George Lucas Educational Foundation
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School is starting for many of us around the country, and students and teachers are excited to get together and do some amazing things. This is the perfect time of year to put together a plan that will help you prevent Teacher Burnout by the end of the school year. Here are some great tips for you and your colleagues.

1. Partner Up

At the start of the year, find someone who's willing be your go-to guy/girl. This will be the person you'll talk to when things get stressful or when you just need someone to connect with during the school year. Having an ally in your building that you can count on for support is huge when trying to prevent burnout. The other side of the coin is being there for your friend when he or she needs you. You cannot pile onto a friend and then not provide any support in return. You might feel great, but you'll be burning out a friend -- and that's the last thing you want to do.

2. Make Time for You

Find a new hobby, go back to an old one, or do something once a week that is just for you. We all live in a busy world where family, friends, jobs and other responsibilities request our attention all hours of the day. Carve out some personal time in your week. It could be an hour or two of yoga or working in the garden. This time should just be for getting away from everyone and everything. It's OK to be selfish for a small amount of time each week so that you can clear your head. Finding this "me time" will allow you to be fresh all week, every week of the year, and your students and family will thank you for it.

3. Just Say No

This is tough for educators because we are wired to help anyone who asks. It feels great to say yes to people and help them accomplish their tasks, but it comes with consequences. Educators often spend so much time helping others that we forget to help ourselves. Managing a calendar and limiting the amount of additional work we take on will make life easier to handle. More time dedicated to resting up, enjoying ourselves with family and friends, and pursuing other relaxing activities will pay dividends down the road. Saying no might feel bad at first, but it will lead to feeling great in the long run.

Take these three tips to heart, and you will be able to tackle anything that comes your way during the course of the school year. It is so important that we take care of ourselves -- that way, we can be there in the classroom for our students when they need us the most. I hope everyone has an outstanding start of the school year, and make sure to take great care of yourself.

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Back to School Blog Series
Back to school tips and strategies to help you rock the new year!

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TODD SENTELL's picture
Author of the hilarious schoolhouse memoir, "Can't Wait to Get There. Can't Wait to Leave"


The moment when their eyes light up and they say this is great stuff and they really mean it ... that's it. That's why you teach.

The class periods and full days and weeks and months and semesters when their eyes don't light up and they never say this is great stuff makes you wonder why you teach. My old principal Lurlene gave me some good advice on that, too. She said ... Don't take it personally.

The very best teacher advice I ever heard from Lurlene was advice she freely handed out to needy parents and students, too. Lurlene would listen very carefully to their drama, without interrupting, and then she'd say ... Get over yourself. To a mom, dad, and student, after they got over themselves, they always ended up thanking Lurlene for the good advice and tough love.

Being fascinated helps, too. If you're a teacher and you're genuinely fascinated with children, teenagers, and young people and what they say and do and how they interact with you and each other, then you'll always have fun at work, every day. This is why some people teach until they croak and why most policemen police for a long time, too.

Brood and ruin your mood. I finally got smart and learned that too-many cigars, brooding, and pondering for way too long every evening at home, was not the way to take the edge off what a teacher experiences. It was not the way to refresh. It's exercise--open-mouth breathing, sweat-spewing, body-changing exercise. That's what ultimately does it. I started training for marathons and ran in a bunch of marathons and half-marathons and in those hard-core, military style obstacle course races, hoping not to get burned alive, electrocuted, or drown in creeks, lakes, or pools of mud or ice water. I boxed at the local Police Athletic League and got my rear end kicked around, but while I changed my body and teacher's mind for the better. Some of my students caught on and asked why in the heck would I subject myself to all that. I never told them the real truth. But I did let them punch me in my stomach as hard as they wanted and anytime they wanted. You can know your subject and teach it like an expert, but if you want to impress young scholars, let them punch you in the gut and enjoy the satisfaction of being their teacher-hero in the most unconventional way. This used to drive Lurlene crazy and she told me to stop but I never did. Old Burrell, across the hall, thought it was brilliant. At his old school, six or seven hundred years ago, he said he used to kick kids out of class by dragging them into the hall while they were still in their desks. That was back in the good ol' days, he said, and parents thanked him for it.

Gut check. I got in trouble with Lurlene for something else, too, among one or two million other things. If a guy got in trouble in class, instead of kicking him out, I had him do twenty push-ups. Some of these kids were pretty good athletes and they would call my bluff. They'd pop off a quick twenty, and then crank their head up and look me right in the eye and ask for twenty more. One of these guys popped me in the gut one day, too. I kept it together for as long as I could, while I think I was lecturing about Abraham Lincoln or somebody, and then excused myself and went to the teacher's bathroom to see if my liver had come out my navel. Actually, my left kidney came out my right ear, too.

This same fellow started hallucinating in class one day. He said there were black spiders all over the top of his desk. Everybody else in class craned their necks to see ... nothing. I told him he was free to trot up to the school nurse's office. He wouldn't do it. He said he was going to Marine it out. He did. Classes lasted nearly two hours at this school and he Marined it out. With the thumb and the index finger of his right hand he pinched the heads of about one hundred spiders. Then he was okay.

I'm not hallucinating. When you put in a few years in different grades and in different subjects and with different kids at different schools, you will finally come to the conclusion that you've seen and heard it all. But you forget something over and over and over: there's always the next class period.

ttrspks's picture
English Teacher from Queens, NY

It's hard to follow up with that post above me. But in response to the actual post, my favorite tip is #2. However, I think this tip is the hardest. You have to make a commitment to work-life balance. More employers and organizations are moving towards this understanding because they know the research shows that happy employees make better businesses (schools, etc.). But if your employer is supportive of that, you still need to be aware that life is too short. As teachers we tend to be self-sacrificing, but remember, if you don't take care of you or your family, you really can't take care of other people (students, etc.) effectively. Check out "We Get Sick, Too)

ballout clement's picture

I agree that you should find time for yourself by simply saying no and being selfish but I once was told that there is no balance, you are 100% where ever you are. If you are in the class room then you give 100%, if you are at home then you give 100%. There is no need to be thinking about other places when you can only be in one place

ttrspks's picture
English Teacher from Queens, NY

Good point. I suppose the "balance" issues comes in when you take work home or when you work beyond the scheduled hours, or when you work on weekends. For many people, "work" priorities supplants every other priority. I absolutely agree with you that you should give 100% when you are at work. And when you are off the clock, that's it. Give 100% to your other priorities. Follow me on twitter Check out the Top 5 Regrets of the Dying by Huffington Post:

Megan Huskins's picture
Megan Huskins
1st Grade Teacher from Ohio

I fully appreciate this blog post. I have been teaching for 11 years and have always immersed myself in school and often failed to leave room for myself and my family. I am learning that by enjoying my time at home and by sometimes leaving school at school I am actually a better teacher.

This year I made the decision that I would only bring home my school bag if there was something that absolutely HAD to be done or I really WANTED to do. By making that decision and leaving at school I am freeing myself of the guilt that comes along with not doing the work I brought home with me. I find that most of the time I complete my work on the weekends so that is when I bring my bag home.

I also have discovered who the people are in my building that are a positive influence on me and my attitude and I avoid those people who are a positive influence. This adjustment has allowed me to focus on the positive. At the same time these are the people I trust each day and know that if I have a problem in the classroom I can go to them for guidance and support.

Thank you for your insight!


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