What is Teacher Burnout?
Teacher burnout is an emotional feeling that teachers get when they feel all the usual personal and professional resources they muster are not enough to uphold the high standards they have for meeting the needs of their students. It can last for a week, several months, or even lead to a teacher seeking a new profession.
Are You Burned Out?
It’s March and educators are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, a glimmer more commonly called summer vacation. But that also means there are almost three months remaining in the school year – months that will include 24/7 attention to the needs of your students, continued parent frustration – and depending on your district – non-existent district support.
Burnout is not only seasonal, it can be cumulative. After teaching the same content for several years in a row or perennially being an administrator at the same school, educators can easily experience burnout. Are you feeling the symptoms of burnout?
Is There Anything We Can Do?
According to the website ChiefExecutive and research they did with industry leaders, there are a number of small actions someone can take to reduce the factors that contribute to burnout. Here are the Top 5 tips they shared to reduce stress and burnout. ThinkFives adapted these for teachers.
Acknowledge Your Burnout
Perhaps the most important tip of all is this: Anyone who feels like they are close to hitting burnout must allow themselves to admit it. According to business psychologist Russell Thackeray, “you can’t improve what you won’t acknowledge.” You must take this first step to regain the sense of passion you once had.
It is easy for a teacher to mislabel or ignore burnout. Some will say, “Teaching is always a difficult job so what is new?” or “I can’t think about myself when I should be thinking about my students” or “There’s nothing I can do about it anyway.”
Realizing burnout is a real emotional condition and can affect a teacher anytime in their first to their 40th year.
Meet with Your Colleagues
“Physical isolation leads to depression, which can ultimately lead to burnout,” says Thackeray. “Being able to associate and network with [other teachers] can help bring clarity to issues as well as provide an outlet for a social connection.”
In other words, you are not alone.
Teachers love the fact that they can close a classroom door and work directly and independently with their own students. But once that door closes they also minimize contact with colleagues and other adults. Socializing with other teachers, sharing the frustrations you often feel, or just having a colleague listen to your story, will help.
Some counselors also advise setting aside time that focuses on non-school issues. Forming a book club, a cooking group or just casually sharing water cooler topics can also minimize isolation.
Greg Brenneman, Lead Director at Home Depot, preaches that burnout employees neglect faith, family, and fitness at their own risk. “Live life holistically through good and bad times. People who do that have a different aura about them, a different way of carrying themselves and keeping things in perspective.”
Ask yourself the question, what do I do with my evenings after dinner? My Saturday afternoons? My Sundays? If the answer to those questions doesn’t include a healthy balance of faith, family, and fitness, you may have – or be spiraling towards burnout.
Repair Your Schedule
Related to rebalancing yourself is repairing your schedule. If there is no time for “you” then how can you rebalance yourself. Cesar Herrera, CEO of Yuvo Health, says his mental health starts with his calendar. “I’m very intentional with it, or it will rule my life versus the other way around,” he says. “I work out each day between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m., and I make it incredibly clear to everyone on my team at all levels that no one can take that time away from me.”
Is that possible for a teacher? We hope it may be but we are skeptical. With an early start to a school day – and for many – the need to wake and get a family on its way, we do not have the luxury of Cesar’s “no one can take that away from me.” But his point is still well taken. Some teachers use their lunch break for a walk. Others coach or block out an hour after work. Some can wait until the children are asleep and then read.
Whatever your choice, you do need to block that time and be diligent about protecting it.
Care for Yourself
Sitting at #1 on our list of tips to reduce burnout is taking care of #1 – yourself. That may seem like common-sense advice, but many of us “haven’t been prioritizing putting on their own oxygen masks first through self-care and restoration,” says Teresa Hopke, CEO for the Americas of Talking Talent, an executive-coaching firm. “You can’t pour from an empty cup, so the impact of self-neglect is that they have nothing left to give others or themselves.”
The bare minimum: getting enough rest, maintaining proper nutrition and providing dedicated time for exercise and meditation. And for teachers this may be very difficult so it will need active attention. Carving out that time for yourself and not feeling guilty about it is paramount for your re-charging.
Perhaps providing yourself with a treat or pick-me-up could help. ThinkFives created this list of teacher pick-me-ups that might give you a few ideas.
You deserve it!
Do you have a suggestion for your colleagues to reduce burnout?