleep. There is no way, they claim, that we can function at peak efficiency all the time. The Bible itself confirms that, when it states “to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.”(Ecc 3:1) The Apostle Paul even warned young Timothy to be prepared in both your “In seasons and out seasons.” (II Tim 4:2) Most of us think we understand this and have made provisions for our “out seasons” — we schedule vacations! But rarely if ever,
do our “out seasons” coincide with our vacations. Even if they did, burnout is probably caused more by other things than the lack of rest, even though that certainly is a factor.
Let’s face it! If you do it right, teaching Sunday School is hard work. Usually very dedicated people are chosen to be Sunday School teachers. These honest and sincere folks take their experience with God seriously. They don’t want to feel this way and they don’t want to be quitters!!—
THE HEAVENLY CONNECTION
In the l6th chapter of Numbers is the story of Korah’s rebellion. There are two separate accusations brought against Moses in these verses. In verse three, Korah himself along with 250 princes of the assembly accuse Moses of taking too much upon himself, “seeing all the congregation are holy every one of them. Then in verse 41, after the earth had swallowed the house of Korah, the entire congregation murmured against Moses saying, “ye have killed the people of the Lord.” The Bible says the Lord was angry with this complaining and destroyed almost 15,000 people. It would have been worse, if Moses had not interceded on their behalf.
It is appropriate for us to note a couple of important things about this story. First of all, there was no rebuttal to Korah’s claim that all the people were holy. (Meaning they could hear from the Lord themselves.) Secondly, as far as the Lord was concerned, the people had not rejected Moses, but had rejected Him. He viewed these accusations as rebellion against HIS sovereignty. Why were they rejecting His chosen leadership? If they wouldn’t follow Moses, would they follow the next man He chose? It was unlikely. They were indeed– in rebellion against His authority.
In this entire scenario, neither Moses or the Lord ever questioned the “HOLINESS” of the congregation. Apparently they were holy and they could hear from God. (when their spirit was right) Holiness was not the point. The issue was a deep-seated, perhaps almost subconscious doubt that God actually does anoint specific men to lead His people.
When God calls a man to the ministry, he places him in a humanly impossible situation, especially so in a Pastoral calling. He commands this mortal man to guide and direct immortal spirits (even though he has never seen one) to an eternal heaven (A place he has never been) He is commanded to bind up the broken hearted, to counsel, to pray and to
encourage. He will feel the desperate frustrations of a wicked and lost city. He will lie awake at night plotting ways to more effectively communicate the gospel to every individual that passes through the sanctuary doors. In time, he will become a driven man with the awesome responsibility of his ministry ever before him. And he MUST NOT FAIL — there are eternities in the balance.
On Sunday mornings when the church is divided into separate classes, it is a physical impossibility for the pastor to teach every group. Some of the folks who attend, especially many of the children, may not even see the pastor. Yet he is ultimately responsible for their salvation.
In the sixth chapter of Acts, the apostles were faced with a similar situation when the Grecians complained that their widows were being neglected in the daily ministrations. Eventually, seven men were chosen to handle these distributions. Verse six says seven men were set before the apostles who laid their hands on them and prayed for them.
In the Old Testament story we discussed, Korah objected to Moses’ leadership, and was destroyed. In this story, these seven men recognized the Apostles authority and worked with them. Apparently, the Lord was pleased because the scriptures note that “the Word of God increased and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem.”
God had made them an extension of the Apostles ministry. The anointing that rested on the apostles, now also, extended to them. This was clearly seen in the lives of Stephen and Phillip. Stephen became the first martyr and his death played no small part in the conversion of Saul. Phillip became the first lay evangelist and was used by the Holy Ghost to lead the great revival in Samaria.
In the same way, every Sunday School teacher that stands before a class on Sunday morning is an extension of the ministry of their pastor. The pastor, of course, is responsible for that congregation. But he has chosen teachers (you) to represent his ministry in that classroom. As the Lord anoints him, that blessing will flow to you. In that sense, he is your HEAVENLY CONNECTION!
Pray for him, that the anointing of the Lord will be on his ministry. Don’t ever gossip about him, or destroy his character with words. Don’t talk about his wife or entertain a gossiper that does. Don’t critize his leadership, second
guess his decisions or hold bitterness. Above all trust him. When all the facade is stripped away, the entire leadership of your pastor boils down to TRUST. As in the story of Korah, we must trust in HIS sovereignty. YOU must believe in your pastor and believe that GOD has anointed his life to pastor this church at this time. You must trust his leadership. And in return, this tremendous burden that God has placed on him, will be shared with you—because he trusts you with his calling. If you fail in these areas, you have separated yourself from his ministry. And the anointing that God has placed on him will never reach you.
