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Burnout in Professionals Working with Deaf Children Kathryn P. Meadow Burnout has become the new code word and fad among educators and other helping professionals. Suddenly, everyone is concerned about the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of stress among teachers (Hendrickson , 1979; Mace, 1979, Sparks, 1979). In this current clamor of excitement about the negative personal and institutional consequences of stress, there has been little if anything in the journals related to deaf education that reflects similar concern. This is true despite the fact that most observers would probably agree that the factors creating stress in the normal educational environment are exacerbated in special education settings serving deaf children. For example, the work milieu of a residential school for the deaf was characterized by a school superintendent as early as 1902 as breeding "provincialism and despair" (Schlesinger & Meadow, 1972, pp. 200). Despite the changes in deaf education over the years, this depressing commentary may still reflect reality in some sense. According to several consultants, despair in deaf education settings can stem from the low levels of achievement attained by students. The discrepancies between anticipated and actual educational achievement levels often create feelings of guilt and anger among professionals trained to work in deaf education. The many conflicts within the field of deaf education— around methodology and communication— also create a great deal of stress. Researchers working to identify sources of job satisfaction among community mental health workers identified four sets of factors The author is with the Research Institute of Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C. related to frustration and work alienation. These might be transferred to a consideration of the situation in deaf education as well: (1) a feeling of inadequacy in performing many activities, especially those for which the staff had received poor training and supervision ... (2) a lack of direct and immediate feedback concerning results in many work activities ; (e) excessive paperwork; and (4) role conflicts, poorly defined objectives, sudden changes in personnel and rules, the need to consider constantly and deal with "politics," and other organizational issues (Cherniss & Egnatios, 1978, pp. 311). Where other groups of teachers and helping professionals are concerned, a good deal of information has by now been accumulated about the extent of burnout and the consequences. It was in the hope of adding some data in the field of deaf education that the present survey was undertaken. METHOD Subjects The subjects participating in the research were 240 persons associated with deaf education in a professional capacity. Most (N = 183) were persons attending the Annual Eastern Regional Conference for Educators of the Deaf held at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in November 1979. The remainder (N = 57) were professionals associated with the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School at Gallaudet College. Characteristics of the survey participants are summarized in Table 1. This shows that three-quarters of the respondents were women. Average age was about 33 years, and A.A.D. I February 1981 13 Burnout in Professionals Table 1. Characteristics of Survey Respondents: Sex, Age, Hearing Loss, Marital and Family Status, Type of School, Job Classification, Years in Current Job, Years at Current School, Years in Current Career (N = 240). SexMale Female Age: Mean s.d. Hearing loss: None Some Marital status: Married Unmarried Family status: Children at home No children at home 25% 75 32.6 years 9.2 years 83% 17 60% 40 34% 66 Type of school: Residential 50% Demonstration 29 Day 8 Religious 3 Non school 8 No response 3 Job classification: Classroom teacher 43% Special subject teacher 9 Supervisor/admin. 11 Support specialist 22 Aide or dorm worker 13 Other or no response 2 Time associated with deaf education: Average time in current position 4.25 years (s.d. 4.1) Average time in present school 5.0 years (s.d. 4.7) Average time teaching HI students 7.0 years (s.d. 5.9) 17% had some degree of hearing loss. More than one-half were married, and about onethird have children living at home. Half the respondents are associated with residential schools; about 30% work in demonstration schools (either the elementary or the secondary schools at Gallaudet College); 8% work in day schools or programs; 3% are...


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