Teacher burnout is a REAL thing! Teaching can be stressful, wonderful, rewarding, scary, devastating and awesome! I have felt all of these emotions over my 23 year career; sometimes all in one day! I have seen many teachers leave the profession after a few years because they have not handled these emotions. If you are reading this, you are a GREAT teacher. We need you, the students need you. Find a way to avoid the BURNOUT!
What are some reasons for teacher burnout?
Not getting enough support.
In my state of New Jersey, we have a mandatory mentoring program for new teachers. There are state rules and requirements for the mentor to follow and it includes keeping a log book, meeting with your mentee teacher and observing them in their classroom. In addition, in my district, we have required after school trainings that both teachers attend together throughout the year on many different topics. Finally, my principal always seems to choose a mentor with a similar discipline to the mentee.
Testing, Testing, Testing.
The pressures of testing are HUGE, especially if you are working in a district that has had substandard results in the past. You will hear in faculty meeting after faculty meeting how important it is to “Get Those Test Scores Up!” We are all working as hard as we can, but we have NO control over what our students bring to school with them every day. No breakfast, no sleep the night before, parents fighting or parents working their 2nd or 3rd job, no emphasis on education, siblings taking care of siblings and more. When test scores are being tied to evaluations, a teacher can feel helpless to change anything.
Data, Data, Data.
Special education teachers are used to collecting and reviewing data, some more than others. But now general education teachers are being asked to take data, input data, analyze data and use data to drive instruction. But our students aren’t machines. When you have taught a student something amazing, but it is not quantifiable, does it still count? Well of course it does, but not to the people writing your evaluation! That can really be demoralizing.
“You only work 10 months a year. You have the summers off. I pay your salary. You only…you only…you only. It makes you want to scream. Not many people outside of education can run a classroom for one day not to mention 180 days. A teacher once had an infection; the doctor said “drink a gallon of water a day and…”. The teacher stopped the doctor and said, “I can’t do that. I can go to the bathroom at 9:06, 12:02 and 2:30.” The doctor was incredulous. “Just go to the bathroom whenever you have to.” The teacher said, “I can’t. It’s against the law for me to leave the classroom.” It took the teacher months to clear up the infection.
Here are 10 quick tips to help handle the ups and downs of teaching:
1. Take a personal day here and there. You will know when you need one. Take it and have a day to yourself! Absolutely NO school related activities.
2. Talk to other colleagues; they are going through the same things as you! Commiserate!
3. Laugh and laugh often. It really does solve a lot of woes!
4. Plan, plan and plan. If you are prepared and not saving things forthe last minute, you will reduce stress!
5. Have fun with your students; don’t be so serious all of the time! Enjoy getting to know them!
6. Count down the last days of school in class, it makes it go fast!
7. Keep a great letter from a parent or student nearby to read when you are down. It picks you UP!
8. Take a break from the teacher’s room. When you hear “IT” over and over again, it can pile on top of you and really weigh you down. Eat lunch somewhere else for a few weeks.
9. Pay It Forward by doing something nice to pick up the morale of another teacher. Making someone else feel better, does wonders for our own psyche.
10. Once a day, close your eyes, think about your “Happy Place”. Go there in your mind for just a few minutes and step away from your classroom. You will be re-charged and ready to go!
What are some ways that you have found to avoid teacher burnout?
Kristyn Corace has been teaching students with special needs for 23 years at Thorne Middle School, a public middle school in Middletown, New Jersey. Her class is called a Multiple Disabilities class and she has students with Down syndrome, autism, communication disabilities, general cognitive impairments, physical disabilities and more. The focus of her class is independence! Kristyn and her staff of paraprofessionals work daily to help her students learn valuable life skills, make personal choices and communicate verbally, with Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices (AAC) and sign language. It is important for Kristyn to teach her students in the community as well. The students practice their skills in the real-world every month on Community Based Instruction (CBI) trips! You can follow Kristyn on Twitter: @MrsCorace.