McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership Publications

Document Type

Executive Summary

Publication Date

Fall 12-3-2014


A recent report by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages, highlights the relationship between poverty-level wages and high turnover among early childhood teachers. High turnover in early childhood programs disrupts center operations, alters the workplace environment, and affects the quality of teaching. But low wages are not the only influence on teachers’ decisions to leave their programs or the field. Teacher burnout is also a contributing factor to the high turnover rate in the early childhood field. Burnout was the focus of a recent study of 108 early childhood teachers conducted by Konstantina Rentzou in Greece. The purpose of the research was to determine the extent to which teachers experience burnout and the degree to which the work environment contributes to the dimensions of burnout—emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment. Emotional exhaustion occurs when teachers feel worn out or depleted with little expectation that their emotional tanks can be replenished. Teachers may feel depersonalized if the social environment of their workplace is negative, cynical, or dehumanized. When teachers feel they are not effective in their work with children and families or dissatisfied with their job performance, the reduced sense of personal accomplishment can also result in burnout. Early childhood teachers are especially vulnerable to burnout because they may work long hours, isolated in classrooms with little other adult interaction, or may not receive feedback and support from their supervisors.

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