6 Tips for Preventing Teacher Burnout
Educators have long been under immense stress. Many of us have heard the claim that half of new teachers quit within their first five years on the job. New data suggests that about 17% of new teachers quit within this time frame, but this is concerning nonetheless.
There’s no debating it: when teachers burn out, everyone suffers. Before you can show up for your students, you have to show up for yourself first.
While there are some things that are out of our control as educators, there are other measures we can take to prevent burnout and protect our physical and emotional health. If you’re at the point of burnout, nearly there, or interested in preventative measures, we have some tips to help you be the best teacher you can be. And let’s face it, no amount of professional development is going to make a difference if you aren’t physically and emotionally healthy.
Talk to your colleagues
No one understands your school struggles more than your colleagues. Your fellow teachers are often your best source of support because they go through the same challenges as you. Seasoned teachers may have great advice for dealing with challenging policies at your school, and new teachers might relate to your struggles as a young professional. Research has shown that workplace friendships improve overall happiness, productivity, and creativity.
Strive for work-life balance
It can be easy to tell yourself you’re going to spend 20 minutes preparing a lesson for the next school day and then before you know it, an hour has gone by. And then two. Practice time management by deciding on an acceptable amount of time to work on a project outside of class. If you feel 30 minutes is acceptable, set a timer and put work away when time is up. At the end of the day, if you haven’t taken the time you need to recharge and care for yourself, you won’t be able to show up operating at 100% for your students the next day. It’s important to take the time you need to recharge.
We know that going for a run might sound like the last thing you want to do after a long day. However, there is overwhelming evidence that shows that exercise reduces stress, increases energy, and keeps us healthier in the long run. Exercise is an act of self-care and it can be done with friends. So not only are you taking time to improve your physical and emotional health, you can also make it a social activity. If your friends and colleagues aren’t willing to join you at the gym or on a run, look for local running clubs or group exercise classes.
Bring mindfulness to class
Self-care and mindful practices aren’t just for your private life. These are actually wonderful skills to model for your students too! If the classroom is feeling out of control or you just need to give yourself a moment to breathe, don’t be afraid to stop the lesson and practice stress management. Maybe you’ll ask your students to stand up, take a deep breath, and stretch their arms up with you. This allows everyone, including you, to take a moment to check in with their emotions and regroup.
Designate “me time”
Our obligations don’t exist solely in the classroom. Many of us have hobbies and responsibilities at home, too. It can be overwhelming to try to attend every family event or social gathering, especially coming off of a long day or week in the classroom. Don’t be afraid to block off certain nights or weekends for some much-needed alone time. Designating time for yourself allows you to find pleasure in your life outside of the classroom. Pursue your hobbies and do what makes you happy!
Create a schedule and stick to it
As schools shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers began using Zoom and other technologies to stay in contact with their students. With this shift to online learning came a blur in boundaries for many educators. As we all head back to school this fall, it’s not certain if we will return to online learning or not. If we do get sent back to our Zoom classrooms, make sure you are ending the day at an appropriate time; it can be easy to let yourself work into the evening when you’re working from home. If you struggle to literally and figuratively ‘log off’ after class, set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself that it’s time to stop working.
Cynicism, low self-esteem, and poor sleep are signs of teacher burnout. If you find yourself feeling exhausted, discouraged, or hopeless, talk to someone quickly. Whether it is your colleague, a friend, or a family member, make sure you have a support person. Free counseling services are ready and available to help you.
No job is more important than your mental and physical health. Don’t be afraid to put yourself first, you’ll actually be a better teacher for it!