Resilient Keys to Burnout Prevention in High School Teachers


Introduction: The incidence of developing burnout syndrome in teachers is higher in those who work with adolescent students (12-18a), given the time of life changes. Resilience is the ability of people to overcome life’s difficulties. The objective of the study is to measure the levels of resilience and exhaustion expressed in high school teachers in relation to some sociodemographic and socio-labor variables.
Method: It is a descriptive cross-sectional design. The invited sample consists of teachers (N=1,268) in the 2017/18 academic year. Through voluntary participation, the acceptance sample is formed with n=167 teachers (13.17%). Results: There are high scores in efficiency suggest a positive self-assessment of work by teachers and its influence as a protective factor against the feeling of being burned.
Discussion and Conclusion: It is confirmed that positive emotions mitigate vulnerability to work stressors, favoring the emergence of resilience. The resilience evidence of the respondent group increases with the vital conditions that provide emotional and labor stability: marital status (stable couple or other options), having children, job stability, type of employment contract, etc. It is necessary to assess other influential factors in relation to the organization of the school itself and the social pressures it receives.


Burnout; Resilience; Positive emotions; Teachers


The scientific literature describes burnout as the advanced phase of professional stress, which results basically from the interaction of the worker with the work environment, or also as a result of the interpersonal relationships of the worker and worker with the people for whom he works. Maslach and Jackson (1981: 3) define it as: A three-dimensional syndrome characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced personal fulfillment, which can occur among individuals who work with people [1].

In the educational field, the loss of emotional resources caused by the demands of teaching work (excessive number of students, excessive homework, temporary pressures and work overload, poor support teachers, inadequate schedules, excessive bureaucracy, etc,), interact with the teacher’s individual resources, negatively impacting their health [2-25]. The motivation of the teacher must be combined with circumstances of a very diverse nature (professionals and non-professionals) that pose a problem as well as a challenge: the appearance of new functions, such as the use of ICTs and their teaching; the new technologies and mobile devices related to multitasking and pressures to which teachers are subjected, attention to special educational needs or cultural diversity; challenges related to students, such as the need to solve behavior and discipline problems and the high levels of school failure and dropout [26-50].

The burnout studies in the teaching group show that the decrease in resources devoted to teaching and curricular changes [28] work overload [39] temporary pressures [29], interpersonal conflicts [7-38], low degree of autonomy [6] role dysfunctions [37] lack of reciprocity of role [15] among others, are related to the emotional fatigue of teachers [18,27,50] On the contrary, high levels of motivation, added to the presence of support factors (eg, realistic work objectives, participation in decision-making, availability of resources, etc.), increase the perceived effectiveness of the individual [51]. In this context, the scientific literature emphasizes that self-effective people do not perceive environmental demands as stressful and try harder. The lack of self-confidence in performing the tasks well increases the probability of suffering burnout [13- 51].

For this reason, some subjects are more vulnerable than others to develop the syndrome, since this depends on the cognitive strategies that the individual has to solve the problems, the type of professional exercise and the development of protective factors linked to the individual variables, as the type of personality and attributes or traits of the same [2-4,8,9,21,36,40,42,49].

Resilience or ability to overcome adverse or stressful situations and emerge strengthened, achieving a positive adaptation [32], represents one of the main dimensions associated with psychological well-being and academic success [24] .The course of adaptation can be inferred from the level of adjustment in various social fields (family, school, etc.), so it does not denote an invulnerability to stress, but persistence of functional and adaptive competences through the use of strategies for effective coping [14,19].

The sense of resilient recognizes the pain, struggle and suffering implicit in the process, implies considerable stress and emotional discomfort, despite which people draw the strength that allows them to continue their lives in the face of adversity or tragedy [33]. The process of being and becoming resilient is developing differentially, as the vital stages occur, and different environmental and labor conditions are presented [12-22].

