“It’s a state of mind, a way of thinking, even a way of life”: a portrait of a young teacher

Forbes Education, in collaboration with Mikhail Shelkov’s Empathy Foundation and the Village Foundation, conducted a survey with the aim of creating a portrait of a young Russian teacher: why they had chosen this profession, what they liked and disliked about teaching, their future plans, how they coped with burnout, and what they dreamed about. It's about capturing the state of their soul, their thought process and even their way of life.

According to the survey, 76% of respondents have had a pedagogical education, over half (54%) have taken on the role of a homeroom teacher, and 32% engage in tutoring. Nearly one-third of the respondents (29%) became teachers out of love for the teaching profession, 19% were drawn to the profession by their love for children, 15% had a childhood dream of teaching in school, 12% were inspired by family tradition or ended up in the profession by chance, and 10% were driven by social responsibility. 

When asked the question “Is a teacher more of a friend or a mentor?”, the majority chose the option “mentor,” this answer accounting for 64% of the responses. Other opinions included that “in primary school [a teacher is] a leader and educator, in secondary school – a mentor, and after school – a colleague,” and that “the truth lies somewhere in between – a teacher should genuinely enjoy working with people.”

More than half of the respondents (57%) have experienced burnout at some point. The main factors contributing to burnout are work-related stress situations (31%), paperwork and reporting requirements (22%), irregular working hours (19%), and communication with parents (12%).

The most commonly mentioned methods of combating fatigue and lifting one’s mood were rest/sleep (14.3%), family (11.8%), sports (10.6%), as well as travel, meetings and socializing with friends, watching movies, engaging in hobbies, taking walks, and reading books.

When a young teacher starts working in a school, they always have many ideas and plans on how to change and improve things, to make them more effective. They want their suggestions to be heard because it’s self-realization, the purpose for which they entered the profession. Such a teacher is interested in new technological possibilities, learns from colleagues, experiments with approaches, and if they are not supported in this pursuit, they can eventually lose interest. That’s when burnout sets in, which, as we can see from the experience of our foundation, is often a result not so much of physical exhaustion, but of the lack of opportunities for growth. We found a solution to this problem by offering educational programs to teachers, organizing competitions and providing grants, conducting psychological workshops, and facilitating communication with other teachers. I believe it’s the right approach, and we should continue creating conditions where teachers can be confident that trying and developing is valued,” comments Mikhail Shelkov, founder of the Empathy Foundation.

For more details on other survey results, please refer to the Forbes Education article.