10 Ways to Avoid Teacher Burnout

10 Ways to Avoid Teacher Burnout

Why did I want to be a teacher?

I asked myself this question several times last year. With 13 years of teaching under my belt and stress levels high enough to cause my chest to hurt, I found myself saying “Do I really want to do this for 17 more years???” I knew I was tired. Tired of the demands, tired of the changes, tired of parents that didn’t support me, tired of students who didn’t care, just tired.  I was definitely experiencing – teacher burnout!
I’m sure we all experience teacher burnout at some point. If you haven’t, more than likely you will. Being a teacher can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. We often find ourselves pulled in a million different directions. Most of the time we can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start a new day with a new attitude (usually after a good night of sleep). However, with all the demands, pressures from accountability, and the inadequacy of teacher pay it’s sometimes hard to avoid “teacher burnout.” 

I decided this summer that I would find a way to avoid the stress that comes with each school year. I love my job, and I love teaching! I wanted to find a way to revive my passion, so here’s my 10 Ways to Avoid Teacher Burnout {Before You Even Get Started}. Some of these things I already do, and some of them I need to do. Yes, I’m preaching to the choir… 

10 Ways to Avoid Teacher Burnout

We feel teacher burnout every.single.year. Here's 10 ways to avoid it!

#1 Get organized!

I’m always more productive when I’m organized, but of course I’m a little OCD. I LOVE ORGANIZATION!  I feel like I’m a more effective teacher when everything is in its place, lesson plans are done, and all materials are ready before the start of each day. When I’m not organized I literally have brain fog, and I feel like I’m juggling one thing after another all day long! 

Tip: Reduce stress by organizing your classroom and lesson plans.

#2 Find a classroom management system that works!

We all know how exhausting it can be when students continually misbehave. Lecturing, arguing, and threatening are all ineffective and stressful ways to deal with unruly students.  Find a behavior management system that works for you. Lay down the ground rules on the first day of school, and make sure students understand the consequences of misbehavior.

Tip: Choose a classroom management system that works, stick to it, and be consistent.

#3 Reduce the workload!
I know it’s not always possible to leave all those papers to grade, or awesome lesson plan ideas at school, but we all need a mental break at the end of the day. It’s important to unplug for a little while, and remember our family needs us, too!  If you absolutely can’t leave it at school try to set a few hours each night to work. Stick to those few hours, and remember it will always be there tomorrow! I say that as I know I will still lug my 50 lb. bag home each night. Yes, I’m preaching to the choir on this one. 🙂

Tip:  Leave school at school! (I know…yeah right!)

#4  Keep a to-do list and prioritize!

I’m a list person! It goes along with my obsession to be organized, and I always feel better when I can cross things off my to-do list. When I have it all written down I can clearly see what I need to focus on now and what will wait until later. I know this doesn’t always work for everyone, but it definitely helps me be more productive!

Tip: Make a to-do list and prioritize! I make reference to this tip in my post: Learning How to Prioritize & Letting Go of the Rest, so come back to this at one at the end.

#5 Exercise and eat healthy!

Not that I do this like I should, but I do know that exercising for 30-40 minutes each day will clear your head and give you more energy to tackle the day to day stress. What you eat can have an effect on how you feel, how you look, and how much energy you have for teaching.  Eating a healthy diet by avoiding processed food and food high in saturated fat can make you feel one hundred times better! Yes, I’m preaching to the choir again. I’m the one you’ll find at the vending machine buying a pack of M&M’s at 1:00 PM!  I’m going to try to do better this year by eating more fruits and vegetables for snack. 🙂

Tip:  Exercise more and eat a healthy diet to feel your best!

#6 Rest.

Wait! What’s that? Rest? If you know me (and you’re reading this) you’re laughing right now. 🙂  No, I don’t get enough rest. I’m what you would call an over achiever. I want it done, and I want it done yesterday. However, I do know that I feel better after I get a good night of sleep. The problem I have is that I’m not a morning person, and I work better at night. This school year, I have made it one of my personal goals to get in bed earlier. Teaching is hard enough the way it is. It’s even harder when you’re tired and sleepy. It WILL wait until tomorrow, and it WILL still be there. However, my students are going to be there bright and early the next morning ready to learn. I owe it to them to be ready to teach – after 3 cups of coffee of course! 

Tip:  Go to bed early enough to get a good night of sleep.

#7 Get to school early each day!

I’m actually writing this in hopes that I will do it!  I’m terrible at getting to school early, because I’m not a morning person. I hate getting up early! I’ve often wished that I was one of those people that jumped out of bed with a smile on their face ready to tackle the day, but I’m just not. It’s hard to get your day started when you don’t have time to process your thoughts, read over your lesson plans, and prepare for the day without distractions.  Hopefully with my goal of going to bed earlier, I’ll be able to get to school earlier, too! To me, it seems like a simple solution to a stress free day! 

Tip: Arrive to school early, and get ready to tackle the day!

