35 Ideas to avoid Teacher Burnout
Part 1 of 3
When I started writing this blog-post on Teacher Stress, I never imagined I would have to force myself to stop at 3500 words! But that’s what happened. And that tells me something: it’s an important subject, perhaps the most important issue for teachers today. So I decided to share my thoughts with you this week over three days to make reading them more manageable. Let me know what you think in the comments box.
Here you go…
Let’s face it: teacher attrition rates are awful. Depending on what report you read, around 50% of new teachers are changing their careers within the first 5 years of becoming a teacher. In my opinion, the number one reason is teacher burnout.
Think of the incredible amount of money wasted on training and development that Education Services spend, only to see much of it evaporate as teachers walk away from their job and away from teaching forever.
As teachers, we could all point to the systemic problems that exacerbate the difficulties we experience. Many of these problems are created at Regional and State level Headquarters, who sometimes prescribe one-size-fits-all-strategies for every school in their jurisdiction. That’s not smart.
Other times we can identify local issues that just seem to make your job that little bit harder to do. And then sometimes, it’s just down to us. Anyway, the negative effects can push teachers towards unhealthy stress and burnout situations, especially when not managed properly.
Whatever the underlying reasons, I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you. Let’s dispense quickly with the bad: in my experience those local and regional issues will always be there; get used to it.
However the good news is, despite those things, teachers remain largely in control of how they experience their jobs. By taking control of your day, rather than having it controlled for you, many teachers begin to feel much better about work and teaching in general.
There are a multitude of things to help you avoid burnout and reclaim some control, some head space and some more time. After a bit of researching and brainstorming, here are some that might just work for you…
- Adopt healthy living habits: when your body is sick or under stress it’s difficult to feel good about your work. Start thinking about what you can do and not do to your body, that will improve your health. That might be giving up cigarettes, losing some weight, commencing an exercise program, avoiding some foods, eating more healthy foods etc. If you feel good physically, the chances are your head will feel better too, making it easier to cope with workplace demands. Think carefully about this. I lost 6kg in 3 weeks recently by adopting some simple habits in this book. And I feel much better for it. .
- Learn something new and share it: getting in a rut can be wearisome. One way to avoid this can be to learn something new just for the heck of it. Better still share it with students and colleagues when appropriate. When you find something interesting to do, chances are that others will find it interesting too. Furthermore you will alleviate your stress levels by taking your mind off the negatives and focusing on things that have positive associations. .
- Arrive at school early: those quiet early mornings really make a difference to getting organised. No queues at the photocopier. No ambushes by ten people wanting your attention before you get to your desk. These little things save you time and allow you to get your head around what your day looks like. Believe me, getting to school 30 to 60 minutes before the crowd can make a massive difference to how your day goes. Make this one a habit. .
- Glass half full or glass half empty: seeing the positives rather than negatives is important. We can all fall prey to focusing on small imperfections rather than looking at the larger benefits in things. Of course we have to keep a grip on reality here and when things are seriously wrong, you have to deal with them. But it’s true that much of what we feel about things depends on how we perceive them. That is one sure way to reduce some stress in your day. .
- Get involved in change: many teachers feel helpless when change happens in their schools. Some complain that school committees are time after time, full of the same leaders and same volunteers: I like to call them the chosen ones. 🙂 Teachers should get involved on those groups and start shaping what outcomes are felt in the workplace. Speak to your administrators and offer your help. You will develop a feeling of control rather than helplessness which is an important factor in managing stress. .
- Reflect: when you see colleagues repeating the same mistakes term after term, year after year, you can be sure they don’t have a reflective practice. The chances are, the stress levels that push many to burnout, are an accumulation of fixable issues that would disappear if only they implemented some change. I’ve had Grade 10 boys’ classes in the past that I have walked away from in bits. But I made sure that I learned from them and made a vow not to repeat the mistakes I had made. .
- Listen to your inner self: God has provided us with wonderful attributes including a conscience and the ability to creatively reflect. Listen to what your whole being is telling you: you can guarantee that there will be telltale signs that point to unhealthy stress and burnout. For instance, in a previous job, I worked crazy hours earning crazy money, but it wasn’t worth it. My conscience was telling me I wasn’t spending enough time with my family. My body was giving signals too: pins and needles on the back of my head, brain fog etc. Don’t ignore these signals. Neglecting them delays only the inevitable. .
- Schedule time to mark exams and assignments: I cringe when I think back to those times when I would carry unmarked papers around for a week in my teacher case. I thought I was bad until I learnt from colleagues that they had developed this poor habit to a fine art: carrying unmarked exams around for up to six weeks until the complaints from parents and supervisors got out of hand. The thing is, knowing those exams are there in your teacher bag, haunts you both at work and at home. In the end, you still have to mark them, so don’t add to that task by making it a stress event: schedule a time and just get them done and handed back. You will be happier and so will your students.
So that’s eight to consider for now. Tomorrow I’ll post part 2 with a dozen or so more. See you soon and please consider subscribing (on the sidebar) to make sure you don’t miss any posts. God bless.