White Teachers' Racial Identities, Perceptions of Student' Behaviors, and Symptoms of Burnout
Educational research has examined factors contributing to teachers' burnout symptoms, including their perceptions of student behaviors (Ingersoll, 2003). Interestingly, teacher and students' races have been differentially related to teachers' perceptions of student behavior (Downey and Pribesh, 2004); this disparity in perceptions has been associated with teachers making more negative recommendations for African American students than for White students (Tenenbaum and Ruck, 2007). However, racial categories are not psychological constructs and offer little room for designing interventions to restructure teachers' perceptions of student behavior as a strategy to prevent teacher burnout. Since most teachers are White, using Helms's (1995) White racial identity model could offer a conceptual framework for examining different perspectives by which teachers understand their students' racial dynamics, which in turn, might affect how teachers feel, think, and act. Thus, if teachers' racial identity relates to their burnout symptoms, perceptions of student behavior, and recommendations, educational researchers could investigate more effective means of preventing teacher burnout symptoms and affect teachers' reactions to racially diverse students. White teachers (N = 237) completed an on-line survey containing an abbreviated White Racial Identity Attitudes Scale (Helms, 2011), behavior subscales of the Conners' Comprehensive Behavior Rating Scale - Teacher Form (Conners, 2008), Maslach Burnout Inventory - Educators' Survey (Maslach, Jackson, and Leiter, 1996), two teacher recommendations measures, and a demographic questionnaire. Results from Multivariate Analyses of Covariance suggested that teachers did not react differently to students' ethnic names or pictures with respect to their perceptions of students' behavior or teachers' likelihood of using specific recommendations. However, canonical correlations suggested that teachers' levels of burnout symptoms were related to their perceptions of students' Defiant Aggressive and Conduct Disorder symptoms. Moreover, teachers' biased and confused racial identity perspectives were strongly positively related to teachers' (a) burnout symptoms; (b) perceptions of angry, argumentative, and defiant behaviors; and (c) likelihood of using negative behavior management strategies with their students. Discussion included recommendations for educational training programs, methodological limitations, and implications of the results.