More and more teachers are battling teacher burnout. If you suspect you might be one of them, I’m glad you’re here. Learn nine effective tips for battling teacher burnout.
Battling teacher burnout or feeling like you’re on the brink of your breaking point? While teaching can be incredibly rewarding, it can also be insanely draining.
We can’t deny that teaching is a stressful job. We’re often juggling all of the responsibilities and expectations. Yet, it seems like overworking ourselves is just “part of the job,” right? It’s as if we believe overworking proves we care about our students.
In reality, caring about ourselves more (and, finding ways to work a little less) is the key to battling teacher burnout. And while there’s a lot of “fluff” out there to help with teacher burnout (insert eye roll here), this post provides nine effective tips for battling teaching burnout.
What is Teacher Burnout?
Teacher burnout is more than having a bad day or feeling a little stressed. Burnout refers to chronic stress that weighs you down day after day. It’s work-related anxiety that impacts you in your career and often seeps into your life. It’s when those “first-year jitters” come back year after year and that promised notion that “it will get easier” never seems to come. Over time, teacher burnout can impact your physical or mental health—or both.
At the end of the day, teacher burnout can creep in even if you absolutely love your job. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-year teacher or a well-seasoned veteran, all teachers are susceptible to teacher burnout.
Nine Effective Tips for Battling Teacher Burnout
When it comes to battling teacher burnout, there might be things you cannot control. However, there are a lot of things you can. And those things just might be the key to you battling teacher burnout—or even avoiding it altogether.
Here are my favorite tips for battling teacher burnout that actually work:
1. Set Boundaries
Too many teachers have little to no work-life balance. Between late-night planning late and grading over the weekend, they hardly have any time for their friends, family, or even themselves!
If work-life balance is a struggle for you, it’s time to set clear boundaries. Maybe that means no grading on the weekends or no working after 5 PM. Maybe it’s telling yourself that the lesson you used last year (or that you just found online) is fine just the way it is—no extra work necessary. Remind yourself that the extra hours you work do not determine your value as a teacher. You don’t care about your students any less if you spend your free time doing other things you love and spending time with other people who bring you joy. Yes, you can enjoy relaxing evenings and have fun on the weekends and still be a phenomenal teacher.
2. Say “No” When Needed
Yes, teachers have many responsibilities. However, we tend to continue adding more and more to our plates, often voluntarily. Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s because it feels like it’s the expectation. However, those perceived expectations are pushing teachers closer and closer to burnout.
If you’re already struggling with work-life balance, it’s time you learn to say NO. Most teachers love to lend a helping hand—after all; we’re not in it for the pay. However, remember you only have two hands. Once those hands are full, you need to think long and hard before you accept any additional responsibilities. The bottom line is that you’re not a bad teacher for knowing when you need to say no. However, if you’re afraid of being rude or dismissive, simply say, “I wish I could help, but I have too much on my plate right now.”
3. Make Time for Self-Care
Let me be clear—I’m not talking about taking a random day off or getting a one-time massage. Although both sound great, they likely won’t help with teacher burnout.
When I talk about self-care, I’m talking about making self-care part of your routine. Making it something you practice daily or weekly. For some, that means attending a weekly yoga class or going for daily walks. For others, it might mean diving into a hobby or cuddling up with a good book. Whatever you do, make sure it is the right self-care for you. Still, regularly check in with yourself to audit your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. After all, if you’re not showing up for yourself, how do you expect to show up for others?
4. Prioritize Your Health
Stress can wreak havoc on your body and immune system. If you’re battling teacher burnout, you might notice you feel sluggish or run down. You could experience regular headaches or notice you’re getting sick more than usual. Therefore, in addition to practicing self-care, it’s essential to prioritize your health.
Prioritizing your health includes incorporating regular exercise and getting enough sleep each night. It also means giving yourself grace when you’re feeling under the weather. I know it’s easier to come to school feeling ill than worrying about sub plans and unruly student behavior. However, pushing yourself too far will likely just prolong your symptoms, making you even more miserable in the end. Make your life easier by having some ready-to-go sub plans that you can use anytime during the year. Independent reading activities, grammar reviews, and creative writing, for example, can come in handy anytime.