In the educational field, resilience refers to the potential that each person has (teachers/students...). The authors who explore resilience point out that some of the characteristics of resilient people are related to cognitive flexibility, creative ability, the ability to solve interpersonal problems, the good level of self-concept and the bonds of attachment that have been forged in the childhood [35-43].

Another construct that has acquired special relevance in recent years, understood as a contributing factor to psychological well-being, is optimism [23]. Some authors, such as [48] and [16] underline the weight that emotions such as optimism, assertiveness and self-esteem have in building the resilient process. It has been described that optimistic subjects have high levels of resilience, which demonstrates the close relationship between positive emotions and resilience [30].

Likewise, Oriol, Mendoza, Covarrubias and Molina 2017 and [46], among others, report that an optimistic attitude towards challenging situations is related to confidence and persistence in behavior, even if things get difficult. In the same sense, Pulido and Herrera 2018 corroborate that optimism exerts a differential influence in the assessment and coping with difficulties, in the development in the social and academic world and in psychic and physical wellbeing and, they point out, that optimism and pessimism correlate significantly with self-efficacy and professional wear in a diverse way. Therefore, giving a positive meaning to life events and having a coping style focused on the problem, helps to generate positive emotions when adverse situations are experienced [1-54].

Emotional intelligence is another individual factor that explains that some people are more resistant to stressors because of their ability to perceive, understand and regulate their emotions, as well as those of others [19]. Recognized authors, such as [16-21] and [51], among others, point out that when teachers acquire emotional skills they are better able to relate to the students, with the rest of the teaching staff and with families.

The present empirical study aims to establish relationships between perceptions of burnout and resilience in teachers.



The initial contact for the field study was carried out through an interview with the Management Teams of the Secondary School Public Network (IES) Centers during the 2017/18 academic year, who value the interest of the proposal and contribute to the dissemination of the Questionnaire among the Cloisters. With these teams that assume both academic leadership and school management, the following agreements were reached:

A. That the sampling criterion be the free, voluntary, and anonymous participation of teachers, without identification of the educational center.
B. That the method of data collection is online, with a single shipment.
C. That the link remains active for one month from the individual receipt of the email, as latency time to issue the response.

The invited sample was made up of the population of teachers (N=1,268) of High School Teachers. 7 surveys were excluded because they contain errors. The accepting sample consisted of 167 teachers (13.17%).


The instrument used to evaluate burnout was the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey [45], adaptation to the Spanish language of [44] and manual correction of [5]. It was distributed online to facilitate anonymous participation and was completed through a link received by email. It consists of 15 items with a Likert response, on three scales of the construct: emotional exhaustion (5 items), cynicism (4 items) and personal/professional effectiveness (6 items). High scores in exhaustion and cynicism and low efficacy scores mean the existence of burnout syndrome.

Resilience was assessed through the [47], with 34 issues structured on a Likert scale. The psychometric evaluation of the questionnaire showed 8 items as inconsistent, so they were eliminated. The exploratory factor analysis obtained five factors: sensitivity or emotional coping (6 items), overcoming or behavioral coping (8 items), positivism or naive optimism (6 items), stereotyped thinking (4 items) and tolerance to frustration (4 items).

Factor I it is sensitivity or emotional coping with strategies such as self-control, distancing, positive revaluation, self-incrimination and escape/avoidance. Factor II is the overcoming or behavioral coping, which measures the tendency to think automatically in terms that facilitate effective action. Factor III includes aspects that refer to naive positivism or optimism and refers to the ability to think favorably, knowing how to emphasize the positive side of the situation. Factor IV, or stereotyped thinking, is the tendency of some people to get carried away by socially established ideas. Finally, Factor V of tolerance to frustration measures the ability to face the problems and limitations that we encounter in life, despite the inconvenience or inconvenience caused to us.

Sociodemographic information was collected on four variables (sex, age range, marital status and number of children) and the socio-labor information on two variables (seniority and stability: hired, official, interim or substitute).


