Every profession has its pros and cons. I don’t pretend to understand what doctors, people in retail, or mechanics go thru on a daily basis, but I do understand what it’s like to be an educator. In my 8 years of experience I have gone thru the ebbs and flows of the teaching profession. When I first started teaching I thought I would never get burned out. I got upset every time someone told me “Oh you will. Just you wait.” I thought to myself, “What do they know?” Sadly, they were right. Year 7 was when I hit a mental block.
My first three years of teaching I would get to school 90 minutes before school started. Why? For the obvious reason to prep and plan, but also because I loved being in my classroom. It gave me comfort and sheer happiness. I would stay late. I never wanted to leave. During my first difficult year, I felt the polar opposite of comfort when I was in my classroom. I felt overwhelmed, stressed, and simply tired. That year I knew I had to modify how I approached my profession to stay mentally healthy. I regretted not doing these steps earlier in my career to avoid reaching high levels of anxiety and frustration. Here are 3 tips to avoid teacher burnout.
Earlier in my career if administration or parents asked me to do something, I was all over it. I was happy to help and it was nice to be needed, but I soon realized saying yes to everything meant I was spreading myself too thin. I was serving on committees, being team leader, running clubs, tutoring, and the list goes on. I became overwhelmed and felt like my students were suffering because of it. My students will always come first and sometimes that means saying no to commitments outside of your classroom. The quality of instruction I give to my students is most important. Don’t be afraid to let go of commitments. Yes, it doesn’t feel great when you “let someone down,” but I would rather do that than overextend myself again. You’re human, you can only do so much.
Rewards raise mental happiness. It works for children and guess what…adults too. Do something for yourself. Take a day off from work and have a mental health day. My first few years of teaching I never took one day off. I would go in even when I was sick. I was convinced my students wouldn’t be able to live thru the day without me. For some odd reason I also had fear of missing out on what was happening on campus. I guess I was worried Ryan Gosling would stop by my school and I would miss the whole thing. Looking back, it was so odd. You have to have days or special times for yourself. Set a goal and then reward yourself when you accomplish it. Eat cake.
Earlier in my career I would do elaborate themed classrooms. I would make my husband go into school with me on the weekends before the new school year started. We would spend countless hours hot gluing fabric and accents to cement walls (YES, I had cement walls in my classroom), so I could have the most amazing room. This was before Pinterest, but these rooms were the epitome of “pin-worthy.” And everything else I did had the same gusto and commitment. Thru time I learned that not every lesson or day has to be over the top. Sometimes a worksheet works just the same. Sometimes you bring a pack of Oreos and call it a party. Your students would rather have a happy teacher on a daily basis than someone trying to keep up with all the fads and excitement found on social media.
Do what you can. It will always be enough, but all it starts with taking care of yourself. You steer the ship that is your classroom and your mental health has to be in the best shape possible for everything to function.