Teaching is stressful. When you’re a teacher, you feel pulled in a hundred different directions. Demands come from parents, co-workers, students, administrators, not to mention state and federal regulations. Burnout can feel inevitable. Teachers have more work to do each day than can be accomplished in 8 hours, and teachers are notorious for working 60 plus hour weeks. Now, more than ever, our nation needs good teachers.
According to npr.org, over half of schools struggle to find qualified teachers (this statistic is closer to 90% of high poverty schools.) Our kids need good teachers. It is vital that teachers stay in the classroom and stay passionate so they can continue to do what they love. Anyone can burn out, in fact, it is often the most passionate, driven teachers that are prone to burnout. They are the ones working overtime, giving their all, and making teaching a way of life rather than just a job.
It is possible to be a passionate, driven teacher and live a balanced life, avoiding burnout.
Make Your Health a Top Priority
You need to eat good food, drink plenty of water, and get 7-8 hours sleep each night. While these sound like basic tasks, they can be challenging to accomplish. Teachers get minimal downtime during the day, so it can be easy to forget to drink water regularly. One solution is having cold water close at hand. Invest in a nice water bottle and fill it with ice water each morning. Making healthy food choices can be a challenge because healthy food is often more time-consuming to prepare. Making food the night before can help you stay on track. Set a bedtime for yourself and stick to it. It can be easy to believe that you are too busy to take care of yourself, but if you put yourself first, you will be more productive, happier, and will enjoy your job much more.
Teaching is stressful, so taking time to manage that stress is essential. Teachers need to take the time to process through stressful situations. Meditation, yoga, and journaling are tools that can help you stay calm and manage your stress. Even during class you can play peaceful music and fill the room with calming scents. Schedule time to relax to give your brain and body a rest from the stress of work.
Don’t Let Work Take Over Your Life
You could spend 24/7 working in your classroom and still have more to do. DON’T! You need to have a life outside of school. You need to develop other hobbies and interests. Get out in nature or explore your city. Set aside some time that is 100% work free. Try your best not to take work home. Being ‘on’ 24/7 is one of the surest ways to burn out.
Look for the Good
A positive attitude is essential when preventing burnout. While teaching is full of stresses and never ending to do lists, it is also highly fulfilling and sometimes it is a lot of fun! Try to focus on the good rather than dwelling on the hard parts of the job. Just a different mindset can make you feel energized and happier.
If you want to accomplish all you must at work, while still spending time with those you love, taking time to pursue your interests, and taking care of yourself, planning is highly important. If you don’t plan for it, it often won’t get done. Planning helps you prioritize what is most important to you, so you don’t waste your time completing tasks that may seem urgent but don’t align with your personal goals.
Examine Your Boundaries
Know your limits, and live your life in pursuit of your personal goals. Don’t allow others to drive what you will or won’t do. Don’t let others suck you into doing things when you don’t want to. Of course, it’s ok to help others, and doing service can bring happiness into your life, but when helping others takes over, and you aren’t able to complete your responsibilities it can lead to burnout. Know when to say no.
Take Breaks at Work
Many teachers work through recess and lunch breaks. Take a few minutes to eat lunch with a colleague, browse Facebook, play a game, listen to music, or do anything else that recharges your batteries.
Friendships are important, both at school and outside of school. It is important to have people to share your struggles and joy. Spending time with family can also be a way to feel connected with others. Look for those you can vent to without judgment. Those that can build you up and support you when things get tough.
Dr. Travis Bradbury states: “Burnout often results from a misalignment of input and output; you get burnt out when you feel like you’re putting more into your work than you’re getting out of it. Sometimes this happens when a job isn’t rewarding, but more often than not it’s because you aren’t taking care of yourself.”
Keeping your health, both mental and physical, in check is essential to be the best teacher you can be. Don’t be afraid to reach out or take a break if you feel overwhelmed. Be the best you can be for yourself, and surely your attitude will influence your students.
Amy Curletto has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.