Teachers and Students Feel Burnout After a Year of Virtual School

Drained, burnt out, and exhausted.

Maddy Feldwick sits at her kitchen table for school, feeling stressed during a google meet. Penny, her cat, helps her get through her classes.

This is what many students and teachers feel after a year of virtual learning.

After a long winter of being stuck inside and not seeing friends, waking up early and being in the same room all day, students are left feeling . . . blah.

But teachers are feeling the strain, too. It has been a year of silent breakout rooms, unresponsive students, and preparing hundreds of pages of presentations, and many are looking for motivation to get through to summer. 

Online school has definitely led to burnout, since school often feels optional,” says junior Grace Kirby.  “I didn’t have things that usually bring up my mood like theatre.” 

Like many students, Grace often hung out with her friends and participated in extracurriculars. Now, without all of those norms, school was just work.

Being a senior during online school made everything just a little more challenging for Rachel Beall. “Now that I’ve ‘made it’ through high school, I find that my usual motivation of ‘well you need this for college transcripts!’ is no longer applicable,” she says. “I am so much more excited about college and my future than my classes right now, that sometimes I find it hard to give it my all for my current classes.”

Math teacher Ms. Harrison has also felt the weight of burnout as a result of quarantine. “I think that being at home definitely led to a little bit more procrastination that usual,” she says. Still, Ms. Harrison is trying to keep students engaged. 

She tries to keep class lighthearted. “Sometimes I would have students come up with ideas to start class like terrible jokes or “would you rathers,” and that would help get people talking,” she says. 

Even Ms. Padgett, who has a reputation for always being positive and enthusiastic, still ends the day feeling tired and unmotivated. “I try to be upbeat every single second I’m teaching online and when the school day ends, there are times I am not motivated to do very much,” she says. 

Ms. Padgett believes that the burnout is caused by not hearing back from students, and putting in effort to make sure they’re okay and not receiving anything back. “After calling home and reaching out numerous times with no responses, it can feel pointless,” she says. 

According to Rachel, separating school from a relaxation space has helped motivate her. “It has definitely helped with my procrastination and motivation to do school work,” she says. 

While some struggle academically, others struggle with the environment online school provides. 

Keeping in contact with friends and taking time outside has helped many students stay calm. I go on lots of walks, especially when the weather is nice while finding ways to see my friends,” Grace says. 

As students look forward to seeing each other, many find joy in days of break without instruction. Wilde Lake sophomore Aidan Maharaj, has enjoyed having an asynchronous day and the weekends to refocus and take a moment to breathe. He says, “The nonstop stress is too much to handle sometimes. A break is key to staying within good health.”

With both students and teachers feeling the fatigue, they recognize they’re not alone in this ongoing struggle. “We’re all just human and this much isolation can be hard on anyone,” Grace says. 

Ms. Padgett urges students to stay hopeful. “Anything positive with my students throughout this pandemic year gives me energy and really has helped me to stay motivated even when I felt so drained.”