Teacher Burned Out: How to Fix and Avoid An Expert Guide
They say you should write about what you know. Hmmmm. What do I know? I know this subject well–Teacher Burned Out: How to Fix and Avoid
I bet you do, too.
Here’s a quote that sums it up perfectly, “Burnout is nature’s way of telling you, you’ve been going through the motions your soul has departed; you’re a zombie, a member of the walking dead, a sleepwalker. False optimism is like administrating stimulants to an exhausted nervous system.” Anais Nin
I’ve lived this quote.
Teacher Burned Out: How to Fix and Avoid (An Expert Guide)
Before we begin, let me tell you a little story.
About eight years ago, I taught in a wonderful home school enrichment program (with around 800 students,grades k to 12) which was part of the St. Vrain School system in Longmont, CO. In my first year, I directed three musicals (I used the MTI juniors) and taught six classes (at three different locations.)
As is typical of me, I am sort of a create-a-monster kind of person; I have a tendency to keep improving something until I’m satisfied with it.
In my sixth year of teaching for Apex, I was directing FOUR different musicals (all MTI juniors) as well as FOUR children’s musicals (MTI kids) as well as teaching twenty-four classes. Yes, you read that correctly. Each location offered a bit of a different curriculum so of course that meant different preps. for me. (One school wanted a film class. Another an intro. to Shakespeare, etc.)
My health began to deteriorate. I was frustrated, sarcastic, short fused, tired all the time and very stressed.
Teacher Burned Out: How to Fix and Avoid (An Expert Guide)
Consequently, in my seventh year I dropped two schools and just taught Thursday and Friday. But my inspiration was waning. At this point, I’d directed around 350 plays and musicals over the thirty-eight years I’d taught (both schools and an excellent community theater).
Finally, I taught one more year and retired at age sixty. I was totally ready.
You see, I care more about what the students gain from my teaching than my own sanity and obvious health. I was willing to exhaust myself if more students came away with feeling being a part of a group, increased self-esteem and confidence. That’s really all I cared about.
No one told me to take care of myself. If they did, I was too stubborn and proud to do so very much.
I nearly ruined my health learning the lesson to do so, however.
Three Major Teacher Burnout Symptoms
According to the website prodigygame.com, there are three major teacher burnout symptoms:
- Cynicism — a sense of detachment from work or life, loss of enjoyments, pessimism and isolation.
- Feelings of ineffectiveness — Apathy, hopelessness, increased irritability, lack of productivity and poor performance.
- Physical and emotional exhaustion — Always tired, unable to sleep, forgetfulness or trouble concentrating, anxiety, depression and anger.
Here’s another thing no one thinks about–there are after school activities like plays or musical rehearsals, marching band, ball practices, , study help, cheerleading, the chess club. All of these extracurriculars are fun to do, but they do take a toll on a teacher’s energy.
Don’t get me started talking about the hours a theatre teacher puts into directing a play or worse yet, a musical! It’s staggering. As the teacher/director, you not only direct the show but you also design the costumes, set, lights, sound, create stage props, handle the tickets, advertising and let’s not forget your teaching load! If you’d like some advice concerning directing youth theater check out this post Ten Important Elements to Consider When Directing a Youth Theater Production
What’s the Answer to Burnout?
I wish I could say there is one way to handle the burn out. But there just isn’t. Here are a few things I learned over time:
- I didn’t grade every paper which sat on m desk. Some can be given a participation grade (I used a check, check plut and check minus) especially when the students are just learning a concept.
- Planning my calendar to give myself breaks within the week was essential. For instance, if my Creative Dramatics class had a performance for their parents, I made sure my Intro. to Theater class worked by themselves and I was merely over seeing.
- If one class was doing something physical, I planned so the next class was doing something more sedentary.
- I found my students learned the best Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Because of this, I kept Monday and Friday’s lessons lighter. I wouldn’t introduce a new unit until Tuesday (hoping to catch everyone and those who took a long weekend and missed Friday and Monday).
- Fridays were fun days for all of us. I made sure that my Fridays were my best lessons to teach or those most engaging. Sometimes the students would view part of a video on a Friday. That kept my teacher-to-student contact low and my maintained my energy.
- If I could work it out, I’d go out for lunch at least once a week. Or, I’d bring in something special from the grocery store–like a deli sandwich or fancy salad. It lifted the monotony.
More Answers to Burn out
- I’d plan for the next Monday on Friday and get everything copied and ready to go on Friday. That way, when I came to school on Monday I wasn’t frazzled. I even wrote the Monday date on the board and the objectives on Friday.😊
- Organizing everything for the next week by the Friday of the following week helped me a lot.
- I did not take home papers to grade every night. Do NOT do it!
- This may sound odd, but I’d get my feet elevated for a portion of the day and sit down for heaven’s sake!
- I made a little nest for myself in my classroom (my office was attached to the classroom) and I’d keep fun stuff such as an inspirational quote, a colorful coffee cup, etc. It was my little space just for me.
- Although I make friends easily, I’m choosey. My friends and I would plan some social time outside of school or maybe a private party. They needed it too!
- When I was bored with my lessons, chances are my students felt it. So, I’d teach something new I’d learned about.
- Walking for exercise and to de-stress was another thing I still do. It helps wonders.
- I used every one of my personal days. Use your personal days. Did I say to use your personal days?????
I hope these suggestion help you. Just know that you are not alone. Before you know it, you’ll have spring break and feel better. Pick up my FREE Director’s Helper Checklist–It will help you too.
How do you deal with exhaustion from your job? I’d love to hear from you. Contact me at DhcBaldwin@gmail.com or check out my website at DeborahBaldwin.net