Teacher burnout is real and happens frequently to teachers in any year of teaching. It is not just a first five years phenomenon. I have definitely felt the symptoms of teacher burnout in my career, and I have seen colleagues ignore their symptoms.
I have compiled a list of home and school strategies you can try to help you avoid teacher burnout.
- Take a personal day. Read your contract and see what days you are permitted to use.
- Know your district contract and grading policies. There are a lot of myths circulating about teaching. Read your contract and know your obligations. Also, find your districts grading policies about how many marks you actually have to have for each unit. You might be pleasantly surprised.
- SAY NO unless it aligns with your passions. Every year teachers are expected to plan amazing lessons as well as coach every club, team and interest group that students want. This is not an attainable system. Select one of two extras that align with your passions. Say NO to anything else.
- Set a schedule and stick to it. Set an alarm in your phone for the time you want to leave school each day. Set the alarm and leave when it goes off. 7pm is not a reasonable alarm time.
- Plan out your prep time with specific tasks. I schedule tasks that I want to complete during my planning time. That way I have a focus and don’t waste it replying to emails.
- Relax. Sometimes you just need to relax on your prep time or lunch break and that’s OK.
- Pick a late day or early morning. Decide what day each week you can arrive to school early or stay late and get things done. I stay late one day a week to catch up on all the things that pile up. This allows me to not feel guilty when I leave each day.
- Work Smarter, Not Harder. Use assignment checklists, highlight feedback on a pre-written feedback sheet, use one point rubrics, limit descriptive feedback to 2 stars, 1 wish. The current education trend is to write a novel of descriptive feedback. Students cannot focus on all those next steps. Select one to two keys areas of improvement and comment on those. Read more here and here.
- Stop writing long tests and quizzes. Use entrance and exit cards as assessment. This provides a homework check, a mark for your markbook and check for understanding to help focus your future lessons and extra help sessions. Try this daily check-in tool.
- Leave work at school on Friday nights. Don’t bring homework every weekend, and make a commitment to NEVER bring work home on long weekends and holiday breaks.
- Make a list of EVERYTHING that needs to get done. Then make a plan for each task and put it away. Dwelling on your to-do list only makes it worse. Decide on which day each task can get done and put it in your phone or paper calendar.
- Ask for help. This might mean asking for cleaning services gift cards for presents or asking someone to babysit your children so you can get work done. I run a home business – this blog and my Teachers Pay Teachers store so I recognize the value of asking and hiring people to help you when needed. I cannot function as an island.
- Schedule relaxation time. Seriously – put this in your calendar and stick to it. You might reserve Friday and Saturday nights for any task that is not related to home upkeep or school and watch Hallmark movies or read a good book. A teacher cannot pour from an empty cup.
- Make non-teacher friends. Join a club, team or organization NOT related to teaching. Make friends with these new people who won’t all be busy during the same times of the year as you. Plan short coffee dates with your new friends.
- Spend time with animals. Don’t have a pet? Borrow a friend’s dog to walk or offer to cat sit. Can’t find a real animal? Watch Goat Babies in Pajamas.
- Exercise. For the longest time, I avoided exercise claiming I was “too busy”. Then I got really sick, and now I realize if I don’t exercise now I am telling my future self that she does not matter. I love walking in the mall or in my neighborhood. I also doing exercise videos from YouTube. Check out the Yoga With Adriene channel.
- Plan Ahead. I know when my busiest school seasons are exams, testing, reports, field trips and I make sure to plan out my meals ahead of time. I use a slow cooker and Instant Pot meals as well as freezer meals to get me through these busy times. I am also careful not to book too many social commitments during these times as I know my energy is devoted to working. Check out my 5 Quick Dinner Ideas for Teachers blog post.
- Schedule a monthly friend date and don’t break it. I get breakfast with a friend then buy my groceries.
Looking for more strategies? Check out this Twitter Chat recap article where real teachers share their Tips for Avoiding Teacher Burnout.