Burnout: It's No Fun for Anyone
Now that the summer months are upon us, I thought it might be a good idea to share a homework assignment with you that I give myself each summer; Recharge, Reflect and Fight the Burnout. For me, this is an important part of summer vacation and an important part of being an educator. Teachers who are experiencing burnout struggle to complete the tasks set before them. Districts who have burned out teachers struggle with a high turnover rate and higher levels of disciplinary actions against its teachers. Students struggle to learn from a teacher who has the weight of the world on their shoulders. It’s a problem for every stakeholder involved, and its all too common.
Burnout is a huge issue in the world of education and most teachers have felt it at some point. It might show as exhaustion, anxiety, isolation or simply a feeling of hopelessness. Teaching is tough; we knew this from the beginning, but teaching is also incredibly rewarding. So…what causes this depressing feeling?
For starters, we spend more time teaching and less time planning than some of the most high-scoring countries in the world- countries that regularly best us on international tests, according to the 2013 TEACHING AND LEARNING INTERNATIONAL SURVEY (TALIS). Walker's article “The Ticking Clock of US Teacher Burnout” (The Atlantic, 2016) shows how we stack up against Singapore, one of the top scoring countries in the world.
Teachers in Singapore spend about the same amount of time working as we do (47 hours in Singapore, 44 hours here in the US) but in Singapore only 17 of those hours are spent with actual student contact. In the US that amount skyrockets to almost 27 hours of actual teaching time. That equals less time to plan, collaborate and develop quality plans for our kiddos. We actually score among the top countries for hours spent working and hours spent teaching- but we have fairly low scores on international testing.
This coupled with financial constraints, especially where the arts are concerned, has led to a “do more with less” attitude all over the United States (thanks, Betsy). We’re feeling it. We’re dealing with it the best we can. So…what can we do to keep ourselves motivated?
Keep a Journal
Write down what worked and what did NOT work this past school year. Was there a lesson that you were especially proud of? Was there an activity that failed spectacularly? Saving your thoughts on your lessons now will save you time trying to remember them in the fall. It will also give you time to think about possible extensions and solutions. Many educational leaders support keeping a journal as a great exerciser in reflective thought. The British Council (2016) points out that journaling is a very effective way to organize thoughts on:
Learn Something New
Take a cooking class, learn to crochet, finally take that pottery course that the local community center offers. Do something that is new, exciting and NOT related to what you're doing in your classroom. Even learn to play a new instrument, but for your own enjoyment and not to further your curriculum. Taking care of your own creative needs will help you be a better teacher by reducing stress and giving you a break from your "teacher brain". This can all be done for free, too! Ask a friend, check out pinterest or watch a you tube video.
Make a List
Already have plans to revamp some things this summer? Make a "Sticky Note Wall". Write out each step or action needed on a post it note and slap them on an empty wall. Once your'e done with a task, toss the corresponding sticky note. Commonly used as a technique to help those with ADD/ADHD, the sticky note wall is a great way to keep track of what needs to get done, and a great way to visually represent all the progress you make (Duncan, 2013).
Disable your work e-mail on your iPhone, take a break from your curriculum mapping and save that concert planning for later! Give yourself a chunk of time with NO school related activities. Even if its a only a few days, this will give you much needed R and R from something that you do all year long. We teachers are notorious for taking our work home with us- so we're essentially working around the clock. Give yourself a breather. Your Start-Of-The-New-School-Year-Teacher-Self will thank you!
Duncan, D.(2013). Sticky Note Memory. ADHD Inside Out. https://bcinterioradhdclinic.com/coach/adhdinsideout/blogs/sticky-note-memory-2.html
Okçu, V., & Çetin, H. (2017). Investigating the Relationship among the Level of Mobbing Experience, Job Satisfaction and Burnout Levels of Primary and Secondary School Teachers. Universal Journal Of Educational Research, 5(1), 148-161.
Tice, J. (2016). Reflective Teaching: Exploring Our Own Classroom Practices. The British Council. https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/reflective-teaching-exploring-our-own-classroom-practice
Walker, T. (2016). The Ticking Clock of U.S Teacher Burnout. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/09/the-ticking-clock-of-us-teacher-burnout/502253/
How do YOU fight teacher burnout? Have a question or suggestion? Let us know in the comments below!
Happy Music Making!
Hi-I'm Mel. I teach Music and I make stuff. If I have any really interesting ideas that I think you'd find useful, I'll post them here!