Teaching is one of the most visceral jobs ever. It’s emotionally, physically, and mentally consuming. Teachers often find themselves worried about how to reach every student, or wracked with guilt because they let their work/life balance shift in favor of work.
You know what needs to be done to be successful, but there is simply too much to do. Still, you keep clawing your way back. Because in teaching, you can never do enough.
But that kind of constant, intracranial hammering is not sustainable. In order to address it, we have to define what burnout looks like. Then we can attack it.
Recognize these signs?
Exhaustion. This is a fatigue so deep that there’s no way to “turn it off,” no matter how badly you want to. It’s deep in your bones. The kind of tired where you just want to ooze into your bed and disconnect from life.
Extreme graveness. Realizing you go hours without smiling or laughing, or days without a belly laugh.
Anxiety. The constant, nagging feeling that you can and should do more, while simultaneously realizing you need to unplug and spend more time with your family. But there are so many things to do.
Being overwhelmed. Questioning how they can possibly add one more task, expectation, or mandate to your plate. Compromising your values of excellence just so you can check-off 15 more boxes to stay in compliance. All the while knowing it still won’t be enough.
Seeking. Losing your creativity, imagination, patience, and enthusiasm for daily challenges. Craving reflection time and productive collaboration rather than group complaining.
Isolation. Wanting to head for the deepest, darkest cave where no one will see your vulnerability. A place where your limits are unseen and unquestioned and all is quiet.
Below are four strategies for counteracting stress and preventing burnout
Leave work at school. A teacher’s work is never done, and I don’t think any teacher ever feels completely caught up. Even during the breaks and holidays, most teachers are already planning for the next school year. Whatever does not get done during the school day will still be there waiting the next day. It’s important to be able to unwind at home and enjoy time spent on one self and with family.
Share the workload. Sharing workload with teachers who teaches same year group is also good. Sharing the workload will help both of reduce stress. You can plan lessons together, group students across the two classrooms, assign the same homework and troubleshoot areas of concern. Having a colleague to plan with has made a world of difference.
Arrive at school early. Most teachers complete their best work earlier in the day. This is why most arrive at school at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before resumption time. You can use this quiet time in the classroom to tackle the papers that need to be graded, prepare lesson plans and make sure the materials needed for that day. Arriving at school early allows you to leave at the end of the day to get home and enjoy quality time with your family.
Avoid the Sunday blues. Every teacher knows what I’m referring to—it’s the dreaded last day of the weekend, and we have to return to school the next day. We frantically scramble to lesson plan for the week, grade papers from the week prior, and enter grades into the grade book. Try to always leave the classroom Friday afternoon planned and prepared for the next week. If there’s a week that doesn’t allow this to happen, don’t stress it. It is so important to be able to enjoy a complete weekend without having to worry about school. There’s enough that needs to be caught up with around the house after a busy week in the classroom.
Keeping these helpful tips in mind should at least help alleviate stress. Those who feel an undue amount of stress should also consider communicating with colleagues for additional ideas. It’s important to talk to those around you in the same profession, because they might have been through it at least a few times in their careers.