Burned out teacher, there is hope for loving your work and your life without all the stress that comes with the job. As stressed teachers, we forget that we are people first and teachers second. When we make ourselves teachers first, we become burned out teachers because there isn’t room in our lives to be ourselves and meet our needs and the needs of our family.
Sure, we all know those rock star teachers who come in early and stay late. They are in every committee and involved in each event. If that is you and you love it and you thrive on that: Go for it!
This is for those teachers that can’t do all the things, or maybe just don’t want to.
This is a system to reduce teacher stress for the year:
1. Burned out teachers need a list of priorities
That’s right, what are your top 3-5 things that are most important to you. The things that need to get done. Priorities can change, day to day or hour to hour but I’m talking about the priorities that guide your life. Think of these priorities as a filter that you choose to filter your calendar through. Which things on your calendar make the cut?
Here is a quick snapshot of my priorities:
- Myself: my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health.
- Husband: mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health.
- Kids: mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health.
- Work: be on time, be prepared for the following day, work hard, be fully present
These priorities work from the top down. If I am taking care of myself, then everything below it will benefit. I will be able to meet my husbands needs, my kids and be fully present at work. But I have learned that when I don’t prioritize my health, my spiritual and emotional needs the others areas suffer.
2. Calendars free up time for a burned out teacher
Speaking of calendars, get two. One for home and one for work. That’s right avoiding teacher burnout requires a calendar. I wouldn’t call myself type A by any means, but using a calendar consistently with my family and job has kept me from turning into a burned out teacher.
I only work on the current month unless there is an appointment made 6 months in advance like the dentist. (Am I the only one who gets calls like, “Your appointment is right now.”)
Find a system that works for you:
- A Planner, and get a pretty one you like. If a beautifully curated planner is your thing, go for it! And message me a photo because I love looking at pretty planners. If you are just starting, a planner may be intimidating and you should choose a different option. The goal is to use it and feeling overwhelmed by a planner will not reduce your stress.
- Hang an old fashion monthly paper calendar. Don’t worry, you don’t have to color code each family member or have the day broken down by half hour just write down what you need.
- A dry erase calendar. At the beginning of each month my husband and I get together and write as many early morning staff meetings or late nights that we can brainstorm and write them on the board. This puts us both on the same page for our commitments outside of normal work hours.
- Use an app on your phone, it goes with you everywhere and will give you reminders as the time draws near. I use my calendar app for those appointments 6 months in advance and then when I go to make that months calendar I look and see if I had made any appointments.
3. “Do these things fit into my priorities?”
After you fill out your calendar ask, “Do these things fit into my priorities?” It’s not going to be perfect. If there is an event that you aren’t obligated to go to but it’s going to bring you joy, say yes and keep it. But if there is an event that is going to bring stress and overwhelm and doesn’t line up with your priorities, say no.
4. What can I commit to?
Pick one or two extra curricular activities to prioritize. Commiting to participate in after hours activities is shows support your school community.
Stressed teachers commit to everything. There is always something after hours that we could be involved in. Maybe we are coaching, tutoring, attending PTO, PBIS, Sunshine, technology or lead teacher meetings. The fact is, if you want to avoid teacher burnout, you can’t do it all.
Pick one or two.
Commit to one or two things and show up fully present. In the past, the two things I committed to were: monthly lead teacher meetings and quarterly family nights. I usually prioritize a committee and then a recurring event for the year. If you have a choice, pick committees or events that you love being apart of and look forward to.
Real World Talk? We don’t always get a choice but we have more control over our time than we think.
5. Say no to the rest and avoid teacher burn out
That’s right, just say no! I’ve already looked at my priorities, made a calendar, and committed to a couple of extra curricular activities. I’m not saying when an opportunity comes up or if I’m asked to help I just shut the asker down with a harsh NO! I look at my calendar. Do I have time for this? Will it create stress for my family? Will I still be able to maintain my priorities?
6. Throw away the guilt and say good bye to teacher burn out.
We could work 24 hours a day 7 days a week and still not accomplish everything. We also, still won’t measure up to someone else’s expectations of us. But those expectations don’t matter. Remember, the way our priorities work are top down. If you are burdened with guilt and overworking because of it, everything on your priority list will suffer.
What matters is what our priorities are, and keeping them in line so that we don’t become another burned out teacher.