It’s already summertime and most teachers are probably on vacation. Whereas the term “vacation” usually implies lying on the beach and enjoying your mojito, in the world of a conscientious teacher, that would likely mean resting on your couch and, simultaneously, immersing yourself in Pinterest for innovative ideas as to how to decorate your classroom next year or attending this new and promising seminar to better handle students with learning disabilities. On top of that, let’s not mention the necessity to actually take care of your household chores more diligently and, of course, spend more quality time with your family, which was pretty much neglected in the past nine months. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? And this is just their vacation.
Since professional burnout has been officially acknowledged as a mental condition, more and more people are alleviated to know that what they are experiencing is not their fault and that there are a whole lot more reasons why this is happening to them besides the guilt of not feeling good enough.
Admittedly, all kinds of professions entail feelings of stress and anxiety making them hard to dispel no matter how hardworking or methodical one might be. Teaching is, undeniably, one of the most demanding and stressful occupations rendering burnout unavoidable. Thankfully, though, there are ways to actually realize that teaching and burnout do not necessarily go hand in hand. Here are a few things to consider when burnout seems to be knocking on your door:
Meditation is one of the most effective ways to deal with feelings of anxiety and despair. Every time you feel that the conditions of your job seem to be taking over and stealing the passion of doing what you love the most, take a deep breath and remind yourself of your sacred purpose. Thankfully, meditation comes in many forms and is, actually, more than just doing yoga. Going for a walk, lying on the bed simply to clear your mind or journaling might be the thing for you. It is also essential to adopt some kind of morning or night ritual-whatever works best for you- as a standard form of meditation on a daily basis. That should contribute a lot to relax and handle your responsibilities more effectively.
2. Avoid perfectionism
A teacher genuinely wishes to do their best in order to help even the most struggling students to reach their full potentials. Unfortunately, this noble stance usually concludes to the adoption of its negative connotation, which is no other than perfectionism. No matter how hard we may try, we should always remember that Rome wasn’t built within a day and that baby steps are required by both the teacher and the student in order to make progress. Some days are better and some are worse than expected; either way, it is important to acknowledge that progress is actually being made, no matter how small it may be, and that should be enough to celebrate it and not ruin it by being grumpy that it is not perfect.
3. Work smart
Every teacher knows that lesson plans are part and parcel among the countless responsibilities we are shouldered throughout the year. Make sure that your lesson plans are realistic and succinct. There is no need to incorporate more than what can actually be handled within a specific period of time because, at the end of the day, you will be left feeling grumpy and disappointed for not being able to cover what you expected that, with a little magic or luck, would have been accomplished. Instead, the only thing you will accomplish with unrealistic lesson plans will be the precipitation of burnout. You don’t want that, do you?
4. The less homework, the better
Let’s face it. No matter how exhausting teaching might occasionally seem due to the fact that working with children, most of which may lack discipline, makes us feel overwhelmed, this is not the crucial reason why teaching burnout occurs. It is all the work done at home, spending endless hours correcting threatening piles of homework. Yet, despite adding to the already heavy workload you have, how effective is homework for the progress of your students? According to research, assigning less homework has proven to be more efficacious as students actually achieve better grades as a direct effect of adopting a more positive attitude towards learning. So, instead of assigning too much homework, knowing that it contributes not only to your potential burnout but also to the degradation of the learning procedure, consider making a change. For example, it would be a thrilling idea to incorporate more projects within the teaching period instead of assigning essays as homework.
5. Effective collaboration with parents
No one finds emails more dreadful or intimidating than teachers. Even the thought of being online only to see the countless demands of anxious or, even worse, angry parents of your students will definitely not make your day. Even though it is in your nature to justify their constant concerns over their offspring’s progress, you should set limits as to when they should expect a reply. Therefore, it would be a good idea to start the next year by letting them know that. Of course, it is also your responsibility to stick to that timeframe and make no exceptions unless it is a matter of life and death situation.
6. Rely on a helping hand
When things seem to get out of control, it is a good thing to let people help you. Sometimes, the best help you can get is to know that someone is willing to listen to you and that you can express whatever makes you feel suffocated. Be it your supportive partner or your teacher buddy or even a therapist, being able to talk to someone you trust automatically reduces the suppression that’s drowning you. Besides, the listener can also share a piece of useful advice which could help you sort things out more objectively.
7. Everything in moderation
Burnout can definitely be prevented if we have in mind that everything in life should be in moderation. No one should ignore the importance of self-care or even the luxury of leisure time activities which can uplift the spirit. There is always time to do a creative hobby instead of feeling trapped in the vicious cycle of the endless responsibilities of our job. Actually, when time is devoted to a hobby, then we have the courage and energy to accomplish all our to-do-lists much more effectively.
8. Reap the benefits of your blessed job
Last but not least, every time you feel desperate, check on the lovely notes your students have given you and feel the love you receive on a daily basis. Decorate a box in which you can store all the little presents and letters with words of appreciation from your students, as well as all the photos from the field trips and outdoor projects you have attended throughout the years. The recollections of those memorable experiences should be enough to provide you with the courage to move on, knowing that this job is more than just grades and paperwork.
Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.