In battling my own teacher burnout- I have found a few tips that really seem to help, and frankly made me a better teacher overall. Without these, I would not have found the joy that I had lost in this amazing profession. Teaching is a challenging profession, arguably one of the most difficult jobs one can have. It can be profoundly rewarding one minute, yet devastating and heart-breaking the next. The hours are long, and our general need for perfection (the- my student deserve the best from me mentality) can have long-lasting effects on our health, family, and mental well-being if we allow it. These five tips changed my world for the better- use these to help you make teaching manageable and fun again!
1. Leave. Leave the building at a reasonable time. Go home. When I first started teaching, I found myself spending hours after school working on curriculum, planning, prepping, copying, assessing... then I would bring more work home with me. I found myself working all evening. Pulling myself out of bed to go start the same 12-14 hour day was getting harder and harder with each passing day. Now that I am in my 12th year of teaching, I force myself to leave the building no later than 1 hour after the work day ends. Getting that time back in my afternoon/evening helped me to become a better, more rested and relaxed, teacher each day.
2. Don't bring as much home with you. I know you will be tempted to leave at a decent time, but I am not suggesting you simply bring that amount of work home with you. Believe it or not, your students will be okay if you do not have the assessment perfectly graded by tomorrow. You will be okay if your lesson plan is not exceedingly detailed (as long as it is not an observation), and you will definitely be okay if you have not completed all paperwork/email responses each night. I set a precedence early with my families. If they email me in the evening, I respond the following morning. They will quickly come to understand that you will email them during your work hours- AND THIS IS OKAY! If you start answering parent emails during your precious evening hours right away in the fall, your parents will expect your nightly responses. This is a difficult precedent to set. I have found that parents are actually very understanding when you respond the following morning, and my attitude about my job directly and positively impacted the email response I created anyway!
3. Don't sign up for every collaborative project, training session, PLC group, technology roll-out, etc. Take on what you can, but don't take on everything. When you spread yourself too thin, no one will truly receive your best. Remember that it is really your students who deserve your best- the rest is just gravy as they say!
4. Share the work load! Teaching is not meant to be a solo endeavor. Partner with your grade level, or subject based teams to share the work. Split up the lesson creation. Perhaps you will make the PowerPoint/Google Slides to introduce a topic, and another teacher can build the second lesson. Perhaps you can build one unit, while another teacher builds another unit. You can have someone else create extension materials for the lesson while you create the materials that will support your struggling learners. There are a variety of ways teams can work together to share the workload. I love using my PLC time to actually create materials for students as my team of teachers collaborate.
I have definitely known the feeling that just closing my classroom door, and doing my own thing must take less time. I thought that meeting with other teachers would take more time- time that I did not have. When I finally made the time, because another teacher asked me to, I found this beautiful world of collaboration that would allow me to NOT create everything on my own. I learned that meeting and dividing work saved my sanity, my time, and ultimately my teaching career. I know that if I was still trying to run the show on my own, alone, and shut off in my classroom, I would have long since burned out!
5. Finally, every lesson does not need to be YOUR unique creation. Use your peers to glean new ideas, or use teacher sharing sites like Teacher's Pay Teachers to find well-crafted and unique lessons that do not require you to spend your evenings and weekends creating and crafting.
These tips have helped me significantly in my teaching. Take a risk and try one—or all—of these tips!