The Truth about Teacher Burnout

Your alarm goes off in the morning, you hit the snooze button. The next time you open your eyes, you realise that you’ve overslept and scramble out of bed to get ready and leave the house in a rush, forgetting your lunch in the process.

You arrive at school with minutes to spare before your first class. You rush to your desk and scramble to set up for the day’s lessons. Throughout the day, you find yourself rushing from lesson to lesson, and during the day you receive an email reminder about that meeting after school that you forgot about, and you find yourself staring at that stack of marking that has been sitting on your desk for the past week.

The day goes by, you pack your things and head home with that stack of marking, and you find yourself sitting at home for the rest of the night marking and grading, until you get into bed, and then it repeats all over again.

If this situation sounds familiar to you, teacher burnout might be creeping into your life, or it might already exist in your life! Some days, teaching is a wonderful and rewarding job — educating young minds, encouraging students and making tangible differences in their lives. Other days, it’s draining, exhausting and thankless.

What is Teacher Burnout?

Experts would define burnout as “a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, detachment and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.”

Teacher burnout is more than just a bad day every once in a while. It’s ongoing anxiety that can have serious negative effects on not just your work, but also your life. Most teachers that I know and have met are usually high achievers who like to work hard and are always looking for ways to improve. These traits are commendable but can also be dangerous. This can mean that educators fall prey to perfectionism and don’t set aside time for rest and recuperation. I have certainly been guilty of this!

Teachers and educators, I am here to remind you that you are more than your job. While teaching does become part of your identity, you still need to nourish the other parts of yourself that demand attention and care. We are humans first, and teachers second, after all!

Symptoms of Teacher Burnout

  • A sense of detachment from both work and life
  • Apathy
  • Hopelessness
  • Increased irritability
  • Lack of productivity
  • Unable to sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger

If one or more of those sound familiar to you, and you’re experiencing them, chances are you are struggling with teacher burnout. It’s all too real, and I am certainly not saying that we can all absolutely eliminate these feelings, but when it becomes a constant in your life, that’s a sign that something needs to change.

Burnout doesn’t just affect you – it affects your students, it affects the colleagues you work with, and in turn it affects the entire education system! Teaching is an incredibly important and demanding job, and there’s absolutely no shame in admitting that you need help.

Teacher wellbeing needs to be addressed, and it needs to be addressed now.

Strategies to help prevent and treat teacher burnout:

Here are some ways and strategies that you could consider implementing in your life right now, to help prevent and recover from teacher burnout.

1)          Talk about it

Sit down with a friend, or go for a coffee with a colleague that you trust. Talking to someone with their own teaching experience will help tremendously as they’ll be able to understand what you’re going through and empathise with what you’re feeling much better.

Talk about it, don’t hold back! The more that you choose to withhold, the more your feelings of stress and frustration will spill into your next teaching day. This is not fair to anyone at all – not you, not your students.

What’s important here is to really break that feeling of isolation of your work, and understand that you are not alone in this!

2)         Practise self-care

Consciously practising self-care means that you are actively prioritising your own mental health. Set some time aside on the weekends or in the evenings to do something that benefits your mental health. If you need some ideas, please feel free to hop on this link and get access to my free “The Flourishing Teacher’s Self-Care Guide”.

Self-care doesn’t need to be grand. Even just taking three deep breaths in the middle of your day is a form of self-care! When you start prioritising yourself, you are must better equipped to help your students!

3)         Set clear boundaries for yourself around work and your life

When you start feeling burnout creeping in, step away from it. Leave work at work – leave those papers that you need to mark at school, lesson planning can wait, and don’t check your emails outside of work!

Instead of working around the clock, work on having a must-do list rather than having a to-do list. In your diary, or on a piece of paper, write down everything that needs to get done over the next two days. Once that list is complete, choose the top three tasks. These are the ‘must-do’ tasks for tomorrow that will help make the day more manageable. Now that you’ve worked out a game plan for the next two days, prioritise yourself for the rest of the night after leaving work.

Self-regulation is one of the key ways teachers can avoid and treat teacher burnout. It might seem impossible in your head. However, if you’re at risk of teacher burnout, you need to make changes. After all, you can’t expect to fill your students’ cups if you’re not filling your own cup up!

I am chatting all about this in my free live masterclass all about “Balance & Boundaries” next Sunday, come register and join me if this is something that you are interested in learning more about!

4)         Don’t be afraid to ask for help

There is nothing wrong at all with asking for help. Sometimes all we need is a sounding board, and someone who can support you through this journey that you’re going through.

As a Life & Mindset Coach for teachers and educators, this is my purpose in supporting you to reassess where you are at in your teaching job, and to be your biggest cheerleader in reprogramming your beliefs about yourself and your identity.

If you are feeling like you need someone who understands what you’re going through, and someone who can support you in shifting your mindset about prioritising yourself, please do not hesitate to contact me! There are two main ways you can work with me, either through a 3-month coaching series, or a 90-minute coaching package! You can find more information about these here, and it would be my absolute honour to be supporting you through this.

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