We have heard it eoched in all parts of the educational system this year, there are shortages. People are leaving. Filling positions is hard and near impossible in some areas. This leads to additional pressures put on those who remain in the field. But what are some ways to avoid teacher burnout?
Teachers need to take the time to care for themselves so that they can take care of their students. We need to make these actions second nature so it’s no longer forced, but a habit of healthy living.
Taking Care of Yourself
It has been a difficult pandemic for teachers to maintain our well being and mental health while avoiding teacher burnout and still meeting the demanding expectations of our jobs.
When I think of all the changing expectations that have been pushed on us as teachers all I think is “Pivot!”. And yes, I picture the scene with Ross from friends trying to get the couch up the stairs. Virtual learning – Pivot!, hybrid learning – Pivot!, in person learning where changes occur daily. Each time we change the type of learning we update health and safety rules, some grading policies, absence marking expectations. It feels like a never ending game of keeping up.
So how do we stay sane? Honestly, there isn’t one answer for everyone. Instead, this is going to be a collection of ideas for self care to boost our mental health and wellbeing.
SEL in the Classroom
I don’t know about your districts but in mine this is a big push. With the big focus on student wellbeing, why don’t you align it with teacher mental health as well? Try taking the time to align your goals for social and emotional learning goals in the classroom with a topic you are interested in teaching.
- Do you want to learn more about yoga for you own wellness? Take time to teach your students as you learn.
- Like the idea of meditation or breathing exercises? Do the exercises with your students and show them why it’s important.
This not only allows you to take time during the school day to practice wellbeing but also teaches your students strategies they can use throughout the day!
Be Your Biggest Cheerleader
At the end of the day teachers tend to remember the stressful moments, but what if we shifted our mindset to focus on the wins. Before you turn off your classroom lights and shut the door for the day, find some small wins. Write it down or say it aloud. It’s important to remember the good parts of the day even when the rest can be overwhelming.
Leave Work at Work
I know, I know it sounds impossible, but it’s a start to help prevent teacher burnout. But what if you could leave just a few things at work that you normally take home? I am often told that I am very productive during my planning period or the bit of time before and after the bell. I’m not bragging, I’m trying to help you out because I was not always that way. Here are the two biggest things that have helped me.
Set a timer for 10 minutes, put your phone on do not disturb and grind out the next thing on your list.
- Is it grades?
- Lesson plans?
- The absurd amount of data, paperwork, or other administrative work teachers have?
Whatever it is, this is your focused 10 minutes to finish it. Building focus is a muscle, once you are strong at 10 minutes, make it 15 minutes.
Have a running list of things that need to be done.
- Got an email that says something is due? Add it to the list with the due date.
- A parent emails you but you can’t get to it now? Put it on the list to respond.
When you have time to work, prioritize what needs to be done. You don’t have to look back and waste your focused work time thinking about what needs to be done, it’s already on your list. This is also why putting deadlines on the list is super helpful because you know the order in which you need to turn items in.
A bonus to this system, once it’s on the list I don’t think about it until I am working on it. I do items in order of priority and I focus on one task at a time until it is completed. If I’m not working on the list, I don’t let it stress me out because it is not time for that work.
Maybe you won’t be able to leave everything at work this week, but try blocking some time to do work at school. Don’t take everything home. Plus as you become more productive and focused things will get done faster. Little steps lead to big changes. Each small step might not be life changing, but when you get to the top of the staircase and look back you can see the impact those small steps made.
Prevent Teacher Burnout with Care
Teachers often know they need to take care of their mental and physical health but we often prioritize our students. Here is your reminder that it is okay to take care of yourself, too. In fact, you need to take care of yourself in order to care for those around you. So take small steps each day. Build the habits. It might be hard now, but your future self is thanking you for putting in the work.
Feeling burnt out? Contact us about current job opportunties.
Tiffany Verhoosel is currently a Computer Science teacher in the Baltimore City School District. Coming from a background of business she joined the Baltimore City Teaching Residency over ten years ago to make the career change into education and has never looked back. Her degree from Johns Hopkins, a Master of Science in Digital Age Learning and Educational Technology, helped propel her from Special Educator to her current teaching position where she teaches Kindergarten to eighth grade students how to code.