Teacher burnout. Those words strike fear into the souls of teachers the world over. The truth is though if you aren’t taking care of yourself burnout is coming for you. There is no way around it.
As teachers, we give of ourselves freely. This can become a problem when we forget we can’t only give to others, but we must also give to ourselves.
What Is Teacher Burnout?
Teacher burnout is the feeling you get when you just can’t do it anymore. You are still going through the motions, but frankly, you are hating life. This doesn’t mean you have lost your marbles or are going crazy, but it does mean you aren’t your best self for you or your students.
Teacher burnout can happen at any time. It can happen your first year of teaching when you feel completely overwhelmed and are drowning. Teacher burnout can happen after several years in the classroom when you just don’t feel excited to get out of bed and get to your classroom in the morning. It can also happen to veteran teachers who are being brought down after many years in the classroom.
If you are feeling teacher burnout it doesn’t mean it is the end of your time in the classroom. What it does mean is you need to make a change. It can be a big change or a small change, but change is needed.
Burnout often comes from a place of feeling like you aren’t in control of what happens to you and your classroom. This might be due to uncooperative students, a lack of support from their families or administrators, or an overload of never-ending paperwork. All of these circumstances can be overwhelming and lead to a feeling of helplessness.
What Can I Do to Prevent Teacher Burnout?
First and foremost you need to know what teacher burnout is. When you recognize what it is you can look for warning signs. A great list of warning signs can be found here.
Once you know how to recognize the warning signs you are ready to put some prevention plans in place. My number one recommendation would be to make priorities. When I was most stressed in my classroom I would ask myself with every decision if it was what was best for my students. If the answer was no, I didn’t do it. Simple as that. If the answer was yes I found a way to get it done without sacrificing myself. This meant saying no a lot, which was something I was not used to doing. You can check out how I learned to say no in this post.
Next, remember to have fun with your students. Kids like to have fun, and you should want to have fun with them. This doesn’t mean to drop all instruction and play outside all day, but it does mean to examine how you are learning and make it as enjoyable as possible.
For more ideas on how to reduce teacher burnout checkout this article.
What Can I Do If I Already Feel Burnt Out?
Listen, it happens. The good news is teacher burnout doesn’t last forever. There are incredibly tough moments, sometimes months long, in the classroom which make it difficult to want to be there. They end though.
If you are already feeling burnt out, look for a change. This might mean staying after school one day and rearranging the room so when students come in the next day there is a fresh space signaling a new start. It could also mean changing up your schedule to teach content in a different order. If there is something you are not looking forward to each day find a way to brighten it up with a change. Sometimes a bigger change such as a position change is needed. It is okay to ask for this.
Talk to your coworkers. Misery loves company, and odds are you are struggling with the same thing. Take a few moments to get it all out there and then grab the opportunity for a group brainstorming session to come up with ways to make the situation better. Two heads are better than one.
Finally, make sure you are taking care of yourself. Self-care is not selfish. You can’t be your best when you aren’t feeling your best, so take the time to take care of you and be a truly happy teacher. Everyone will be better for it!
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