Teacher burnout is real — and it is easy to feel like you’ve used up every bit of your energy and reserve at the end of a stressful semester or school year…even a school day!
But there are some ways to get back your energy — and even better — to deal with stress as it comes.
No matter what working environment you’re in, you are bound to experience stress.
Maybe it’s the parents, maybe there is a handful of students that make us lose our cool, maybe it’s an administrator or fellow teacher…or maybe it’s personal events.
Or maybe it was a little of everything.
When school takes over
When my son was in Pre-k, I went back to teaching full time.
The holidays rolled around, and it was the day of the big party. I was so focused on my class’s party that I completely forgot about my son’s book exchange.
The morning of the party, he remembered. No book! We ran around the house in search of a suitable book — tossing books aside in our quest for something that wasn’t gnawed on by the dog, scribbled in, or over-loved. Nothing.
In the midst of my husband and three children tearing the house apart, I suddenly stopped and shouted “Stop! I teach at a school. With a library. Surely there will be a book there.”
At school, I tearfully confessed the problem to the Pre-k teacher who calmly walked over to a closet, opened it, pointed to a stack of wrapped (!) books, and said to my son, “Pick one.”
I can still feel the heartache at having let my son down — as well as the immense gratitude for a supremely on-the-ball Pre-K teacher.
While I certainly didn’t suddenly gain work life balance, I tried to re-focus on giving my own family the same energy as my school family.
Is there a stress solution
We know that sustained stress is not healthy.
Not only that, but we can’t just dump all our problems on our families when we come home.
Life balance seems like a teeter-totter. Difficult to balance between two sides.
But it’s important for you to intentionally take time to de-stress, really relax, and get your energy back to prevent teacher burnout. Because the world needs teachers like you.
But how do you do that?
Protect your time
Take a look at your calendar.
Are your breaks and weekends filled with doctor appointments, plans, and meetings?
While you’ve got to get many of those things taken care of during a break (what a great time to get your mammogram. Don’t put that off!!), you can also block off some time for yourself.
Mark off a few hours a week that are just for you. No, you cannot clean out the closet or go to the grocery store.
Do something that is just for you. Just for fun. Something that will fill you with joy.
Paint (but not the house!), read a fun novel, go swimming, paint your nails (again, not the house!), play in the garden (notice, that’s play!), exercise. Do something that is fun for you.
You cannot grade papers, respond to emails, or plan lessons during this time. You also cannot feel guilty!
Fill the well
Think about yourself as a well. Don’t wait until the end of the school year to realize that your well has been drained dry. That is when teacher burnout becomes a reality.
If you don’t fill that well, you won’t want to be a teacher!
It’s time to fill it back up!
How do you do it?
What energizes you? It is having a leisurely breakfast on the patio? Taking a walk with your dog? Spending time curled up with a book? Pretending you are on a cooking show and trying new recipes?
Go back to that calendar and box off time for you to fill your well. If you are constantly taking energy, happiness, enthusiasm out, you will have nothing left to give. That is a recipe for teacher burnout.
Just as when I forgot the holiday book for my son’s Pre-K party, many teachers feel like they put their students before their own families.
Make the most of the time with your own children. Again, blocking off time on your calendar will help you keep an important playdate you’ve set with your children or spouse.
Remember that all the people you love have their own “wells,” and you can help fill theirs.
I recently heard this podcast about journaling.
We often ask our students to reflect, journal, write — but are we taking advantage of that opportunity as well?
Did you know that journaling (or expressive writing as it’s called in the podcast), is improves physical and mental health, the immune system, and even memory?
The creator of the study of effects of journaling encourages writing for just a few minutes — whenever you feel like it. Just getting ideas out of your head and onto the page.
While your aim isn’t to solve problems, it is to see what you’re thinking. To consider.
Take care of yourself
Don’t forget that good nutrition and exercise provide a lifetime worth of benefits!
And we also know these seem to be the first things to go when we’re in the midst of teaching!
Reset your diet, recommit to daily exercise — like taking a walk or doing yoga. Is there a teacher who would love to walk with you after or before school?
Find the positive —
Have you read “Find your Marigold”? It’s the perfect analogy for balancing life.
It is only too easy to complain and grumble. While we know that life isn’t perfect and that venting can be helpful, be careful not to fall into the trap of doing that on a constant basis.
Find fellow teachers who will rejoice in your victories and are interested in your successes. And be that teacher for someone else.
You don’t have to do all the things
You just don’t.
Don’t grade every single paper.
Or reinvent the wheel by designing every lesson.
Don’t think you have to have an immaculate desk, classroom, home, car…
Give yourself some grace to do your best, and also let go of things that don’t serve you.
Ask for help
Sometimes the best solution is to simply ask for help.
If you don’t have a team of teachers who are supporting you, find someone — no matter what grade — who can support you.
You can also seek outside help (this article will help you know when you might be ready for that). The important thing is that you don’t need to suffer in silence to be a good teacher.
You want to be a healthy teacher!
Need more inspiration?
I have monthly ideas and tips for what to teach. Take a look at the ideas for what to teach each month to save planning time.
Remember to take care of yourself, so you can take care of others.
With gratitude for all you do,