How to Prevent Teacher Burnout from Happening to You

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Because education is physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing, we have to be proactive in how we prevent teacher burnout.  Unfortunately, burnout is quickly becoming an epidemic among educators at all levels.

But there are things we can do to avoid this.  Therefore, we need to be diligent in protecting ourselves by understanding the five things we need to STOP doing immediately to help us avoid teacher burnout.

And before I jump right into it, I want you to know that this post is different from most of my other posts.  It may feel like it has a more negative connotation just because of the fact that I tell you what to stop doing instead of things to be doing.

But the education world needs you and your students need you.

There are too many awesome teachers that are finding other careers because of this very real problem of teacher burnout, and my hope is that this post will keep you from becoming one of those statistics.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Let’s be completely clear…comparison is a thief.

The moment you compare yourself to someone else, you accept that you are a failure.

This sounds harsh, but it’s true.  You’re saying that you are lesser in some way than the person to whom you are comparing.  Obviously a little friendly competition is helpful, but when we abuse it, the comparisons can become paralyzing and will absolutely drive you to teacher burnout. 

If you’re a new teacher, stop comparing the beginning of your education journey to the middle of someone else’s.  Keep in mind, the winner of “Teacher of the Year” earned that title through years of hard work…and a lot of trial and error.

Why do you think that it takes 3 years to become a professional teacher? Because it takes 3 years just to figure out what you are doing!

Being a great teacher has more to do with your heart than it does your brain.  Your head knowledge is valuable, but your heart knowledge is vital.

Remember:  You are unique and you have amazing things to offer your students.

In the end, teacher burnout comes from trying to be someone else.  So just be you, and don’t get trapped in the comparison game…there are never any winners.

Stop Taking Constructive Criticism as a Personal Attack

This section is probably going to be hard to hear, but it’s vitally important to prevent you from teacher burnout.  So here it is…

We all want to be told we’re the best.  

I know, I know.  We don’t like to admit it, but it’s true!  

Don’t believe me?  Watch a young child compete at anything and not win.  The look on that little crestfallen face is enough to prove my statement.  

When we get less than rave reviews on our teaching abilities, it hurts BADLY.  That’s why we all HATE being evaluated.  We know that we can’t control every possible variable and it makes us crazy!!

But the cold, hard truth is this…we all have areas in our teaching that can be improved.  Whether we admit it or not, from classroom management to organization and planning, there’s always room to grow. 

And the important thing for us to remember is that an evaluation of our teaching does not equate to an evaluation of our self-worth.  Let me completely clear…

Your value as a human being is not tied to your ability.

Yet that’s exactly what we believe when we turn a criticism of our ability into a personal attack.  If you find yourself feeling angry, unappreciated, and/or resentful about constructive criticism, then be careful because those feelings can breed discontentment at your job and will eventually lead to burnout. 

Stop Thinking You Have to do Everything on Your Own

Do not isolate yourself.  This is critical if you want to avoid teacher burnout.

When you need help, you must have people you can turn to for assistance. Remember, it doesn’t make you weak or ill-equipped to ask for help. If you have a question directly related to teaching methods, classroom management, or organization, ask another teacher. 

If you can’t find the answer, there are tons of amazing teaching and education blogs with helpful information.  Honestly, you can find answers to many of your questions by simply “googling” your question! 

If your questions aren’t about teaching, find the best support staff member to answer your question.  I asked the school secretary, nurse, custodian, bookkeeper, and teaching assistants questions all the time.  I figured it was better to find out information from the people who actually knew!  Make sure you get to know all of support staff

So, the bottom line is this, you need a support system.  Remember, you aren’t meant to run this race alone. Find people that can help you, and find some people that you can help. It will make your teaching life a lot less lonely.

You need to find mentors (either in real life or online) and you need to become friends with all of the support staff in your school…PERIOD! They are absolutely imperative to the success of the school and the students.

Stop Expecting Perfection from Yourself

Nobody on this earth is perfect.

Understanding that you’re going to make mistakes is critical to your personal growth because it keeps you in a position of humility. It’s also a crucial way to prevent teacher burnout!

If you tell your students to turn to the wrong page in math, just take that moment to say, “Oh no!  Mrs. Holt made a mistake.  We actually need to be on page 45.”  Modeling how to accept imperfection and move on is a wonderful learning experience for your kids.

Now, let’s say you have a bad day.  I mean like really, really bad.  Maybe you let your own personal struggles make their way into your classroom, and you raise your voice unnecessarily.

If you know you’re at fault, apologize to your students.  Explain how your emotions got the best of you and that you are genuinely sorry for your actions.  Then share with your students how you can use that imperfection to help you grow as a person.

When I was in the classroom, I made mistakes frequently.  

But I found that being transparent with my students made me “human,” and it helped them realize that adults are not perfect.  It was one of the most difficult things I had to do, but acknowledging my imperfections taught my students how to properly deal with their own.

Stop Neglecting to Say Thank You

This may be obvious, but be polite, and say thank you. If you’re a teacher or a parent, you know how it feels to be taken for granted. Imagine how teaching assistants and custodians feel. They certainly don’t receive adequate financial compensation for the work they do.  But a thank you certainly goes a long way.

When I was teaching, I made it a point to always thank the custodians for keeping my room, the bathrooms, and the school building clean. As a certified germ-o-phobe, I truly appreciate the work they do! (You should try being a custodian if you think being a teacher is an under-appreciated job.)

I also made time to thank the teaching assistants that came in my room. They helped me so much with little things that were very time-consuming. I truly appreciated the extra set of hands, and on occasions when my assistants were needed elsewhere, I was reminded of how thankful I was for them.

The best way to prevent teacher burnout is to find contentment as a teacher.  If you start building habits to exclude these from your day, you will find yourself happier, more fulfilled, and more at peace.