What do teachers really do anyway?
It’s no wonder that teaching is right up there with police officer, military personnel, and firefighter as one of the most stressful careers. The demands on teachers are multi-faceted and increasingly complex. Let’s face it, teachers aren’t just teachers, right? You are a counselor, a nurse, an accountant, a babysitter, a cheerleader, a coach, a data analyst, a curriculum designer, a child advocate, a surrogate parent, a mentor, a bookkeeper, an event planner, and a technology expert. In the face of such challenging job requirements, it is imperative to have some ammunition to fight off the burnout that is almost inevitable in the teaching profession.
Incorporating a few of these strategies will stave off burnout and increase your job satisfaction.
1. Identify two moments of pride each day.
Think about what YOU did well. Teachers tend to put all their focus and attention on student achievement and that is fabulous, but make a point to give yourself credit for a job well done. How were YOU awesome today? If you have a few moments at the end of each day, jot down your moments of pride in a journal that you can flip through when you need some inspiration. Or, if you live in the real teacher world, do it at the end of the week when you are planning. What went well during the week? Reflection is much more powerful than we give it credit for.
2. Spend 10 minutes each day without your stress.
Call it meditation or relaxation or whatever you choose, but the important thing is that your stress and anxiety is NOT invited. Imagine putting all your challenges in a locked safe where escape is impossible. You can wave at your stress, send it some love, and allow it to stay outside of yourself for 10 minutes. Compartmentalizing and displacing your stress and anxiety will bring peace and clarity that lasts longer than 10 minutes. The beautiful thing is that the effects of this practice are cumulative (and there is research to prove it). The more you do it, the less overall stress you will feel.
3. Rearrange your space.
This might sound crazy, but when you mix things up a bit, your outlook will shift with it. I’m not just talking about moving student desks or tables around, I’m talking about shifting your own personal space. Move your desk, your computer, your book shelf, or your filing cabinet. Go to the dollar store and buy some new office supplies to organize papers, pencils, and files. Bring a lamp to school for your work area and turn off the blinding classroom lights while your students are gone. The dim lighting might just bring a new sense of peace and calm to your day, which may morph into a regular routine even when students are there. Hang holiday lights around a couple of bulletin boards to shift the mood. Any of these things will jostle your outlook and create a sense of freshness.
4. Be a problem solver, not a problem admirer.
There is nothing wrong with sharing your stress and anxiety with co-workers and friends. There is, however, a tendency for some people to focus on the negative and spend their precious (and limited) energy admiring problems. “I can’t stand Logan’s mom, she is driving me crazy!” “This new evaluation system is a bunch of crap!” “I have the worst class in the whole world!” You know exactly who I’m talking about, right? They pop up in every faculty lounge. Here’s the deal…. that negativity creates REAL energy in your space that is detrimental to your mood, your perceptions, and your outlook. The most effective way to combat the cloud of negativity is to first identify it as something aversive to your own energy field and then to block it. If you have extra time (yea, right!) and patience, you might even try to reframe that person’s problem into a solution. “It sounds to me like you feel really frustrated with Logan’s mom. I wonder if you could try…… “. Negative Nellys will ALWAYS find something to complain about, but you don’t need to admire their problems.
5. Find one new, fun resource to use in your classroom each week.
Hold up! I don’t mean that you need to spend more time or more money creating something new. Quite the contrary, actually. Simply search for a new resource or unit that makes your life easier. Locating new resources may be just what you need to rediscover that love for teaching again. There are THOUSANDS of FREE resources available on Teachers Pay Teachers, for example. Do a search for something you are teaching next week and check out all there is to offer! I pride myself on creating lessons for teachers that inspire you while also freeing you from the astronomical demands of your job. Go ahead, treat yourself, print off something fun and FREE for an upcoming lesson!
If you had the diligence to read up to this point, you also have the will and determination to combat teacher burnout. Spend the time to invest in yourself and it will have a lasting impact on your career and your health!
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