An exploratory study of transversal, descriptive and analytical design was proposed. The management teams of the educational centers were contacted by telephone, requesting their collaboration to disseminate the questionnaire among teachers via email. A unique questionnaire was designed, and all invited teachers were sent along with the cover letter ensuring anonymity, as well as explaining that the objective that was intended to be obtained from data collection. A response receipt period of one month was established. The previous analysis was performed to rule out incomplete or erroneous questionnaires. Teachers participated voluntarily. All terms of the ethical guidelines of the Declaration of Helsinki (AMM, 2000) were respected at all times.

Datal Analysis

For the descriptive statistical analysis and Pearson’s Chi-square Contingency Analysis, the statistical package SPSS version 22 was used, adopting a level of statistical significance of p< .05.


The distribution of the sample was: 94 women (56.29%) and 73 men (43.71%). The highest accumulated percentage was between 46 and 55 years (38.92%). Teaching exercise experience of more than twenty years (44.91%). More than two thirds of the sample were made up of officials (70.66%). The 73.65% were married or living as a couple. As for the offspring, he highlighted the participation of teachers with children. 66.47% of the teaching staff had a child.

Cronbach’s calculation showed a reliability of the questionnaire of .815, so it could be stated that the data collected responded to the evaluations sought by the measurement instrument.

The highest score of the burnout scales was obtained in the dimension Personal/professional efficiency with an average of 5.56 (s=.83); then, the Cynicism dimension with a mean of 3.41 (s= .94) and, finally, the Emotional Exhaustion dimension with a mean of 3.11 (s= 1.25).

In addition, there were low rates of burnout (<25 percentile), 2 subjects that show burnout (1.20%) were identified, with high exhaustion and cynicism and low level of effectiveness score: 1st) male aged between 46-55 years, of unidentifiable marital status (no response), without children, 15-20 years old employee and 2nd) woman, in the same age group, separated, with a child, official and similar work experience (Table 1).

It should be noted that both subjects have a mature age, a long career, ‘security’ in their job, which they have accessed by opposition; on the other hand, their sex and their family unit composition differ. There were also 7 subjects (4.19%) with high exhaustion and cynicism and normal efficiency that suggest that they will eventually trigger burnout.

According to the analysis of contingencies of the burnout scores in relation to the sociodemographic variables, there were significant differences (p=.003), in relation to the sex variable, showing greater emotional exhaustion and lower personal/professional effectiveness of female teachers (Table 2).

Regarding the age range, significantly higher results were found in items that assess cynicism in the 46-55 years range (p= .033 and p= .026). Teachers with married marital status show a significantly greater degree of emotional exhaustion than those who do not live as a couple or were single (p= .006). There were no significant differences in relation to the number of children in the scores of any of the burnout dimensions.

Depending on the type of contractual relationship, there were significantly higher values in official teachers with respect to hired teachers, in an interim situation and substitutes, both in an item of exhaustion in (p= .002) and in a sign effectiveness item negative (p=0.002) and three others of positive sign (p= .000; p= .018; p= .000). However, as can be seen in the Table 3, there were no significant differences in any burnout dimension based on seniority in the teaching exercise (Table 3).

With regard to the highest means of the components of the resilience scale, they were obtained in Factor II (overcoming or behavioral coping), with an average of 3.84 (s= .33); then, Factor V (frustration tolerance), with an average of 2.91 (s= .65); Factor I (sensitivity or emotional coping) followed, with a mean of 2.83 (s= .35); subsequently Factor III (which includes aspects that allude to positivism), with an average of 2.45 (s= .43) and, finally, Factor IV (stereotyped thinking, or tendency of some people to get carried away by ideas socially established), with an average of 2.37 (s= .63).

