- My third year teaching was quite fun and eye-opening. I was confident I knew everything there was to know about teaching middle schoolers, planning effective and life-changing lessons, managing classes and student behavior with a surety that I would have a statue erected in my honor that was personally built out of clay by the students, and I would be okay with that. Oh silly me.
Enter the month of March – the peak month of teacher burnout. There are little to no holidays or breaks, you have to compete with spring for your students attention, and I was completely exhausted. I was taking on after school clubs, serving (volunteering) for committees, and trying new ideas in my lessons because I saw something cool on YouTube. Students were acting ‘crazy’ and I was worn thin feeling like I was going to break. Where was my confidence? Where was my drive? Where was Summer break!?!
After a good ol’ vent session at the end the day with a mentor she gave me two good pieces of advice, which when I acted on, seemed to relieve the burnout bubble…slightly. I have added two more to this list that have helped me personally. This is not a full researched based list in anyway, just some ideas that have helped me.
1. Leave School Stuff at School
There is always something more to do when at school. Grading, planning, collaborating, calling/e-mailing parents, etc… but it’s okay to drive away from the school building and not take anything home. This separation helped me to focus on my family and personal interests more. Of course you can’t help but think of that amazing idea to add to you lesson while cooking dinner, but not hauling a bag of papers back and forth from school to home helped relieve burnout pressure and probably a development of scoliosis.
2. It’s Okay to Say ‘No’
Whether it was me thinking that nothing can stop me from changing the world and every student’s life, or the I.V. of Dr. Pepper hooked to my arm, I was sure that I could find time for everything that I thought needed to be done. After saying ‘no’, or really, ‘no thank you, I’m not in a position to do that right now.’ I found some time to breathe and began to focus more on my job of helping students individually and developing ways to learn with my students. Not to mention that freeing up some time helped me not feel like I had to take work home.
3. Be Physically Active
I’m not the most active person and the only way I would run is if something was chasing me. I began taking about an hour three times a week to take some conditioning classes. These are a great way to do something non-education related. Not everyone has the ability to take a class, let alone the time constraints to allow for class. But playing some active sports or even taking a couple minutes to just stretch in between class periods kept my mind focused and I seemed to have more energy, without too much caffeine.
4. Have Fun
There is so much humor in education. Being able to laugh at yourself or with your students makes a huge difference in the classroom environment. I noticed that laughter helps students relax, open up, and form a better relationship of trust which in turn helped with over all classroom management. This was a huge relief of that pressure that builds up this time of year.
Every teacher has felt the fatigue and emotional drain of spring time burnout and I bet if asked, we could write a book of all the different ways in which teachers cope. Although no clay statue was erected of me that year, I felt I would not crumble so quickly during the next.