Prevent Teacher Burnout with 6 Simple Strategies
Even if you know the cause, it can be difficult to prevent teacher burnout. Maybe the week before the holiday break has left you pulling your hair out. Perhaps a particularly unruly class has you scrambling for solutions. Your stress and exhaustion may even leave you wondering if you want to be a teacher at all.
By understanding the causes and early symptoms, you can develop new habits and stay positive in the classroom!
What Causes Teacher Burnout?
Half of your stress may be caused by the fact that you can’t figure out why you’re stressed! Here are a few of the common causes of burnout:
Between teaching, planning, grading, bus duty, lunch duty, extracurriculars, and meetings, it’s no shock that teachers often feel short on time. The feeling of always being on the go and never having enough time to get ahead or even catch up can be emotionally draining. Luckily, there are a number of short and long-term strategies to deal with exhaustion and avoid teacher burnout.
If you’ve been teaching the same grade or subject for years, you may simply be bored from teaching the same old thing. While there are ways to change things up in the short-term, if you’re feeling exhausted for longer than a school year, you may want to consider asking to switch grades or subjects.
Sometimes your stress and frustration are only temporary. The weeks before breaks can be especially discouraging. A difficult student or challenging class can be emotionally exhausting. Even a new curriculum standard or test can throw you off your game. Luckily, there are plenty of short-term ways to cope and handle your elevated stress levels.
Lack of Purpose
Teachers also get burned out because they feel like they are not making a difference. Whether they disagree with their administration, new curriculum benchmarks, or school-wide policies for standardized testing, they may not feel that their voice is heard. Teachers who feel a lack of purpose will need to find creative ways to reignite their love of teaching.
6 Ways to Prevent Teacher Burnout
1. Create a Schedule (And Stick to It!)
One of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety as a teacher is to create a routine or schedule — and commit to sticking to it. Separation of work life and home life is crucial for teachers, no matter how impossible it may seem.
The key to finding a schedule that will help you stay inspired is figuring out what works best for you. Some teachers would rather stay late on weeknights to keep their weekend free. Others prefer coming in early when the building is empty so they can focus deeply on their work. And others still need time to recoup on weeknights and prefer to do any additional work first thing on the weekend.
Whatever schedule works for you, find it and stick with it. A reliable schedule will help you prevent teacher burnout and give you time to unwind without feeling guilty.
2. Put Yourself First
Long days and extra responsibilities like lunch or bus duty can leave teachers with barely enough time to go to the bathroom. While it can be difficult to take a moment for yourself, it will pay off in the long run to better your physical and mental health.
If you don’t have much time to unwind at lunch, try maximizing mini-breaks throughout the day. Have a healthy snack and a drink of water, stretch, meditate, or simply sit and relax without thinking or worrying about the rest of your day to come. Taking advantage of a few minutes here and there between classes or during downtime can make a big difference.
3. Trust in Your Work as a Teacher
Many new teachers burn out because of the stress they feel to perform well. Standardized testing scores, student behavior, and classroom observations can cause you to doubt and question your skills.
While it may be difficult, especially in your first few years of teaching, have faith in your abilities. Even the best teachers have bad days and students who misbehave. Your confidence and determination will command respect and help you tackle whatever challenges you’re facing.
If you’re struggling to reach your classroom goals, consider reaching out to a fellow teacher or mentor for advice. No school wants its teachers to struggle in silence, and helping you avoid teacher burnout is part of your mentor’s job.
4. Learn to Say No
While teachers are often expected to handle a heavy workload, there will come a time when you have to say no. Maybe it’s chaperoning an art show, assistant directing the school musical, or running an intramural sport after school.
Say yes to things that bring you joy and have meaning to you. But don’t be afraid to say no when your plate is simply too full. Choosing only the most fulfilling activities will help you keep your passion and prevent you from burning out in the classroom.
5. Change Things Up
While there is never a dull moment when teaching, sometimes teaching the same lessons over and over again can get old. Especially for special area teachers who may do the same lesson with several classes each day, boredom can set in.
Change up your lesson plans to keep things interesting. Even small changes like a different activity or book can make teaching more interesting without adding a ton of work. Your energy and enthusiasm are also likely to rub off on your students, making for more engaged learners.
6. Talk it Out
One of the best things about being a teacher is having a group of like-minded colleagues to confide in. If you’re struggling to find energy or motivation in your teaching, talk to a fellow teacher or mentor about what keeps them going.
Chances are there are teachers at your school who have been there much longer than you. See what they’ve done to stay engaged and motivated all these years. Also check in with new teachers at your school. They often come with a fresh approach and creative ideas that can keep the spark alive.
You can even plan your lessons or activities with a group of teachers. You’ll likely find fun new ideas and also get a better idea of what the rest of your grade or subject is teaching.