The resilience questionnaire was corrected by finding for each of the five factors of the scale, first the sum and then the average of the questions that compose it. In order to know what percentage of the sample was resilient, the responses of this questionnaire were also corrected using percentiles. For this, the median was used, knowing that it corresponds to the 50th percentile. This indicated that there was a tendency to consider teachers who exceeded this median as possible resilient. After the analysis, the group of participating teachers was between the 25th and 75th percentile, in the middle category index of resilience. so, the participating teachers were in the medium category of resilience index. The Table 4 shows the results of the sample in relation to the various resilience factors (Table 4).

Of the total sample, 22 participants (13.17%) obtained scores above the median in all the factors of the scale and were considered resilient. According to the sociodemographic variables: a) in relation to sex, 13 were women and 9 were men; b) regarding age, 9 were between 46 and 55 years old; 6 were in the range of 56 to 65 years; 4 in the range of 36 to 45 years and, finally, another 2 subjects were between 22 and 35 years old; b) according to marital status 19 were married or lived as a couple, 2 were single and one did not indicate their marital status; c) because of their offspring, 14 had children.

Its distribution according to the socio-labor variables was as follows: a) according to their access to the job, 17 were public officials, and b) due to their seniority in teaching professional performance, 12 of them had a professional Experience of more than 20 years of teaching.

From the analysis of contingencies in relation to the sociodemographic variables, according to the sex variable, the women showed greater resilience, finding significant differences in the items listed in Table 5 (p = .001, p = .012, p = .043, p = .025, p = .005 and p = .009). According to the age range, the significantly higher results in the items that indicate resilience (p = .009, p = .020 and p = .025) were obtained in the range of 46 to 55 years (see Table 5).

Married teachers showed a significantly higher degree of resilience than those who did not live as a couple or were single in certain items listed in Table 5 (p = .000, p = .024, p = .000, p = .000, p = .025, p = .033, p = .000 and p = .002). Similarly, significantly higher scores were observed in the teacher’s response with children compared to those without offspring (p = .01, p = .028, and p = .004) (Table 5).

If the variables related to professional status are taken into account, we found that, depending on the type of contractual relationship, there were differences in the ability to recover that produced significantly higher values, in which the official teaching staff scored above the teachers with a contract, in an interim situation and making substitutions. Finally, there were significant differences in resilience based on seniority in the teaching profession in teachers with more than 20 years of experience. Table 6 details the resilience scores in relation to the socio-labor variables of the participating group (Table 6).


The response rate obtained can be attributed to an attitude of fear or lack of interest to express issues related to burnout in this group and, in turn, may be the reason why it is evidenced by the number of confirmed burnout cases. Authors report similar results in an investigation with teachers in Catalonia.

In the present study, teachers with a teaching experience of more than twenty years predominate, an aspect that can act as a protective factor given the safety provided by work experience, although it can also have negative repercussions in terms of loss of tuning.

It should be noted the low participation of the novel teaching staff. In this sense, authors such as [17] argue that the worker is more vulnerable to the syndrome in the first years of his professional career, since this is the period in which the transition from idealistic expectations to everyday practice occurs. Along the same lines, [40] corroborate that are teachers/young people who have higher levels of emotional exhaustion.

Likewise, the low participation of non-official teachers may be due, as [10] , to which professionals suffer a greater wear and tear with an eventual contract in services where the emotional impact is high, as is the case of teaching. Highlights the majority participation of women, married teachers, and children. According to [2] the fact of having children works as a protective factor against the syndrome, because it is related to the emotional support received by the family.

Participating women show greater emotional exhaustion and less efficacy than men. Depending on the age range, significantly higher results are seen in items that assess cynicism in the 46-55 years range. In this context, [3] in a research with non-university professors report higher scores in teacher exhaustion and in them greater efficiency. However, they find, as in this study, higher levels of cynicism in teachers over 50 years.

