So it’s summer and most of us teachers can breathe a sigh of relief. Phew! Another term over! Teaching can be an exhausting profession which is emotionally, physically and mentally consuming.
You may be wrestling with the guilt of tipping the work-life balance in favour of work and not dedicating enough time and energy to your own emotional and physical wellbeing.
What is teaching burnout?
Burnout often affects people in helping professions: lawyers, doctors, social workers and teachers, among others. It often arises when there is a mismatch between the demands of the role and the resources available for coping with them. The most common culprits mentioned are: lack of time, ideas, materials, expertise and support.
Why is teaching so exhausting? Most teachers are vocational and go into this career seeking to make a difference in the lives of their students, often teachers play the role of therapist and psychologists as students tend to open up about their issues and their problems.
Teachers also work for short intense periods with little acknowledgement and lots of chronic stress. You may feel that your sense of accomplishment is diminished and that you don’t receive the thanks and support that you need to shine in your career.
It is a vicious circle: the more serious your experience of burnout, the more isolated you become.
Do you recognise the signs of burnout?
- Exhaustion. A deep and pervasive fatigue where even if you sleep a full eight hours (rare for many teachers) you wake up with the heavy sense of exhaustion and lack of energy to peel yourself out of bed to begin your day.
- Seriousness. The realisation that you haven’t smiled or laughed for hours or days.
- Feeling overwhelmed. The feeling that you have too much to do and not enough time. That somehow there are not enough hours in the day to dedicate to your personal and work life.
- Loss. Loss of your creativity, imagination, patience, and enthusiasm for your daily tasks. Complaining about everything and having a negative mindset
- Isolation. A deep desire to be alone and a need for peace and quiet. Retreating from social and work activities.
- Under-appreciation. Feeling as if all the work and energy and hours you put into preparation and teaching aren’t paying off, this can lead to resentment and feeling as if you aren’t being compensated for the amount of work that you do.
So is it time to give up your career as a teacher? It really depends on you. There are lots of ways that you can recover from burnout and regain your enthusiasm for your job.
10 tips to deal with teacher burnout
- Teach in the Moment – try to be present and intentional and take deep breaths when you feel overwhelmed. Remember the passions that you had when you began your job. Try to maintain a clearer vision of what it takes to keep you motivated.
- Practice self-care – Remember to take personal days when you need to. Eat well, sleep well, exercise and meditate. Take your days off as time to recover from the stresses of the week and make sure that you treat yourself as a priority.
- Break routine – Routine is monotony. Sometimes it’s good to throw away the lesson and improvise or go with the flow for what the student needs or feels like.
- Slow down – Try not to rush around and try to do everything at once. It may seem as if there isn’t enough time for everything but sometimes it pays to take stock and breathe and focus on your priorities.
- Focus on your relationships – Ask for help when you need it and open up to your friends. A strong support network will get you through the toughest time.
- Join online teacher’s groups and forums – These are a godsend and will provide you with endless material, a platform to rant or ask for advice and suggestions and also provide support to make sure that you don’t feel alone when burnout strikes.
- Collaborate with other teachers – Teaching is an isolating job sometimes and it is invaluable to make friends with other teachers, sharing your lesson plans will half the amount of work and forge a stronger connection which will help you get through periods where you feel isolated or lonely.
- Reflect – take time to reflect on your teaching methodology and your relationship with your students and you work-life balance. This will give you some distance and perspective when you feel caught-up in the daily grind.
- Stay humble – After a few years of teaching it’s easy to think that you know it all and that you know the job inside out. No one knows everything and to be a good teacher you must pay attention to the next point: keep learning!
- Keep Learning – For me, teaching is a process where I learn while I teach. I learn a lot from my students, I learn about sociology, culture, language and attitudes. I believe that teaching is an exchange where the teacher and student learn from one another. To be a better teacher you can’t ever stop learning! Take time to build your skills and develop your teaching by attending workshops, observing other teachers and reading online about teaching methodology.
So there were my tips on overcoming teacher burnout. Do you have any more ideas or suggestions? Please leave a comment.