Whether you’ve been teaching two years or 20, take these steps to make sure you still love the classroom.
Being a great teacher comes with a heavy price. High expectations, long hours and low public morale can stretch anyone to their breaking point. Educator burnout — with scary markers like disillusionment, anxiety, increased personal conflicts and insomnia, to name a few — is a real threat, and striking a balance between rocking at teaching without rolling over your sanity is no easy task. We’re here to help. Tackle teacher burnout with these powerful tactics.
1. Take care of their teacher.
This advice originated from some parenting advice I once received, but I think it works perfectly for our classroom kiddos, too. We can’t we be their best teacher if we’re not taking care of ourselves. Get enough rest. Eat healthy snacks (and stop skipping lunch to stand in line at the copy machine). Eat dinner with your family or friends. Go see a movie. Hit the gym. Watch bad reality TV — whatever. Do something that helps you be a happy, healthy, whole person.
2. Enjoy the amazing moments.
They are there every day, but sometimes we’re so caught up in going-going-going that we forget to stop and smell the roses — or, in our case, watch our students bloom. Take note of the everyday “small” successes of your students, your colleagues and yourself. Teaching is one of those professions where everyone around you is growing; it’s part of the magic that makes us love our jobs. Don’t stop noticing it.
3. Share your workload.
Many of us are on learning teams where we can (and should!) be sharing our planning. Grab coffee with your team, and choose activities that you can divvy up the planning and prepping between you. Pooling ideas and resources with coworkers will help you grow individually — and closer as a team.
4. Don’t bring it all home.
Just stop. You need your recovery time too, and there’s nothing quite as terrifying as a huge rolling cart stacked with projects, essays and quizzes to grade. Only bring home a manageable amount. (Also, remember that not everything needs to be graded. You know who you are. Admit you have a problem, and cut back by giving some work stamps or stickers for completion.) Another trick? Do what you least enjoy at school on your prep. If it’s grading, use your prep to grade and save what you enjoy more (maybe creating a Smart Board presentation or cutting up notecards) for your “homework.”
5. Utilize your minions.
Yep, a little responsibility isn’t going to hurt them. In fact, they’ll probably enjoy it. Kids can use sanitizing wipes on desks and chairs, restock art boxes and organize the classroom library. It might not be perfect, but it’ll get done way faster and save you the headache.
6. Stop being your own enemy.
We all have room to grow, but in this field, it’s all too easy to be way too hard on ourselves. Stop beating yourself up! Learn from mistakes and let them go. You worked hard to get where you’re at — don’t forget the years you’ve spent in college, interning, studying, observing, and practicing. You’re a professional, and you can move mountains.
7. Make meaningful connections.
With your students and their families. With your coworkers. Don’t pull away from the relationships that make our work so powerful. Purposefully give attention, care and compassion to those surrounding you. Build relationships that are so much more than staff development modules and meeting the standards. Let them get to know you. These connections fuel our spirits and serve as constant reminders that our work is touching lives.
When times get tough, take a breather and regroup. We need you out there, soldier! Steer clear of teacher burnout by setting genuine priorities, practicing self care and focusing on the good stuff. There’s an awful lot of it.