[42] affirm that the personal resources with which the person faces labor demands are an important predictor in the possible development of burnout, as they occur to a lesser or greater degree, feelings increase or decrease of feeling burned The authors also stress that personality variables can explain why people with the same background (eg, sex, age, experience, educational level, etc.) and given the same working conditions, often respond differently. before the stressors. [11] and [14] point out that the interaction between individual variables increases the possibility of producing stress and psychosocial imbalance, but also increases the ability to respond effectively to adversity.

On the other hand, [51] affirm that as self-efficacy decreases, feelings of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization increase, environmental demands are perceived as stressful, preventing seeing the positive characteristics of work. According to God et al. (2018), when a teacher has the self-confidence to perform the tasks well, the chances of suffering from the syndrome are lower, since labor obstacles have less impact on him. Thus, the levels of effectiveness of the participating teachers could be protecting them against burnout.

In this order of things, [27] state that the majority of research on burnout points to secondary school teachers as the most affected in depersonalization and personal fulfillment since negative interactions with students (frictions, conflicts and disputes) are positively related to emotional exhaustion and depersonalization and negatively with low personal fulfillment. In this regard, [36] point out that the demands of students, classmates and families cause emotional exhaustion in teachers, while depersonalization is expressed through emotional distancing towards students and coworkers.

Numerous authors, such as [18,29,31]and [52] underline that some characteristics of teaching work, such as work overload, contribute to the appearance of burnout. Along the same lines, [6,15,25,26,37] express that the barrier factors (e.g., overwork, temporary pressures, role dysfunctions, absence or lack of resources, poor support teachers, inadequate schedules, too many administrative tasks, interpersonal conflicts, etc.), They are closely linked to emotional fatigue. These aspects make it difficult to achieve objectives, decrease feelings of self-efficacy in the teacher and, over time, cause the syndrome. Other authors, such as [7] allude that the lack of organizational support causes teachers, emotional exhaustion and, therefore, also influences the results of this study.

In the same way, [21] state that emotional intelligence is within the group of individual factors, (e.g., level of experience, selfesteem, attributional style, personality, etc.) that explain the fact that some people are more resistant to stressors by their ability to perceive, understand and regulate both their emotions and those of others. Likewise, [16-51] confirm that greater emotional competence on the part of the teacher implies less exhaustion and depersonalization and higher levels of personal fulfillment.

Regarding the levels of resilience, it seems that it tends to develop more in women than in men, an aspect that may be at the base of their coping with adversities in the workplace, inherent in teaching work in the secondary stage. [48] compare levels of resilience finding significant differences in the sources of resilience between men and women, being higher in women, as is the case in this study. [46] in an investigation with triathletes, reports that women turn out to be more resistant than men, although the author explains that these differences are not statistically significant.

Depending on the age range, the highest resilience scores are obtained in the range of 46 to 55 years. However, [43] in a comparative study in people between 15 and 65 years conclude that the levels of resilience are not directly related to the age groups and only appreciate a significant difference between the ages of 19 and 24, with highest scores and between 46 and 55 years in which they get the lowest. On the other hand, [4] in a research on resilience and sociodemographic variables conclude that age does not make a person resilient; that is, there may be very poorly resilient adults or very resilient youth.

Teachers with married marital status or living with a partner have greater resilient characteristics compared to the single person, which is why it is identified as a factor of protection in terms of resilience. In this context, [22] confirms that family problems that distort the normal functioning of household dynamics increase the subject’s vulnerability to stressors.

The highest scores in resilience are obtained in Factor I, emotional sensitivity or coping, Factor III naive positivism or optimism and Factor II, behavioral coping or overcoming, respectively. The results reported in Factor I confirm the work of [8,9,35] and who point out that inadequate escapist strategies increase vulnerability to work stressors. This is a negative fact, which shows that part of the surveyed teachers responds emotionally to stressors.

The assessments found in Factor II are very positive and corroborate the studies of [1,19,23,50,52] among others, who stress that some people are more resistant to stressors, which enables them to implement coping strategies to overcome the demands generated by them stress. Therefore, the results of this component demonstrate the great capacity of the group surveyed to deal with labor obstacles.