5. Prioritize Your Work-Related Responsibilities
Speaking of prioritizing, the concept applies to your work-related responsibilities, too. We both know there will always be something you *could* be doing. However, you simply can’t get to it all at once—and that’s okay. (You’re only human.)
Of course, there will always be tasks you have to do within a certain timeframe (report cards, grading essays, responding to emails, etc.). However, I’d be willing to bet that you also have about a million other things on your to-do list. Suddenly, you feel like you’re behind before you even begin, right? Take a look at your (never-ending) to-do list and prioritize the most important responsibilities. Then, be okay with setting aside the rest until the most important things get done.
It can help to write down your priorities, so you know where to hone your focus. I suggest making a chart to organize tasks into three categories:
- Need to do ASAP
- Need to do soon
- Want to do–if I have time
6. Simplify Your Planning
Lesson planning takes up much of a teacher’s time (especially outside of contract hours). When it comes to lesson planning, don’t make things more complicated than needed. For example, do you really need to revamp that lesson from last year, or is it fine the way it is? Of course, there might be times when you need to plan new lessons or tweak old ones. Be sure to focus on the elements that matter most. Will your students care if it doesn’t look “Pinterest perfect?” Probably not. Think about what matters most for your student’s success and focus your attention there.
Additionally, you can streamline your lesson planning by creating daily or weekly routines. I’m not saying you have to do the same thing day in and day out, but it might make planning easier if you know you do in-class reading every Monday, use Wednesdays for quizzes, and assign group work on Fridays. Besides, a strong sense of structure will help your students succeed too. As you and your students get into the rhythm, there will be less stress for all—hooray!
7. Reconsider Your Approach to Grading
Another thing that takes up much of a teacher’s time is grading. For most teachers, grading is an unavoidable pain in the butt. While you can’t toss grading out the window, there are some strategies you can use to streamline and simplify this dreaded must-do.
My first tip is to narrow down what you have to grade. Do you really have to grade that homework assignment or bell ringer? (Probably not.) Instead, you could grade one homework assignment a week or an occasional bell ringer to keep students accountable. Next, think about how you’re grading. For example, are there ways to grade your essays faster while still being effective? Can you fill out a rubric for quick yet qualitative feedback? Have you ever considered letting the students grade their own work?
8. Practice Perspective
Teaching can be emotionally draining, and it’s easy to feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. (Ouch!) Over time, that pressure is enough to break anyone’s back. So, what can you do if that’s how you’re starting to feel?
Practice putting things into perspective. Remember, you can only control what you can control. You can’t control if a student is having a bad day. You can’t make a failing student turn in their work. How a parent responds to you is more of a reflection of their character than yours. When it all feels like too much, take a step back and remember that you are only human, and you’re doing the best you can.
9. Ask for Help When Needed
I don’t know where this notion of shame around getting help came from, but I’m so over it. Seeking help isn’t something to be ashamed of, nor is it a sign of weakness. Instead, it’s a form of self-care. So, if you’re battling teacher burnout, ask for help.
Asking for help might mean reaching out to a trusted mentor or seeking advice from a co-worker. It could be turning to family and friends for a vent session. In more severe cases, if teacher burnout significantly impacts your well-being, it might be time to reach out to a therapist—and there’s no shame in that, either.
The longer teacher burnout festers, the bigger the implications. In some cases, it can lead to feelings of helplessness and cynicism. You might find yourself experiencing career dissatisfaction or a general sense of unhappiness. Worse, teacher burnout can lead to a desire to leave the profession altogether. That’s why recognizing it and learning strategies for battling teacher burnout are vital.
It’s a great reminder of why positive communities for teachers like this are so important. As always, we’re stronger together. If you have additional tips for battling teacher burnout, please share them in a comment below!