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The last few years have been especially difficult for teachers —finding a way to deliver instruction virtually, hybrid, and now with the ever-looming threat of it all happening again. Teacher burnout is at an all-time high, with 90% of educators recently polled by the NEA labeling burnout as somewhat serious or a very serious issue, and over half are thinking of leaving the career altogether.
You may be feeling some of these same pressures in your teaching position. Your physical and mental health takes a backseat to the increasing demands of your day-to-day responsibilities. You may have even lost the joy of teaching that brought you to this field in the first place.
If you aren’t able to switch careers or genuinely want to make teaching work, you’ll need to learn how to avoid teacher burnout. These tips and suggestions can help you battle for your health and make you a better role model for your students.
1. Work Up a Sweat
Just like you can’t pour from an empty cup, you won’t be an effective teacher if your mental and physical health are suffering. Making time for a regular fitness routine is vital for your overall wellness. Even though teaching keeps you on your feet most of the day, you may not be getting enough cardiovascular exercise or upper body movement. Working out will improve your physical health, and the endorphins can improve your mental wellbeing.
2. Establish Boundaries
Despite the pressure you may feel, it isn’t your job to be available 24/7. Before leaving work for the day, check your email one last time and respond to anything pressing — after that, leave it alone. Establishing boundaries between your job and your home life will allow you to fully commit to both when you’re in that setting. You deserve to unwind at the end of a busy day and enjoy your family and hobbies. Leave thoughts of work where they belong.
3. Allow Yourself Some Hobbies
Once you’ve established boundaries between your work and home life, you’ll find you actually have free time again. Working on an old hobby you used to enjoy or picking up a new one will help occupy your mind and bring a sense of fulfillment.
A word of warning — many teachers enjoy reading, and while it’s important to stay current with research, you’ll want to avoid the trap of making your hobby all about work. No matter what you choose to enjoy, keep your job out of it.
4. Set Goals
It’s all too easy to lose focus on your reasons for becoming an educator. When you experience teacher burnout, your years left until retirement can seem like you need to “get through.” Reframing your experience will help pull yourself out of a rut. Set some occupational goals you’d like to meet — something short-term for an easy win and a long-term goal for something to look forward to. These goals can be as simple or complex as you like. Perhaps you want to take courses to earn a raise or integrate technology into your lessons.
5. Talk to Someone
Burnout can make you feel isolated, but it’s important to remember you aren’t the only teacher in your building who suffers from feelings of stress, anxiety, and burnout. Find a mentor with whom you can be open and honest, discussing your struggles and sharing your small wins. The relationships you build with your colleagues will help you make it through tough days and share their personal tips for how to avoid teacher burnout.
However, even though it can feel therapeutic to share your problems, you’ll want to avoid toxic gossip and constant complaining, which will only worsen your mood and burnout over time.
6. Beat the Sunday Blues
Nobody loves Mondays, but finding yourself in the midst of an anxiety attack each Sunday night isn’t healthy. Work to beat those feelings of overwhelm by ensuring you’re extra prepared for the new week.
Your tendency may be to leave as early as possible for your weekend, but you’ll likely enjoy your time much more if you take steps to prepare for Monday. Make your copies for the next week, get your resources prepped, tidy your room, grade assignments, and do any other little tasks that will set you up for success.
If you find it’s hard to focus on Fridays, do your prep work on Thursdays instead. Use a little trial and error to see what feels best for you.
Assess Your Current Position
Your health is of the utmost importance. If you’ve tried to learn how to avoid teacher burnout but haven’t seen enough of a difference, your school may be the problem. A district’s atmosphere and administration have a significant impact on the health of its employees.
You need a teaching position where you’re allowed some creative control. You also need to feel secure in your job and have a team of administrators who support your work. Today’s teaching market is relatively open, so if your school district is exacerbating the problem, it may be time to consider applying to a new school.