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5 ways to help learners avoid academic burnout

The first term of school is over, and learners across the country are now experiencing some much-needed rest and relaxation as they prepare for the next leg in the 2022 academic school year. According to Dr Veronique Genniker, director at Pearson Marang Education Trust South Africa, this is also the perfect time for parents and teachers to reflect on the real dangers of academic burnout.

Academic burnout can be defined as a negative emotional, physical and mental reaction to prolonged study that results in exhaustion, frustration, lack of motivation and reduced productivity at school. “It is important that one does not confuse over tiredness with burnout, but one must be cautious to understand that our children need to be protected from overexerting their minds, emotions and their bodies.”

Dr Genniker provides some advice to teachers and parents to ensure that academic burnout is acknowledged and responded too:

Lead by example

Teachers and parents must form a compact of mutual understanding, compassion and respect, due to various language, cultural and religious differences, to be the best examples to learners and their children. Together they must be mature, brave and vulnerable enough to demonstrate and have consistent courageous conversations with their leaners and children respectively. What is modelled daily through responsible, respectful, caring, and compassionate behaviour and discussions at school must be reinforced at home.

Relate on a human level

Show your learners and children that you too are human, instead of always trying so hard to be the perfect providers. Show and discuss that you also have to deal with difficult people and situations, and how it effects your emotions, then show how you respond respectfully and responsibly. Also share that there are times when you get disappointed and fail and once again show and discuss how you respond with understanding and how you can develop plans to not give up or try something different to get a better outcome.

Take a strategic approach

As teachers and parents, if you have regular open and honest discussions about issues that show up at home and in the classroom, you can actually share, learn and develop strategies of how best to have difficult discussions and respond decisively, authentically and kindly when engaging with difficult people and situations, and most importantly, how to be calm, consistent and fair in finding the best solutions.

Take it easy, take a break

We need to create regular breaks throughout the day to just catch our breath, talk about how we are feeling, what we are thinking, and how to graciously step away from people and situations that do not need a response. In this way, we are teaching our precious learners and children how to not just survive in life but how to thrive, be assertive and be the bigger person.

Be there for them

Be present in person, as every learner and child needs to know that they are seen, heard, understood, cared for and loved. Be observant and step in with compassion when you suspect something without being accusatory and give your full attention when they respond. Listen to understand and not to respond. Children need daily affirmation that they are worthy and that their best will always be good enough because every child is unique and needs to be nurtured and nourished in ways that enables them to be their best selves in order to develop into independent adults which must be role modelled to them consistently.

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