Zabel, M.K., Dettmer, P.A., & Zabel, R.H. (1984). Factors of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and sense of accomplishment among teachers of the gifted. Gifted Child Quarterly, 28 (2), 65-69.
Is it too dramatic to say I loved everything about this article? After a few lackluster dives into the research pool, I was rewarded with an absolute gem. It has everything – statistics from a thorough study, the topic of gifted education, insight into how teachers deal with attending to the special needs of gifted children, and it fits in line with the question I’ve been exploring in my research journal about educating teachers and parents in using bibliotherapy materials. Let’s step back from my excitement to look at this piece of work.
It is not new to have stress in the teaching field. All of the professionals in that field deal with it, but in this article, the Zabels and Dettmer analyze what it is like to be a teacher of special needs kids. Special needs children, in the context of this article, are listed as follows: learning disabled, semi-independent, emotionally disturbed, multiple and severely handicapped, hearing impaired, visually impaired, and gifted. The researchers used the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) instrument to measure the teachers rate of burnout. The burnout has three factors: “increased feelings of emotional exhaustion, the development of negative, cynical attitudes and feelings about the clients, and a tendency to evaluate one’s own performance negatively.” It seems that although the professionals know how to deal with these special needs children, sometimes their knowledge is overtaken by the severe strain emotionally that goes along with this sort of educational process.
One of the side notes within the article, but a very important side note because it deals with my personal research path, is that the teachers which fared better in the study were better trained and more experienced than the rest. This is why I believe holding a city-wide workshop for teachers, librarians, and parents on the uses of bibliotherapeutic materials would benefit their emotional state and also the emotional states of their students.
In all the groups of special education students listed previously, gifted teachers ranked third on the list as most emotionally exhausted after emotionally disturbed and hearing impaired. Some suggest it could be because of large caseloads, and high expectations of teachers and parents. Teens and early adolescents are also the most difficult age, mainly because of their emotional needs at that critical life period. The authors suggest that if the professionals were prepared for these particular life challenges it might help everyone involved. (See my research question, paragraph above. Ahem.) Even with the emotional exhaustion that is reported in the gifted teachers, it is also ranked highest for sense of personal accomplishment.
This article shows that it is worth investing time and energy to examine the professional quandary of taking care of students’ emotional needs as well as the the needs of the teachers themselves. I truly believe that the more tools we provide our teachers with, the better equipped they will be for dealing with the special needs that gifted children have.