To be a teacher today can be very demanding, challenging, and packed with a triple dose of stress. The beginning of the school year can start off where you feel energized and in full passion-driven teacher control. Then over a few months or so things slowly shift to a place where you move from high-spirited teacher to fatigue to darkness, then burnout.
Burnout: what is it?
It is a feeling of deflation, exhaustion, lack of professional recognition, uncertain value, irritability, aggression, pressure, low passion level, and the inability to achieve concrete results at work.
Burnout is a phenomenon that is being talked about more and more on school campuses around the globe in recent years. This burnout in the workplace is particularly relevant to teachers, as they are a part of the professional category most sensitive to burnout. It affects at least two in ten teachers – or more – per school, each year.
How do you take charge and set your limits as a teacher, after a burnout?
Here’s How to Go From Burnt-Out to Re-Energized as a Teacher with seven steps that can aide you in not falling back into the same pothole which led you to burnout.
1. Mourning past performance:
“There is a before and an after the burnout.” No, you will never be able to resume with 100% of the same energy, the same ambitions and get the same recognition as before, simply because it is the “before” that has led you to exhaustion. Those who forget this will have a high risk of relapse in the months following the resumption of work. Allow yourself time to reflect, relax, release, and mourn your past performance.
Even though there might be plenty of reasons for you to feel down on yourself, you can choose instead to renew your teaching methods, enthusiasm and passion. You can decide to truly once again enjoy the sense of reward that comes from successfully connecting with and providing students with quality teaching in a creative and safe learning environment.
2. Changing your position:
Imperative: do not return to work exactly under the same conditions as before. Before returning to the school, it is essential to have a one-on-one meeting with the school principal to discuss and receive coaching on how to better manage your workload and expectations.
You may be asked to reduce the scope of the job, delegate tasks, seek assistance from a department head or senior teacher, and to intentionally take stress days of to help maintain self-care. It is necessary to change structurally your mindset because if nothing changes you will be at great risk of falling back into the same burnt-out pothole.
3. Set your own limits:
This is probably the most difficult for teachers who have experienced a burnout. You will have to learn to set limits in your work and above all respect them. The idea: no longer let it invade the whole space.
Do not reply to the mails after a certain time, to set a maximum number of files to be processed or appointments to honor… also, to get out for lunch, to get enough sleep. Achieving work-life balance will be essential to your re-energizing and re-building process.
4. Have your time respected by others:
You must reverse your priorities and become your own priority. This means learning to say no: “I will handle this issue tomorrow (or later this week) because I have other emergencies. It is not bad but it is impossible for me to take on your priority today.” Your colleagues will understand this if you explain the reasons for your refusal.
As for your school principal, put it in front of your management of priorities: “You ask me for such action tomorrow, knowing that you also asked me to complete a task. Which do you want me to finish tomorrow?” “It’s about transferring to the other the pressure that was automatically taken on oneself,” The challenge is to learn not to feel guilty about saying no and stop carrying the world on your shoulders.
To be able to re-energize and re-build, you must be aware of the imbalance that led to the burnout. What are the limits I have exceeded? What alarm signals did I not see? It is necessary to understand what has happened to prevent this from happening again.
5. Set intermediate targets:
In order not to run after an unattainable goal, it is a question of setting intermediate objectives which, if satisfied, will bring you satisfaction. “I have emailed or talked to seven of my student’s parents today, I can be proud of myself. Of course, I still have 5 more to contact, but those are not urgent and I will do it tomorrow.”
Reasoning in stages allows you to see the progress you’ve achieved, instead of looking only at what has not yet been achieved. It is important to be kind to oneself, not to wait for the recognition of others but to reasonably celebrate and build off of your own small wins.
6. Get up and get out for some personal fun or recreation after working hours:
Life and teaching cannot and should not be all work with not personal fun and recreation for you. If you’re bouncing back from being burnt-out, and you’re truly wanting to succeed and get back to the awesome teacher that you were ‘ you have bring personal fun and recreation back into your life.
Instead of staying in all weekend grading papers, schedule three to six hours for where you’re going to go visit the farmers market, volunteer at a community event, walk around the mall, go bike riding, go horseback riding, go fishing, etc. If it’s during the school week, go out for dinner at a local restaurant or attend one of your school’s student sports or special events. Get out and do anything but work.
7. Find the meaning of your work:
Burnout results in loss of pleasure and satisfaction at work. This notion of pleasure is nevertheless indispensable to be able to hold in the long term. What pleasure do you get from your work? What satisfactions does it bring? What deep values do you have in it? But also: what do you bring to your classroom?
These are all fundamental questions that if you do not find a clear and positive answer, could lead you right back into the pothole you’re trying to climb out of, patch up, and move on from.
To re-build and re-energize successfully, it will be your first few intentional and confident steps that count going forward.
You do not have to save the world — you must first take care of yourself which is a primary responsibility that should always be a top priority on your list of planned actions. The signals of the body do not deceive, listen to them, and make appointments with your primary care doctor at least twice each year. It is your body signals that will alert you in the first place. Remember: prevention is better than cure. Recovering from burnout takes time, and the sooner you start taking better care of you, the more likely you are to recover sustainably well as a re-built and re-energized teacher.
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About the Author: Ty Howard,
Mr. Untie the Knots®,
True Greatness Is — As True Greatness Does!
Ty Howard is America’s Untie the Knots® Consultant, and Capturing Greatness and Passion Expert. Over the past 21 years, he has spoken to nearly 3 million teenagers, education professionals, student leaders, student athletes, parents, fatherhood groups, youth development professionals, and associations across the nation and around the world. For information on his programs and services, visit: http://www.capturinggreatness.com.