It is abundantly evident in the Bible that the Lord is jealous of His perogatives and will not delegate his power into carnal hands. When it comes to teaching this is a basic principal in avoiding BURNOUT.
STRAIGHT TALK TO SUPERINTENDENTS
Most teachers blame themselves for their “down” days. Many times it is their fault — but not always!
In some Sunday Schools, teachers are no more than glorified baby-sitters. This is wrong! — And it reflects the philosophy of a Sunday School that’s on a dead end street.
Placing teachers in classrooms without sufficient training is asking for burnout. But the practice is so common the prevailing attitude among many teachers is that, “self-training, is normal. After all–shouldn’t we all be teachers after we receive the Holy Ghost?
“Sister Friggbe, Now that you’re a teacher, if you need help, feel free to ask any of the old timers. They’ll be glad to help you. One other thing — you’ll need to pick up a couple boxes of ice cream sticks right away!” It doesn’t matter how bad Sister Friggbe may want to teach, frustration is about to set in.
Superintendents, this is your area of expertise. Someone must teach the teachers. No one likes to work at a task that they feel is unimportant. The urgency of the teacher’s responsibility is transferred to them in training. Don’t take anything for granted. Just because Sister Friggbe has had the Holy Ghost for 20 years and raised a family in the church doesn’t necessarily mean she will be a good teacher.
Training programs should be on-going. Refresher courses, craft workshops, etc., should be taught periodically throughout the year.
Bulletin boards, room decorations, crafts and teaching techniques all require creativity. When this creative edge disappears—-teachers burnout. Superintendents, they are looking to you. The urgency is upon you!!
In the training process, teachers should be rotated through EVERY class. This exposes perspective teachers to the talents and teaching methods of every teacher on your staff. It also helps the teacher determine where she fits. Matching a personality to the right class is essential. Contented teachers rarely burnout.
In the business world, they speak of the Peter Principle of management. Briefly that is; a man will rise through different levels of responsibility until he reaches his level of incompetence. The he will fall back to the last position he occupied and settle there for the duration of his career, or until his capabilities increase.
The basic principle also applies to Sunday School teaching. Whenever teachers are matched with an age group where they are uncomfortable, or if they “feel” mismatched for whatever reason, the Peter Principle applies. Usually they will become frustrated and want to change classes. When there is no where to go — they will quit, or want to.
People don’t always know where they would like to be placed. (especially if they have never taught before) Some think they would enjoy teaching a certain age until they actually try to do it. Rotating your teachers-in-training will allow them to relate to each group.
From time to time while the trainees are rotating, question them about their feelings. It is my contention that the Creator in His infinite wisdom will provide the right person for every class.
One more thing!
On occasion, it will become necessary to move teachers around for the benefit of the Sunday School and for the teachers personal development. If the staff realizes that the rotation process is a normal part of the Sunday School organization no one will be offended.
All of us have a tendency to gravitate to the areas of least resistance. In teaching we will “do the most” of what we “do the best”. Consequently, if we are good at crafts, and not so good at teaching Bible stories, we may teach a five minute lesson and devote the next 45 minutes to constructing paper windmills. Or if we are not creative, we may drag a ten verse Bible story out for 40 minutes. (Some folks are not creative –and not so good at Bible stories either. But they’re the best cookie passer-outers in the Sunday School!!)
Since the attention span of a child up to the age of five is one minute per year, and increases gradually from there, at least half this time is wasted in the majority of classes.
A schedule will help your teachers develop all of their talents. It will keep them from devoting too much time to one area of teaching. It creates an air of excitement in the classroom because the class is always moving and changing. It reduces discipline problems caused by boredom. It keeps the teacher on course with their lesson aim. In short, it helps teachers to be teachers. After all, you’re not actually teaching until someone learns something.
If the church is large enough, every class should have two teachers. In some cases it would be better to have three classes with two teachers than six classes with one teacher.
This is not necessarily team teaching and should be used even if the class is not set up for Center-Of-Interest.
There are many advantages to this system. To be a good Sunday School teacher takes time. When schedules are used and teachers began to work at improving their class, they will devote more time to each part of the lesson. (crafts,
centers, Bible stories, etc.) Adding another teacher reduces the work load. Teachers can alternate each week. This week one will teach the Bible story, and the other will handle the crafts; and next week, vice-versa.
