Educators of every kind know about the daily need to avoid teacher burnout. If you teach you know the workload, the schedules, and the expectations are full on. Thus, your welfare and confidence to get the job done is key to a school environment that's beneficial for everyone.
In the article Why Good Teachers Quit, teacher Kay Bisaillon suggests that teacher burnout is more common in schools than we might think:
"I know teacher burnout is a common issue among very good educators. This is what worries me. There are amazing teachers, young and old, veterans and rookies, who are starting to eye the exit door. These teachers feel overworked, underpaid, undervalued, deflated, and emotionally and physically exhausted."
Since teachers are caregivers, they sometimes need encouragement (read permission) to participate in activities that are directed at self-care. However, that permission has to come from one person, which is yourself. No matter what, don't wait for it from someone else.
We all know that teaching is one of the most stressful jobs in the world. With this in mind, how can we encourage health and tranquility among our teachers?
10 Ways to Avoid Teacher Burnout
- Get a Guide
- Mind the Externals
- Live Life
- Go for a Walk
- Seek Inspiration
- Laugh a Little
- Ask for Help
- Stop Winging It
- Stick to Your Guns
- Understand Your Role
How do we best avoid teacher burnout? Hopefully these tips will get you started.
- Get a Guide—A staff that knows they have somewhere to turn and a principal that cares enough for them to institute a wellness program has high morale and low teacher stress. Draw upon the expertise of your guidance counselors and have them provide strategies in stress management.
- Mind the Externals—Pay careful attention to the physical environment. Having the appropriate lighting can affect your mood considerably. For example, artificial fluorescent lighting can cause more adverse effects on us compared to the feeling of warm sunlight. Faulty lights and dim hallways can also have a subconscious negative impact on your and your learners' energy. Teacher morale is positively affected by facilities that are clean and in good working order.
- Live Life—Teachers expect so much of themselves that they often fail to acknowledge they have lives at home. This is reflected in policies regarding teacher leave and support for substitutes. It also addresses the attention given to life moments such as weddings, family emergencies, home issues, newborn babies, and so on. Teachers absolutely must have time for their lives outside of school to avoid teacher burnout. Furthermore, the schools they work in must facilitate this properly.
- Go for a Walk—Sounds simple, doesn't it? Even so, there is a reason why this is still one of the most therapeutic activities around. Get some walk time in, preferably in the sun. Too much exposure to fluorescent lighting or dim closed-in places can wreak havoc on your psyche.
- Seek Inspiration—Get to know the inspiring teachers and role models in your school. If you don’t have a like-minded colleague who's as passionate and joyful about teaching as you, make it a point to find someone. If you can’t find them in school, then send them an email. Open dialogues with people who can make a positive impact on your personal and professional growth.
- Laugh a Little—Learning is supposed to be fun, so laugh and incorporate humour with a purpose. If you’re not having fun, then do something about it. Even if you’re not the comedian type, doing something out of the ordinary could indelibly etch any lesson into your students’ brains.
- Ask for Help—Delegate to students and willing parents so you can build up student leaders and establish constructive rapport with parents. This can work on a smaller scale just by teaching students to own their environment and have a hand in its care.
- Stop Winging It—Plan, plan, and plan some more. Numerous tools out there such as Asana, Basecamp, and Chalk can help you do that. Come in early to walk the room, meditate, bless, or simply emanate gratitude for the space of your noble work. Also, if you must, stay later to get work done but don't overdo to the point of exhaustion. If you’re staying later and later, you need to plan or delegate better to avoid teacher burnout.
- Stick to Your Guns—Follow your procedures for student discipline, and don’t leave it up to random guesses or reactions to emotion. Play out the scenarios ahead of time and determine what system works for you and your values, and decide the best policies beforehand. Make them clearly visible so you don’t have to talk when reminders are needed.
- Understand Your Role—This is not to ensure children’s success but rather to guide them to reach their own. You know the drill: accept that which you cannot change, change what you can, and know the difference. We suggest you read about locus of control for a deeper understanding of all this.
Having strategies to draw upon to help you avoid teacher burnout is half the battle. By making sure that your own needs are met, you are well on the way to fostering a team workplace where you help each other, and your learners, to grow.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Mar 6, 2018, updated October 12, 2021