Throughout college my professors warned us of this. It was brought up every class, by every professor. “Do you know how many teachers quit after their first year due to burnout?” they would ask. At the time, I took it with a grain of salt, still in my “invincible” early 20’s. Fast forward to my first full-time teaching job, where I found myself becoming tired, lethargic, and impatient with my students. I no longer did things that made me happy. I determined I never want to be that again, as my students deserve all of me, not a part of me. Over a couple of years, I have compiled the 4 surefire ways to avoid teacher burnout.
1. Manage your time
Albeit some of us are not good at managing time well at all, I challenge you to be a planner in 2017. When we plan our time, it ensures that everything gets done when they need to. No more scrambling at the last second to get your lesson ready for your observation the next day. I have done this through using a planner for the past 2 years. Use your planner to write down important things such as staff and IEP meetings, observations, field trips etc. Then, write down a daily to-do list – exactly what you need to get done that evening. Need to grade papers? Write that down. Need to prep materials for tomorrow? Write that down. Need to write your weekly newsletter? Write that down. When we write things down, we’re more likely to complete it (source: my super scientific study. . .). This way, when you leave school, you know exactly what your evening looks like. No more guessing and estimating what you need to complete that evening only to get to school the next morning and realize you forgot to do something. I am currently using the Sugar Paper planner from target (link). On one side of the page, they have a weekly view, and on the right they have sections like Top 3, To Do, To Email and Weekly Goal.
In the past, I have used the Erin Condren planner, which I really liked. There were three sections for every day (link). I used my sections for To Do, To Go, and School. Erin Condren also creates hourly planners AND teacher planners(link).
2.Make time for yourself
This goes hand in hand with #1. You need to find something to do that is entirely for yourself. For who? Only for yourself. No one else. That could be many things. For me, that’s yoga. Yoga helps both my mind and my body relax and allows me to focus on me. When I do yoga, the 30 minutes that I am practicing are the only minutes in my day where my mind is blank and I’m able to relax. I HIGHLY recommend Adriene Mishler on YouTube (yogawithadriene). She’s also currently doing 31 days of yoga for the month of January! I did it last year and loved it. For you, this time might be painting, or cooking, taking a bath, or even gaming. Whatever it is, make sure you make time for it. Yes, that means writing it down just like all the other things you need to do that evening. If we don’t write it down and consciously make sure we’re taking time for ourselves, we’re sending a message to ourselves that we’re not worth it. When in reality, we are so extremely worthy of spending 20-30 minutes a day for ourselves. Bottom line: find something you like to do and stick with it.
3.Put in sweat equity in the beginning of the year
Although I recommend doing this at the beginning of the school year, it’s never too late to start. Put in sweat equity with your class. This is essentially an extremely quick overview of a presentation I gave at a conference where I spoke about behavior management in the classroom. . . which is my jam.
Make classroom expectations CLEAR. That means rules are clear and consistent. Let me say it louder for the people in the back CLEAR AND CONSISTENT. Going hand in hand with that, make consequences clear and consistent. Did I mention clear and consistent?
Handle behavior between you and the student. Not you, the student and the whole class. . . AKA don’t yell out loud at students. When we change behavior we want to make meaningful, long-term change, and yelling in front of others is not making meaningful changes. That means you need to pull your student aside to discuss behavior.
Make it known in your class that the only way to get attention in your classroomis through doing something positive. (many, many, many, behaviors are to get attention, either from you or peers)
Make corrections a whisper and praise a yell. Example: when students are lining up rather than criticizing students who aren’t doing what you need them to do, praise the ones who are. “Jalyn, thank you for standing in line so nicely. Austin is standing in line quietly with his hands to himself” etc. Make praise a constant noise in your class. “Ja’Nyla has her science book out and is ready to go!” “I saw Celia helping her partner find what page we’re on! Thank you Celia”.
If you need something to get your behavior management engine going, pick up and read Teach Like a Champion (link), it is truly awesome.
4.Don’t be afraid to ask for help
We’re teachers. We know a lot, but we don’t know everything. If you only take one thing away from this post I want it to be, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it is asking for help for where to go with a lesson or asking for help for where to go with behavior management or that “problem” student. Sometimes when you are too close to a situation, you can’t decide what the next step should be. If you’re having a hard time with a student, ask another teacher to observe for 5-10 minutes, or ask them to step in and speak with the student. A fresh set of eyes can help SO MUCH and a new person and help your student in ways that you could not. They might be able to see a motive that you haven’t seen yet or even seen a behavior you haven’t seen yet. You also can discuss what your next step can be. I’ll never forget when my dear friend and coworker Tristan stepped in and helped me when I was brought to my wit’s end with a student. She had been making impulsive decisions all day and all week and I was honestly just tired of it. Tristan noticed that I was losing my patience and kindly and quietly stepped in in my place and disciplined the student. It ended up being exactly what everyone needed. My student was slightly tired of me so Tristan was able to get through to her and make a meaningful behavior change. On the other hand, I was able to step away from the situation, cool down, and regain my patience. I’m so thankful to Tristan for that, and shout out to Cheyenne as well for always recognizing when I needed to cool off. Asking for help doesn’t make us weak or make us look like we don’t know what we’re doing. It means that we’re human. That’s why in most workplaces we work in a team. Two heads are always better than one.
All in all, make sure you take care of yourself this year. If you don’t, nobody else will. What are ways that you prevent teacher burnout? What are ways that you de-stress? Let me know! Make sure you click follow and enter your email or your WordPress account information if you want to be notified when I post!
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