How to Cope with Teacher Burnout
Recent studies show that one in four teachers are experiencing burnout and leave the field each year. It happens over time as things begin to weigh on you and finally you hit the point of no return.
There is no question that teachers who get burned out are great at what they do. They often care the most, put in the hours, and will do anything to meet the needs of their students. But is there a way to prevent it?
I did a little research and found the most common reasons stress or burnout may occur and several ways to cope or avoid it altogether.
Why burnout may happen
It’s important to recognize why burnout may happen so we can understand how to deal with it.
Feeling over committed
Teachers often take work home and feel like more and more keeps getting added to their plate.
Teaching students who do not seem motivated to learn or are always causing discipline issues is stressful. Teachers want to make a difference by teaching and it’s easy to become frustrated when you feel like you can’t.
Lack of administrator support
Teachers know what their students need, but do their voices ever get heard? Feeling a lack of control over school decisions that affect their teaching and their students leads to extreme frustration and a quick road to burnout.
Little time to relax
Teachers deserve time throughout the day to catch up with co-workers and create a fun personable work environment, or take a break to refresh. But all too often there is no time to do that.
Feeling pressure to teach a certain way
Many teachers are feeling the pressure to change their teaching approach in order to meet the needs of certain standards, such as Common Core.
How to cope with burnout
Now that we know some of the reasons burnout can occur, here are ways to cope or avoid it altogether.
Set boundaries and stick to them
Home life and work life seems to blend together during the school year. To help with this, every Sunday plan out your week and do your best to stick to it. For example: plan what time to leave school each day. Plan when you will have time for “you” activities (exercise, dinner with friends), plan the times you are allowed to do work at home.
The number one goal here is sticking to your schedule and being focused. When you plan to grade papers at home, get it done as efficiently as possible with little distractions so it doesn’t take any longer than you planned it to. When you plan to leave school at a certain time, don’t leave an hour later. Of course there will be those days when a student really needs your help or a last minute conversation with a colleague happens, but remember you are worth taking time for too.
Focus on the positive
When you have one student with behavioral issues or who is extremely unmotivated, it’s easy to forget you have 25 well behaved students. Stick to your disciplinary action guidelines you put forth in the beginning of the year and stay focused on the majority of students who do want to be there.
Talk about it
If you are not getting the support you need, have a constructive conversation with administration. Let them know the problem and provide solutions or ways that will help put you in a position to thrive.
If your colleagues have similar frustrations, work together to find solutions that will create a better work environment.
Try something new
Teaching a certain way to fulfill standards like Common Core is going to take compromise. When you can, experiment with new activities in the classroom. Ask colleagues for suggestions on techniques they use and see if you may be able to implement them with your students. Sometimes a little change is good and can refresh your spirit and the motivation within your students.
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight and it is key to recognize the situations and ways stress can create it before it actually happens. Make sure to set clear boundaries, stay positive, work with administration to help serve you and your students, and last but not least – carve time out for yourself.
Resources that helped me write this article:
an Richards (2012): Teacher Stress and Coping Strategies: A National Snapshot, The Educational Forum, 76:3, 299-316.
Janelle Cox: Classroom Management: Teacher Burnout Causes & Prevention, TeachHub.
About the Author: Mike Marsteller is a youth motivational speaker helping teens and young adults be more resilient and find purpose in life. To learn more about Mr. Marsteller, visit his official website