Also teachers will feel the need to improve if another adult is observing their part of the lesson each week. And the kids will get more individual attention.
A word of caution: Teachers who have taught by themselves for several years may object to having someone else in “their class.” Usually this happens because they feel inadequate in some area and they are embarrassed for anyone to know. This is where the rotation method begins to demonstrate its merits.
Young People– What about the teenagers in your High School class? Hospitals use this age for volunteers. The world would use them in a second in their places of sin. But we allow this wealth of developing talent to sit idle Sunday after Sunday. Then wonder why they backslide…
Even if they are not qualified to be teachers, you can use them as Teachers aids. Put them to work for a quarter assisting the teachers with the “busy” work. Such as: Putting up room decorations, taking roll on Sunday, helping the kids with their crafts, leading the songs and playing the part of a Bible character for the lesson.
Yes, this means you will have three adults in the classroom at times. Maybe even four if you have a teacher-in-training also. But the work of the Kingdom requires mobilization of our resources. All these folks working together creates camaraderie. All this movement creates excitement. Something is happening!!
After the quarter is over, the young person could return to his/her class. Then do it again later. What valuable experience!! Everybody wins!!
What about allowing your teachers the option of taking a quarter off every seventh quarter. (Year and a half) Explain to them that it is not mandatory and must be scheduled in advance.
This should be used as a time of rest and renewing for the teacher and she should be encouraged to sit in the adult class and not assist another teacher.
STRAIGHT TALK TO TEACHERS
Creativity is imperative to teaching!
Some people come by it naturally, but most have to work at it. Fortunately, it can be learned. — But likewise, it can be lost.
When teachers lose their creative edge, we call it burnout. Most teachers try to weather the storm hoping that whatever it was that left, will mysteriously return. It probably won’t — unless the leak is plugged.
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. If there is anything you can do to help yourself — do it!
We all have our pet peeves. But experience has taught us that here is an appropriate time and place to voice our opinions. With our families however, we are inclined to throw our better judgment out the window.
Let me remind you that the proper time to complain about your wife’s housekeeping, is not, on the way to Sunday School. The time to tongue-lash the kids because they remained hung over the cereal bowl or spread out on the “funnies” far past your tolerance point on Sunday morning is not on the way to church.
The Bible says, “There is a time and place for all things!”–And this ain’t it!!
If Brother So and So has the unique ability to be your thorn in the flesh, give him a wide swath on your way to your class.
In other words, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” If you know something irritates you–avoid it as much as possible. It makes sense! If the devil can upset your emotions, he can frustrate you and destroy your creativity.
TREAT YOUR BODY RIGHT
REST –Pentecostals keep a busy schedule. You’ve probably heard the church version of Mary Had a Little Lamb “Mary had a little lamb She hoped the lamb to keep
Then it joined a Pentecostal Church
And died — from lack of sleep.”
The loss of two or more days of sleep can lead to any or every effect of LSD by its effects upon bodily chemistry. Not many of us will lose that much sleep at one time, but small amounts of sleep, (1-3 hours) lost consistently over an extended period will kill your creative process.
The alarming thing about this is that we are unaware it is happening. So I have a test for you. Circle one.
1. I am finding it harder and harder to make decisions. yes/no
2. Even little discipline problems irritate me. yes/no
3. I procrastinate. (I never did before) yes/no
4. I am not creative (As I once was) yes/no
If you answered yes to all of these questions, you probably need more rest. Sleeping “in” on Saturday morning won’t help. Your mental clock needs to be rewound.
If you are a procrastinator, you need to break the habit. Procrastination causes Fatigue. Excitement creates Energy.
Eat Right –In the last few years, our country has become nutrition conscious. But are you aware that Doctors now say certain foods directly affect our nervous system.
When manic-depressives are brought into the emergency room in some hospitals, they are given a steak dinner. When the body is low in protein, the depression level is high.
Too much fast food, high in calories and low in nutrients can’t possibly help our cause. Keep your body well so it won’t burnout.
BASED ON 1.5 HOUR SESSIONS
10:00-IO:I5………SONG, OFFERING, REVIEW
II:IS-Il:25………ACTIVITY OR PLAYTIME
10:00-IO:I5………PRESESSION (SONGS, OFFERING, REVIEW OF
LAST WEEKS LESSON)
10:45-Il:OO………CENTER OF INTEREST OR PRACTICAL STORY