How to Avoid Teacher Burnout: 3 Solutions
For me, stress always hits at the end of a marking period. I suddenly realize how much I need to grade and then there’s always the late work that comes flowing in just as I think I’m done. I set a strict deadline a week or two before the semester or quarter ends to give myself enough time to get everything done. But I always forget that the end of the semester usually means the beginning of a new unit. Every year, I learn a new small trick that keeps me on top of things. Above all else, I’ve learned to keep work at work, and not bring anything home. It forces me to focus and stay on task while I’m on the clock.
I feel like there are three main things that lead to burnout, and here’s my quick take on how to handle each:
It’s important to have colleagues to vent to and ask advice. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel, and another voice can provide fresh ideas related to curriculum and pedagogy. But I also try to work independently so that I return work on time, lesson plan, and return emails quickly. I write very short emails and use them to exchange information since I see my students every day in class. In conversations with parents and counselors, I always focus on the future and not the past by describing what steps a student can take to improve their grade. It prevents me from blaming myself or a student for their performance.
Grading and Lesson Planning
I teach English, so one of my biggest challenges is to simply start grading a stack of essays. I’d much rather be lesson planning and reading more literature. To be more efficient, I distribute scaffolded notes at the beginning of a unit so I don’t have to worry about what I need to print or upload online on a daily basis. I typically collect this packet with the essay so I can grade all the assignments at once, which also helps me avoid entering a ton of grades online. This way, I avoid giving zeros on individual assignments and instead decrease the overall grade. Every teacher has their mental way of tackling work, but I prefer the “chip away” technique where I try to grade a handful of essays in one period instead of working for long periods of time outside of school.
Most teachers get frustrated with all the time wasted in meetings that have little to do with what’s happening in our classrooms. I remember really loving one department meeting where I got the opportunity to spend time researching online databases in a library at a local university. I read a bunch of essays and walked away with lesson plans and knowledge I could actually use to teach literature. Simply put, they let me work. I also love content-specific or job-embedded professional development where teachers in your grade level or subject area share their ideas about how to best handle the daily challenges of teaching.
English language arts teacher
Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers