Often, teacher burnout becomes a problem not only for the teacher but will obviously affect students as well. It is important to remain motivated day after day, month after month, year after year, and even hour after hour throughout the day as well. It can become mentally challenging and affect a teacher’s physical health too. What can a teacher do? Here are 4 ways to avoid teacher burnout.
First, (and this is a freebee) accept the fact that you will experience burnout. It may not be the end-of-career burnout, or the end-of-the-week or school-year burnout, but simply the end-of-a-class-period or day burnout.
You know what it feels like. A class period ends, you stare at the clock and cannot believe it is not the end of the day. Or it is the end of the day, and it suddenly occurs to you that it is not Friday, but only Wednesday or Thursday. Every teacher has experienced this feeling at some point in their career whether as a preschool, elementary, middle, or high school instructor. And if you are a homeschooling parent, it is quite likely you experience these feelings as well as burnout sets in and the motivation you once had for teaching is nearly gone.
Fortunately, there are some strategies that can be used to prevent teacher burnout. That’s right, prevent it from ever occurring, or at least occurring a lot less. The more you can do to prevent the burnout, the more motivated you will remain throughout each school day leading to less burnout throughout the school year.
- 1. Use your personal or mental health days. Do not save them. Use them for the purpose they are intended, and not for doing things that will bring further stress into your life.
Of course, you must prepare ahead of time for your mental health day and plan relevant lessons for your substitute. Many teachers feel taking a day off will lead to more work when returning, and sometimes that can be true, but for mental health or personal days, it is different. It is a planned day off, so plan for it ahead of time. Prepare something for the sub that is connected to your content, but will not cause you more work when you return the next day.
- 2. Take control of your day as much as possible, especially when it relates to the minutes and hours you have influence over.
One of the biggest complaints teachers have during a school day: There is not enough planning time, free periods, or breaks. If this is the case, use the class periods you teach and create your own “break” time. This absolutely does not mean you stop teaching or presenting quality lessons to the students, but it does mean you plan some “down” time at the end of each class period to help you (and your students) transition to the next.
For example, at the end of a class period, do not spend the last five minutes in a rush trying to squeeze in a new concept or even to review a concept. Do not try to hurry through the last three problems of homework or a review page. Stop when there are a few minutes left. The frenzy accompanied with this tactic leads to stress
Too many teachers try to squeeze things in just to say they completed something. Well, you may have squeezed it in, but do you really think the students were listening and everyone “got it”? It’s doubtful. Stop a few minutes early and give yourself a mini three-minute mental health break. The students could use it as well.
- 3. Accept opportunities presented for in-service days. You might feel your students will not survive without you, but surely, they would much rather be taught by a motivated teacher than one that is suffering from burnout.
Use the in-service days to refresh your teaching methods and to learn new classroom strategies, but also use these days as a break from the fast-paced day in the classroom. Meet other teachers, relax and enjoy the day, and maybe experience a full 30-minute or 1-hour lunch.
However, do not use the time to vent and complain about the things you may not like at your school. Everyone you meet can share some of the same horror stories, and yes, it may feel good to vent, but it often leads to additional stress. Nevertheless, you could discuss strategies and ideas to help make things better at your school.
- 4. Ask for help. This includes help with students, lesson planning, or anything else that is leading you to become less motivated.
Your peers are most likely the first in line willing to give you a helping hand. Take the advice you probably give to your own students: Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.
Nearly every teacher will need help at some time during their career, and therefore every teacher can be a critical source of help for you.
As you peruse the Internet, you will find hundreds of other strategies to help keep you motivated, and many of them may be effective, but sustaining them is usually the challenge.
One of the best strategies for remaining motivated, however, is to approach each day with a positive attitude. You cannot change everything that is leading to your burnout, but you can change your attitude. Do not allow your emotions to “think” for you. Follow the mantra—Live, love, and laugh.
Your students come to you each day or class period often expecting you to brighten their day, adding something positive to their day, and teaching them something new about this world and life. Your lack of motivation will derail their expectations, lead to their own lack of motivation, and ultimately everyone will become miserable and unmotivated.
Finally, if a lack of motivation continues and you are consistently feeling burned out, it may be time for self-reflection and a possible career change or an exit from the classroom. There are many career opportunities related to education that does not involve classroom teaching.
Using the above strategies will help you become more motivated, are beneficial for your students, and will lead you to become the best-motivated teacher you can be, every year, every week, and every hour of every day and overall avoid teacher burnout.