Tired. Exhausted. Stressed. Sad. Done. These are the words that stand out for a teacher at the end of the school year. For those of us that give everything we have, these last few months can seem like an eternity. No matter how hard we try to pace ourselves, when we're dedicated to giving students our all, sometimes that doesn't leave much when April rolls around. Every teacher needs to approach the end of the year in a way that works best for him or her, but here are some of the things that have helped me make it to summer vacation.
Finding a hobby that allows you to get away from education-related stuff is important. It's great to have this hobby as a regular part of your life to keep your stress levels down over the course of the year. This hobby doesn't have to be a solo activity. It could be something that you do with your spouse, friends, children, or whomever you want. The idea is devoting time to something (other than teaching) that makes you happy. For me, I love to work on my pond in the warmer months, and I'll play video games when the weather is cold. My son is getting older now, so he can play some of my games with me, and he loves to help with the pond. These activities are my time away from the emails, grading, lesson planning, and other things that can suck the life out of me. My hobby time gives me the energy to make it through the school year. Find the thing that works for you and devote time to it. If you do, you'll find yourself much happier by the end of the school year.
Find a Teammate
It's always good to have someone whom you can count on to be there for you when things get stressful. It's even better if this someone is also an educator, because he or she might have a better understanding of what you're dealing with at the moment. This teammate needs to be a person that you're comfortable going to when you think you're going to lose it. He or she can walk you through problems that would have been easy to deal with in September, but seem to be impossible by May. The other side of finding a teammate is being a teammate in return. As much as you receive, you'll need to give as well. This might sound like more of the stress that's been leading you to burnout, but helping others can actually make you feel great. It can also help you understand other problems that you deal with at school. Having a partner with whom you can share stressful situations helps prevent the flameout.
Write It Out
Writing on a regular basis is a wonderful way to keep the fire burning throughout the school year. This can be in a private journal or on a blog for the world to see. Writing helps get ideas out of the head and safely onto a piece of (digital) paper. The writing process can be very powerful for people dealing with high levels of stress. Sometimes just thinking about your difficulties creates more anxiety because nothing is resolved. Writing out these issues can sometimes provide a different perspective. If the writing is public, feedback from a diverse audience can really help a teacher dealing with a tough situation. Writing can help open up the issues that are causing so much stress and leading to burnout. The more we can share, the better our chances of making it to the end of the school year in one piece.
This one seems silly, but it really is the best way to help cut the stress. Find the things that make you laugh and do them. Watch that funny movie, play silly games with your kids, and be goofy yourself. These little acts of silliness can really lower stress levels and make people happier overall. The Mayo Clinic lists many of the positives of laughter when it comes to stress. The short-term benefit of laughter can "stimulate many organs, activate and relieve your stress response, and soothe tension." The long-term impact of laughter can "improve your immune system, relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction, and improve your mood." These are scientific reasons for laughing that should not be ignored by teachers as we look to de-stress before we burn out. Think back to the happier times in class and the silliness that surrounded it. Look to recreate those fun times again. The laughter will make a huge difference as you make it to the end of the school year.
These are just some of the ways that teachers can prevent burnout during the school year. We have one of the hardest jobs in the world, plus we have to maintain a family and our own mental health. It's not easy, but there are ways to make it a bit easier so that we won't be shells of our former selves when the school year draws to a close.
If you have your own tips in dealing with teacher burnout, please leave them in the comments section below.