Factor III shows the contributions of [12-33] who argue that positive emotions fundamentally cause changes in cognitive activity and subsequently changes in the behavioral sphere. This favors the construction of personal resources (physical, psychological and social) to face difficult or problematic situations, which foster an adaptive or resilient coping style. Thus, as [14,30,38] express the experience of positive emotions is nothing more than the reflection of a resilient way of dealing with adverse situations. On the contrary, a pessimistic attitude towards stressors makes people manifest doubtful and hesitant [36].

It is concluded that among High School teachers there is diversity in the face of burnout syndrome, with a profile of greater vulnerability in: teacher (), married, 46-55 years of age and with access to the job by opposition (official).

The low response rate may reflect a habitual tendency to underdeclaration in the field of psychosocial risk factors of the work environment and can be improved with the face-to-face collection of data or with the conduct of qualitative studies, through the use of interviews in depth or use of narrative records such as daily or autobiographical [41].

High scores in the personal/professional effectiveness dimension can be related to the positive self-assessment of work by teachers and that can act as a protective factor against the feeling of being burned.

There is a relationship between sex and the development of resilience, with women showing the most resilient characteristics vis-à-vis men.

Some sociodemographic variables act as protective factors or promoters of resilience, such as: the marital status that entails accompaniment (by marriage or formalized couple); the presence of offspring; the vital stage between 46 and 55 years; the stable employment status of an official; and the seniority of more than 20 years of teaching practice.

The optimistic attitude is related to confidence and persistence in behavior, which has consequences in the way of dealing with changes, adversity, and the experience of stress at work. Positive emotions are an effective element in the face of adversity that favors the emergence of the resilience of the respondent group. To the extent that they reinforce these attributes, they mitigate vulnerability to work stressors.

One of the limitations of the study points to the interest of deepening the results found transversally with a longitudinal follow-up. In addition, the sample used represents a very specific group, which makes it not possible to generalize the data to teachers of other levels (primary) or fields (private schools). In future work, we should try to access a larger sample that includes teachers of all levels and stages, as well as other educational centers nationwide in various autonomous communities, to be able to do comparative studies.

Despite the limitations cited, the results presented have important practical implications in order to facilitate the welfare of secondary school teachers. This study provides new information on the link between resilience and optimism, which can contribute to the design of effective stress prevention programs in the teaching group. Such programs should include strategies that foster the development of psychological characteristics such as resilience and optimism. The future challenges must be taken by this witness to create the necessary conditions for this group to find professional development paths of lower personal cost.


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Article Type

Research Article

Publication history

Received date: August 08, 2020
Published date: November 04, 2020

Address for correspondence

M Inmaculada Vicente de Vera García, Doctora en Prevención de Riesgos Laborales, investigadora, Administración Pública en Aragón, Spain


©2020 Open Access Journal of Biomedical Science, All rights reserved. No part of this content may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means as per the standard guidelines of fair use. Open Access Journal of Biomedical Science is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

How to cite this article

M Inmaculada V de VG. Resilient Keys to Burnout Prevention in High School Teachers. 2020 - 2(6) OAJBS.ID.000232.

Author Info

M Inmaculada Vicente de Vera García*

Doctora en Prevención de Riesgos Laborales, investigadora, Administración Pública en Aragón, Spain

Table 1: Teachers burnout evaluation.


U: Under; M: Midle; H: High

Table 2: Burnout in relation to sociodemographic variables in high school teachers.


E: Exhaustion; C: Cynicism

Table 3: Burnout based on professional status variables in high school teachers.


E: Exhaustion; Ef: Efficacy

Table 4: Teaching resilience evaluation high school.


Table 5: Resilience in relation to sociodemographic variables in high school teachers.


Table 6: Resilience based on socio-labor variables in high school teachers.