35 Ideas to avoid Teacher Burnout
Part 2 of 3
In yesterday’s post we kicked off by looking at eight ways to alleviate stress when working as a teacher. Today we add another dozen. Many of these ideas tend to work for the majority of teachers, but some of them will depend on the individual teacher and workplace.
But without further delay, here are ideas 9-20…
- Talk to your peers: when stressed or feeling overwhelmed, talk about it. Often we are so good at pretending everything is well, that your colleagues might just think it so! But generally, the people you work with will be caring people so strike up conversations around managing time, stress, workloads etc. You never know what riches you will uncover in the process that you can put into practise. Share this blog-post and make it a conversation starter. .
- Steer clear of unnecessary conflict: you know the old behaviour management trick of giving students ‘wait time’? There is a good reason for this: it avoids conflict and escalation. As well as classroom behaviour strategies, work out some colleague behaviour management techniques. This is not manipulation but common sense. If someone is having a really bad day, can you wait to tell them that their lesson next door to yours, sounded like a boxing match? Probably. Is there a workplace weasel that irritates you so much, no matter how much you pray for them? Then avoid unnecessary conflict by unnecessary contact. I read a really telling article about the workplace weasel recently here. If you find yourself nodding in agreement, then you can be sure, you have come across one of them at some point. Learn how to manage it. . .
- Regularly talk to a Spiritual Director: getting things off your chest, putting things into perspective, just makes sense to me. It reduces stress and reminds us of the important things. In spiritual terms it’s important to be reminded about why we are doing, what we’re doing. Talking to a priest regularly about your teaching apostolate is important. If you work in a Catholic school there may be a priest on site that you can schedule a regular time with. However you may want to get some space between school and these conversations, so for some it may be a priest who is off-site. Try this out if you’re not already doing it. .
- Get a mentor: another great way to talk through issues is by having a trusted mentor. Often we see mentors as only those teachers assigned to look after practicum or beginning teachers. However we need to see the mentor as a colleague that we should all have. By this I don’t mean a shoulder to cry on type friend, but someone who can take a critical but supportive eye and look at what’s working for you and what isn’t. We can get so wrapped up with what we are doing, we often develop blind spots and we may miss vital elements of good workplace management that are causing us stress. Take time to think about a teacher, on or off site, who you respect that might fill this role, and then approach them. This can be a great support to practice. .
- Leave your laptop on your desk: when did it become the norm to check work emails at 8pm on a Tuesday night or 10am on a Saturday morning? Worse still, when did it become the expectation that staff should check email at that time. The bottom line is, if you carry your work around with you, you are at work! Okay, I know teachers are busy and we plan and organise outside of classroom hours, but you have to schedule work smartly. But the great flip side of that coin is that you get to schedule ‘down time’ smartly. So don’t lug that computer and school bag around unless you have previously planned to use it. It will only create more stress in your life. .
- Share the love: some of us learn the hard way. We consider ourselves invincible, all-powerful education gurus who can take on everything and get it done in double quick-time. However the evidence points to the contrary: teacher meltdown, family meltdown, skyscraper stress levels etc. Learn to help colleagues. Help them to learn how to share work. Collaborative ventures are not meant to be one-man-band efforts. Be on the lookout for enthusiastic rookie teachers who are desperate to get noticed: they typically over commit and under deliver. Look after them and guide them to a sustainable level of practice. .
- Take a day off: how often have we come to school when we have been loaded with the flu or in the middle of a serious crisis that we are having trouble dealing with? It’s actually common place with teachers unfortunately. There seems to be an unhealthy culture of ‘turn up if you have a pulse’. The problem with that is, it only compounds issues and extends sickness, stress and classroom problems. Listen again to your body and ask yourself honestly if you will be any use in school today. If you are taking the day off because you need a mental health day, be sure and talk to someone about it like your doctor or trusted mentor. Whatever the case, be sure to recognise that working when sick, sniffles and hangovers aside, will only lead to more pain. .
- Love your whole weekend: if you have planned and scheduled your workload then your weekends should generally be enjoyable times. Unfortunately many of us wake up on a Sunday, go to Mass and then spend the rest of the day dreading the work we have to do before Monday. Don’t be like that: sure, we have to work occasionally at the weekend, but that should be in a controlled and disciplined way. Perhaps that means scheduling 7-9 am on a Saturday morning for marking. When you fail to plan your work, you end up all over the place and your stress levels go bananas. Make sure you are organised and have a system that will take back control of your work life so that you can enjoy your weekends and family time. See this previous post here or more help on this. .
- What interests do you have outside of work? Getting balance in your life is necessary, not just an optional extra, if you want to control your stress levels and avoid burnout. My favourites include chess, listening to music, reading, going for walks with my wife and kids. I am just unable to work when I’m doing these things (thank goodness). They put my life in perspective and lower stress levels. Others do martial arts, play football, play the guitar. Whatever it is for you, just make sure it doesn’t add to and increase negative stress. Walking around town at 3am playing Pokemon Go, or meandering back from the pub at 11pm might not be the best options available! .
- Smile: it works wonders. It’s contagious. It’s attractive. It’s healthy. But not all the time, unless you want to get locked up 🙂 .
- Take your own medicine: sometimes we just give the very best, well-intentioned advice and then consciously do the opposite ourselves. If you have told your mate to go home at 4pm to their family, then why are you still at your desk at 8pm neglecting yours? You get the picture. .
- Avoid hollow teaching: in other words teach from the heart with purpose. Be enthusiastic. I’ll let you into a secret: I once was given an economics class that I had zero interest in teaching. Initially the thought of it stressed me out. But it was only for two terms so I decided to fool myself into enjoying talking about input-output analysis, supply and demand, consumption etc, just to get me through it. But I found in fact I fooled myself so much, I forgot I was fooling myself and really authentically began to enjoy it. When you are smiling and enjoying your classes; when you are teaching from within, I guarantee you, your stress levels will melt away.