5 Tips for Avoiding Teacher Burnout

Teacher burnout is a legitimate worry for education majors who question whether they can endure the daily toil of instructing classrooms filled with PreK-12 students. Burnout is an all-too-common occurrence in the teaching field that’s causing widespread attention. According to NPR, 8 percent of teachers, nearly 250,000 professionals, leave the profession yearly. This could be partly due to paltry wages that are around 20 percent less than other college-level jobs. Yet, most abandon their teaching interests because of taxing work conditions and building pressures to excel on standardized tests. As disconcerting teacher shortages rise, it’s more important to prepare education graduates for the rigorous responsibility. Here are five teaching survival tips for new and veteran educators to avoid burnout.

1. Establish Good Work-Life Balance

Many teachers make the mistake of bringing home backpacks bursting with their own “homework” and spend their evenings grading papers or writing lessons. Working round-the-clock is a surefire way to become burned out. Make your home a sanctuary where you can unwind, enjoy family time, and participate in hobbies. Most teachers do their best work early, so arrive to school well before the first bell to catch up on assignments and emails. Try to plan for the following week by Friday to maximize your weekend vacation too.

2. Share the Workload with Fellow Teachers

Feeling overwhelmed is one reason why teachers’ work can spill over into their family life. Reduce your burden by forming collaborative teams with colleagues who teach the same grade level. Teachers can share creative ideas for lessons together and assign similar projects. In elementary schools, some teachers will even group students to switch courses for science or social studies to worry over less content. Burnout is less likely when teachers feel embraced in a supportive, collaborative school community.

3. Inject Fun into Lesson Plans Daily

Reading straight from wordy, unenthusiastic textbooks will leave both teachers and students feeling bored. Throwing out routine lessons for more engaging learning activities can lead to smiles all around. Laughing is contagious, so don’t be afraid to lighten up. Teaching websites like Jumpstart are packed with ideas like crafts, science experiments, math games, and interactive videos to shake up stale lessons. Perhaps taking an online course or watching a TED talk will provide strategies to keep your teaching strategies fresh.

4. Take Mental Health Days Off

Banking lots of sick and vacation days won’t pay off if you suddenly develop teacher burnout. Use some time whenever you’re feeling overly fatigued and unmotivated to recharge your batteries. Teachers can spend the day taking rejuvenating naps, getting some cardio exercise to burn off stress, treating themselves to spa services, or simply shifting their mind with a good book. If you’re unable to take a day off, at least take a half hour to slow down and breathe fresh air before powering on.

5. Practice Mindful Meditation

Since ancient times, mindful meditation has been a go-to de-stressing practice for individuals to improve their mental health, self-confidence, and concentration. Psychologists often suggest mind-body reflection for teachers to enhance their job performance with renewed patience. Johns Hopkins research indicates that the effects of meditation even rival antidepressants. Use classroom breaks to close your eyes, focus on every inhale and exhale, and scan your body for tension. At home, create a quiet nook with some calming music to erase your thoughts for mindfulness.

Teaching is one of the most physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding jobs, but it’s also extremely rewarding. Landmark research from Harvard found that having just one excellent teacher between fourth and eighth grade boosts students’ future average income by $4,600! Take time to remind yourself that your hard work is helping children grow and celebrate small victories in pupils’ progress. Having a positive outlook is perhaps the best way to avoid the anxiety and exhaustion of teacher burnout.

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