#8 Be positive!

As a teacher, sometimes it’s hard to be positive. We are faced with more and more demands all the time. Not to mention unsupportive parents, challenging students, less help in the classroom…the list could go on and on. However, no one wants to be around a negative person all the time. Try to turn every negative thought into a positive one. It could always be worse, right? If you’re constantly being negative about your job then you’re really not give yourself any reason NOT to burn out.  *I’m working on this one, too! 🙂 For some added positivity in your life, YOU MUST find and watch The Whimsical Teacher on Periscope. Jessica Martin will instantly brighten your day! I guarantee it! 

Tip: Be positive! In your mind, reword each negative thought into a positive one.

#9 Be realistic – you’re not perfect!

I’m laughing at myself on this one! I’m a perfectionist at heart! Everything has to be in perfect order in my world. Or, at least I feel better when it is. It’s taken me a long time to realize that I can’t have the perfect classroom, the perfect students, the perfect lesson plans, or even the perfect test scores. At some point, we have to be realistic and reflect on what’s achievable. Some days, just having my students work in small groups without my help is a major accomplishment! It’s important to set realistic goals for our students and our classroom.

Tip:  Be realistic! Everything can’t always be perfect!

#10 Find the bright spots!

When we are stressed we tend to focus on the negative and what’s not working.  Unfortunately we miss out on learning from what IS working! Look for bright spots in your classroom each day. Students will surprise us if we just take a minute to stop and watch.  Maybe a lesson you taught really hit home, maybe the student that had been struggling for weeks on a math concept you had been teaching finally got it, or maybe you just made it through another day with a tough group of students. Either way, there are bright spots in every day. Finding them will feed your faith and show you that there are things you are doing that do work!

Tip:  Find the bright spots in every day!

And last… (separate from the 10 above, but something we all need to do)

Take a mental health day! If you start to experience that burnout feeling, the stress starts to build, and you begin snapping at students – take a day for you!  You AND your students will love you for it! 🙂

I found this amazing infographic on Pinterest that seems to be tied to Sprinkle Teaching Magic, which is Shelia Jane Teaching‘s older blog! Yes, Shelia Jane!!! If you don’t know who Shelia Jane is, check her out here and get ready to be a happier teacher! I thought this was a perfect fit for this post. Take a minute to check it out! Thanks, Shelia Jane! 

Teacher Burnout Infographic

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  1. I had burnout something fierce about a year ago; I decided to make a huge leap of faith and left my Middle School position of 13 years and move to a 5th grade slot. I am LOVING it; no burnout for me!!! Great ideas for your Top 10!

  2. I have had teacher burnout for 2 years now. This year I tried to shake myself out of it by creating cute posters for early finisher work areas and matching labels for baskets, etc. I also bought a new calendar set. I am not usually into cutesy stuff but I felt like I needed to change the environment a bit. It has helped because I take more pride in how my room looks. Thanks for your honest post- I could really relate to it.

  3. I totally agree with the tip about staying positive! I have worked with some negative people and it can be exhausting just dealing with them…and they can definitely bring others down with them. It can be easy to join in (because most of the time, there is some truth to what they are saying!), so I think it's also important to notice when things are turning negative and remove yourself from that discussion.

  4. Over here in the U.K. we too are under amazing pressure all the time and the government seems to like beating us with a big stick so your post and teaching tips comes just at the right time as we begin our summer break and recharge our batteries. I think you are quite right that we as teachers need to focus on the positives in what we actually achieve for our students and how important this is (no matter whatever anyone else says who is NOT in teaching!!!)
    Special Teaching at Pempi's Palace

  5. You are so right about taking mental health days. There is NO NEED to feel guilty about taking them when needed!

  6. #11 JUST LET IT GO! I am so working on this, but it's a piece of advice I give to all new teachers! Surprise, surprise, they usually don't listen until year 3. I think this ties a lot into most of the other tips you mentioned! 😉

    All GREAT tips Kim! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Hi Kim! Wow! You and I have a lot in common. I too am an OCD. over-achieving energizer bunny kind of person. Your blog was a perfect reminder for me. I'm still going strong after 18 years but some days…ugh! I especially like your #9 tip about not expecting perfection in ourselves. Thanks for a great post!

  8. I might add to #3 not to be afraid to throw away ungraded papers if they have been sitting around for awhile and nobody will miss them (small daily work, HW assignments, that kind of thing). Sometimes there is just too much to grade, and it doesn't really need to be!

  9. I'm your newest follower and fellow North Carolinian. I can't wait to read your posts!

  10. I agree that exercising really helps to clear your head! I'm trying to get in the habit of getting up and walking each morning now so that hopefully when school starts I will be able to stick with the routine!

  11. This is a great post. I love number 9. Last year was my first year and oh my goodness was it easy to compare myself to everyone else and expect myself to be perfect. This year I will be much more realistic.

  12. These are some great tips! Thanks for the giveaway 🙂

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