Tips for Avoiding Teacher Burnout
Teacher burnout is becoming more and more common. With higher expectations, less support, and increased demands it is hard to find a balance between being an amazing teacher and an amazing wife/mother/friend/human-being.
I am no expert on this, in fact my new year's resolution was to find more balance! But, I have found a few tips that have helped me work towards that balance this year.
1. Tackle your least-favourite teacher-job on your prep. For me, it is marking. I try to mark everything I can at school either on a prep, at recess or before/after school. Getting that job done at school makes it seem less like it is 'invading' on my home life because I'm not doing it at home. I don't mind bringing home some planning, laminating to cut or other jobs because I kinda of enjoy those (at least more than marking!). So getting that done 'on the clock' makes me less frustrated with the jobs I do 'off the clock'
2. Don't bring it all home. There is nothing more daunting than the two tote bags filled with marking, prep work, paperwork, grading binders, etc found in the backseat of a teacher's car on Friday night. More often than not, I end up taking it all back to school Monday, untouched. Then I feel frustrated Monday morning walking back in with all the things I didn't do. Bring home the urgent and important things you need, and bring a manageable amount to do on a weekend. You need your 'recovery time' on weekends too!
3. Share your planning. My team usually meets Thursday or Friday after school to plan the next week out. We divide up the stuff that needs to be done so we each have less work to complete. We usually have starbucks or candy or something to make the planning more fun and we each choose the activities to create/find/prep/plan that we enjoy. This way, we each play to our strengths and save tons of time. Bonus- our classes run in three very similar ways which makes for happy parents and happy kids!
4. Decrease your marking. Have kids take up small, practice quizzes. Eyeball it and give it a check mark and a sticker. Do oral conferences (which are FABULOUS anyways) and otehr activities that allow you to get a handle on how your kids are doing without the mounds and mounds of paper. Select only the most important pieces to actually 'mark'.
5. Have an 'emergency' sanity saver. We all get stressed at some point. Whether it was a parent email that caught you off guard, the copier being jammed just when you NEEDED 20 copies of 'this' activity for next period, or something going on at home. Especially with a challenging class, you need a 'sanity saver'. Something the students can do for 10 minutes or so while you gather your self. You can't possibly begin to teach these 20 little people if your mind is going 100mph in another direction. For me, it is the almighty "tumblebook". Online stories, with animated pictures and the words highlighted as it reads. I pop one of those puppies on the smartboard and the kids are super engaged, learning important literacy skills and fluency, I dim the lights and ah....ten minutes. Ten minutes to reply to that parent email that is on your mind, to call your admin for assistance with a behaviour/issue, 10 minutes to re-plan that activity you couldn't get the copies made fore, 10 minutes to refocus yourself on the little people in your room. Of course, you can't do it all day everyday with the demands of a classroom- but I can go home with a clear conscience after showing a 10 minute tumblebook, I can't if I've 'lost my cool' in the classroom. Other online book sites such as "storylineonline.com" are free and fun too!
6. Use the students as helpers. My students have taken on a TON of responsibility this year and they love it! They spray and wipe the desks at the end of the day, the ensure the centers are tidy and have all the materials they need, they organize the class library and set the schedule for the next day. These are all things I used to do at the end of the day- and with 20 little helpers it is done in ten minutes. Sure, it is not as 'perfect' as when I do it, but it is certainly 'good enough' and helps the students feel accountable in the classroom.
7. Remember, All jobs have crummy times. For me, it is report cards. Report cards is the time of year where I am under slept-overworked and all around a little grumpier than normal. It is easy to get into the mindset of "my job is so hard, this is pointless paperwork" etc...but then I remember that my husband has this at 'month end', others have 'tax season' or 'inventory' or other such things that are also, crummy parts of the job. Don't dwell on that. Power through and Git'er done!
8. Our job has many, many, amazing moments, enjoy them. Enjoy it. Bask in the hilariousness of the grade 3 toilet jokes, colouring on the carpet on Friday afternoon and all the 'handmade gifts' you receive. Sure, maybe I haven't covered every line of the curriculum document in full detail, but I know the names of my students' "American Girl" dolls, the dates of swimming competitions to ask about, and every pet of the third grade crew. I know that after they tell Mom and Dad any good news, I'm next in line to be told. And that is a pretty awesome feeling.
9. At some point, it is 'good enough'. Didn't laminate those task cards? Didn't use 'teacher printing' on that grading? Didn't add adorable clipart to every center bin. You know what- they will survive. If the choice is stay up till 1 am to make laminate or print it, cut it and hit the hay by 11pm...you know what you need to do. Tell the kids to handle it gently and laminate it later. Life will go on! Remember, all the blog pictures, pinterest photos and instagrams are of people tidying their room perfectly, then taking a photo. You can't do that everyday all the time.
10. Take care of your students' teacher. We all care so much about our little people, we want everything to be perfect for them. But you need to take care of yourself to take care of them. Like they say with the oxygen mask in the plane, you need to make sure you are okay so you can make sure your children are okay too. If all you do is school school school school, you probably won't come in like your normal, happy, friendly self. Make time to go for a run, have dinner with your spouse, watch TeenMom and paint your nails. Whatever it is that you enjoy, make time for it. Would you want your students to go home and work on school from 3pm unti bedtime?
I'm still trying to take all of my own advice, but hopefully some of these tips can help you balance your best teaching with your best living!