Walk into any coffee shop and you can almost immediate recognize a fellow teacher. They probably aren’t wearing scrubs, an official uniform, or have a certain hairstyle. No, you recognize them because they are grading papers and possibly look a little discouraged because the students did not perform well on the last assessment.
You recognize that look and empathize. The demands on a teacher are never ending. The hats teachers wear are too numerous to count. Your school just rolled out a new curriculum and changed the grading system. Parents want to discuss their children’s grades and behavior. You lost your temper right before lunch today. Administration did not handle that last disciplinary situation well. Colleagues complain about other incompetent teachers. Last week’s teacher meeting went on forever while you thought about all of the bulletin boards that needed updating, progress reports you needed to finish, and parent calls you needed to make.
Teacher burnout is nothing new, but the conversation might be shifting. In an article by Tim Walker, he discusses with Doris Santoro ways that morale can be revitalized. When teachers are constantly being told what they are doing wrong without being told the correct way, it is demoralizing. Santoro suggests school leadership bring teachers together to problem solve for the well-being of the students. She also suggests looking to unions for community and collaboration.
So what does a teacher do in the midst of discouragement, fatigue, and demoralization?
- Change your mood
You’ve probably heard the saying that laughter is the best medicine. An intense power struggle with a student can often crumble with a joke (especially if you teach middle school!). Recognize your frustration and deliberately choose to shift the mood. Try to find the humor in the situation! Check out Bored Teachers for inspiration.
- Try something new
If you are having fun, your students probably will, too. If you are passionate about the content, share it with them. If you are not passionate about the lesson, go on a quest to make it more fun. The internet has so many ideas! Attend a conference, take a professional development course, or ask a fellow teacher how they approach the subject. Make the learning meaningful for the students by using real-world examples.
- Hold students responsible
Give your students choice. Help them chart their learning levels and set goals for themselves. Revisit those goals and progress regularly.
- Take care of yourself.
Exercise (take a walk in the outdoors! You know…that place outside the walls of your classroom and home). Give yourself a bedtime and stick to it. Eat your veggies and fruit. Drink water. Each healthy step will help you tackle the bigger problems inside and outside of the classroom.
Dear teacher, here’s a well-deserved virtual high five. Your dedication to your students makes all the difference. You invest in the future before and after the bell rings. Thank you for all that you do!
Do you have any advice to deal with teacher burnout? Comment below with your suggestions!