You spend a great deal of your life thinking about your students, don’t you? You tinker with your lesson plans; you scrap them; you reinvent them again and again, trying to find the best way to engage every student because you know that “teach to the top” is not a viable option. Then the weekend comes around and you spend much of your time “off,” well, on—because you’re responding to student papers and preparing for the next week. And this doesn’t even take into account all the other life duties you’ve signed on to.
If this doesn’t fit your profile, we’d like to know your secret to success. But our instinct tells us that many teachers, particularly those who are new to the profession, often feel that they’re hanging on by a thread. We don’t want you to become a statistic*, so we’re offering 5 more tips to help you avoid teacher burnout.
Avoiding Teacher Burnout: 5 More Stress Management Tips
Make the 15-minute habit a habit
Like most, we had a penchant for the snooze button—until it dawned on us that those 15 minutes of “rest” were always squandered once we got out of bed anyway. Think about the last time you slept in. Were you more rested when you got up? Probably not. More than likely you were more stressed out because you had to make up for those 15 minutes by cutting corners.
Stop hitting snooze and always give yourself 15 extra minutes on top of what it takes you to get ready. Try it. Once you get to class, you’ll find that your mind isn’t racing and your thoughts aren’t being crowded out with the noise of the morning.
Set your goals and reevaluate your commitments in relation to them
Many of us have a hard time saying no because, let’s face it, more responsibilities often lead to more opportunities. But are those opportunities high impact? Are they the opportunities we really want? Or are they the opportunities we’ve aimlessly pursued or felt guilty saying no to?
Before you say yes to the next offer, put down your goals in writing. What’s important to you? What do you truly want to achieve? Do you want your weekends free? Do you want to spend more time with your family? Do you want to go to Europe? Now consider whether or not this new opportunity will help you realize these goals.
Take 10-15 minutes a day to deal with the dreaded deeds
We’ve all got a list of dreaded deeds that hang off in the periphery of our day. Failing to deal with them simply imbues them with more power than they’d have if we simply chipped away at them for a measly 10 or 15 minutes a day.
Come on now, it's only 20-25% of an entire hour. You can handle that. Set a timer if that helps. You may surprise yourself by becoming so absorbed you end up completing the task sooner than you anticipated. If you don't finish, you'll be making good headway. Your mind can rest easy knowing you'll continue taking care of the DD for 10-15 more manageable minutes tomorrow, which further reduces your stress. It isn’t particularly profound, but it’s true.
Can't find a mentor? Hit the Internet
Platforms like Edmodo, Schoology, ASCD Edge and Classroom 2.0 can connect you with hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of educators in a few short clicks. Maybe you’re looking for a safe environment where you can garner advice, curriculum ideas or lesson plans…these are the places to go if you can’t find someone in your school or district as a mentor.
Your school may have limited funding. Your colleagues and your principal may seem more like nebulous objects than mentors, but the fact of matter is that there’s a boundless, borderless global community of educators at your fingertips. You may not have met them yet, but they’re there for you.
We stole this one from Andrew Miller. There’s always more to do, right? There are meetings, tutoring sessions, grading…but it can wait—all of it. Set boundaries; set aside a specific time every day to do something that nurtures you physically, mentally, socially, spiritually, etc. Go home! Revere this time like you would any after-school tutoring session or faculty meeting. The world and all its ungraded papers can wait—at least for one hour.
*15 percent of teachers leave the profession and another 14 percent change schools after their first year, often as the result of feeling overwhelmed, ineffective, and unsupported.
Ingersoll, R. M., & Smith, T. M. (2003). The wrong solution to the teacher shortage. Educational Leadership, 60(8), 30–33.
* Case studies have observed novice teachers struggling "just trying to come up with enough curriculum" and often spending 10 to 12 hours a day juggling lesson planning, grading, and the myriad demands of paperwork, committees, and extracurricular assignments.
Fry, S. W. (2007). First-year teachers and induction support: Ups, downs, and in-betweens. The Qualitative Report, 12(2), 216–237.
If you're looking for more career and curriculum-enhancing ideas, check out some of our most resources by downloading our Best of 2012 guide!