I don’t know about you, but this winter has been incredibly hard on me. We have had snow on the ground for 3 months now and the kids and myself are having a major issue of spring fever. This has led to an increase in behavior problems and we are all starting to go a bit crazy! Teacher burnout is real. It starts to happen about this time every school year and for some teachers this is when you start counting down how many days until summer break. Teachers need that break to recharge our batteries and come back ready to tackle another year and group of kids. It is amazing the difference in a building at the beginning of a new school year compared to this time of year. Teachers feel overwhelmed with the amount of work on their plates and making sure they get everything taught before state testing comes around. Student behavior seems to rise at this time and it just seems that life gets busier and crazier. What can we do to keep ourselves from burning out and finishing the year strong rather than limping by?
I think there are 5 core things to remember:
- Time is our most valuable asset. No matter how often we wish we could add more hours in the day, there are only 24 hours in each day. We cannot add or take away from that. It is steady and constant, never changing. Therefore we need to realize our time is important. You cannot make up lost time. Look at how you are spending your time. Are there things you can cut from your schedule to create more free time? Often we get bogged down with feeling overwhelmed and not enough time to do things at this point in the year. Can you take some things off your plate? Are the things you are doing really worth it? If I stop and analyze how I spend my time and look at it through the filter of, is it really worth my time, it is amazing how many things don’t seem all that important that I do.
- We can’t manage time, only opportunities. While reading our read aloud book the other day it brought up the point that time doesn’t stop and a student made the connection to an episode of Grey’s Anatomy where Meredith’s mom references a carrousel and how the carrousel doesn’t stop turning, just like life. We can’t stop life from happening around us, but we can choose what we make of it.
- It is true, you can’t do everything! If you are anything like me, you want to try and do everything and do it well. Unfortunately, we just can’t do everything and oftentimes when we try to do everything, we either can’t do any of it well or burn out so fast and then stop doing any of it. It is OK to say NO. I’ve been asked to be on a lot of committees in my career and I oftentimes will agree and then by this time of year, am burned out. It is hard for me to say no and to not feel like I am letting people down by saying those 2 little letters, but I gotta tell you, it is freeing when you can. You aren’t going to be able to try every new idea. You aren’t going to get every student to mastery on every single standard. You aren’t going to make every single parent happy AND THAT IS OK!
- There’s cumulative value in investing small amounts of time over a long period. I wish I had the time to spend talking to every single student each day and really digging deep into what is going on in their life. But with 90 students in 3 rotations, there just isn’t enough time. Realize that the hug or the kind smile, the encouraging words, even if just a few a day, build up over time to become worth even more than one 5 minute conversation. You are a season in a student’s life and what you do with them in that one year will build to help them someday become a successful person. You might not see it now, but you do make a difference. Remember that.
- Decide what is most important to you as a teacher and then remind yourself daily what that is. For me this year it is to help my students become people who will be successful at life and make a positive change in the world. I try and say this daily to my students. It has become my mantra. It reminds me of why I am a teacher and why I need to not throw in the towel when the going gets tough. I try and look at everything that I do through this lens. If what I am doing doesn’t somehow fit into my mantra, I decide it is not worth my time and don’t pursue it. Don’t stress the small things that can’t be changed. Focus on what is important to you and all else falls to the side. Remember why you became a teacher and remind yourself daily about it. This will recharge you and help keep the goal in sight.
While these 5 core concepts help us remember and put things into perspective, there are 2 things we MUST always DO.
Always make time for renewal. Whatever it is that renews you, make time for it. You will be so happy that you did and I guarantee you won’t feel that it was a waste of time. Don’t feel guilty for taking time to re energize yourself. If you don’t, you will burn out.Remember that hobby you used to enjoy, pick it up again. That book you have been wanting to read, read it. Go running, exercise, walk your dog. It won’t happen if you don’t purposefully make time to do it. To bring back the old Nike phrase, “Just do it!”
Always make time for relationships. Often one of the first things that suffer when we are overwhelmed and stressed is our relationships with others. Whether it is your family, co workers or students, those relationships are important. By nature, we are relational creatures. You are not an island and standing alone. Share, talk, discuss. It does matter. You are not in it alone. I guarantee others feel similar to you and it helps to share each other’s burdens. Build each other up and encourage. It can change your whole perspective. Find a buddy teacher who you can chat with and share what is going on whether it is school related or not. Don’t isolate yourself.