Burned Out

By Craig Colgan

For Lynne Coy-Ogan, one of the hardest parts of being an administrator is the shrinking pool of people she talks to about her job.

Coy-Ogan, principal of Vine Street School in Bangor, Maine, is ready to deal with the stress of low pay, long hours, and constant criticism. Those were things she encountered before moving into administration. But then, she had coworkers who could help, who were in similar situations. And they were next door or just down the hall.

She still struggles with the isolation, the collegial attrition that takes place when you move into a management position. "Since so much of the job involves confidentiality, there are few people whom principals can lean on for support and encouragement throughout the school day," Coy-Ogan says.

This feeling is a symptom of burnout, a growing problem for school-level and central office administrators. Ultimately, it's a problem for school boards, who must fill positions that become empty when a burnout victim leaves to start over -- in another district or another career.

Burnout is not the same as stress -- many of the best educators thrive on that, despite the potential health risks that stress presents. It's not necessarily overwork, either, although years of 55- to 75-hour work weeks would grind almost anyone down. And it's not something people are eager to discuss, despite evidence that burnout is on the rise. 

Would you like to continue reading?
Subscribers please click here to continue reading. If you are not a subscriber, please click here to purchase this article or to obtain a subscription to ASBJ.