Teacher Burnout? Try This.

By |2020-10-19T12:27:02-07:00October 13th, 2020|

Sparkchasers Episode 6 | Show Notes

Teacher Burnout? Try This.

Today’s topic is one that every single one of us is dealing with right now: teacher burnout.

Our team was discussing this just the other day. We all started to notice each other dragging a bit. And we’re all sort of on the cusp of tears – as if one small thing might tip us over the edge. Are you in that space, too? Or maybe, you’ve been there and know what I’m talking about.

Turns out, this is normal. According to the CDC, pandemics can cause heightened states of anxiety, exhaustion, and depression. And looking at past pandemics for clues, the 6-month point seems to be where people hit a real low. So it’s no wonder we’re all feeling this burnout.

But how do you know whether it’s burnout from your career or simply the way we’re coping right now? And I do mean coping – we’re all doing the best we can. In today’s episode, I want to explore how to know whether it’s time to move on or stay, and how to use that as your door to the next chapter. Ready? Here we go.

Is it Burnout?

Let’s begin with the word “burnout”. I think this is sometimes thrown around as the term to describe what teachers are feeling, but it’s not always the case. Psychology Today describes burnout as “a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.”

There’s a big difference between a chronic state or a temporary point of overwhelm. To be honest – at the time of this recording, we’ve been trying to educate students for 6 months in a pandemic. I’ve never seen teachers more stressed, exhausted, and feeling ineffective more than I have right now. So I think we could definitely call this burnout if you’re feeling this way.

Now the question becomes, what do you do if you ARE burnt out?

Key Ideas

  • Burnout effects all teachers at some point in their career. 41% of teachers leave within 5 years, but 15% (over 1 million) leave after 1 year. 
  • The pandemic is actually increasing these numbers at alarming rates. In a nationwide poll of educators, NEA found that 28 percent said the COVID-19 pandemic has made them more likely to retire early or leave the profession.
  • Tara Haelle’s piece: Your Surge Capacity is Depleted – it’s Why you Feel Awful explains that we’re running on fumes and need to recharge in order to keep going.
  • If you’re experiencing burnout, try to use it as a way to examine what you want and as a springboard for making changes.

Curbing Teacher Burnout

So if you recognize the signs of burnout, consider using a three-pronged approach. Think of it like a surgeon would. First, you’ll need to stop the bleeding. Next, consider the long-term fix. And finally, take time to rehab yourself back to health.

Key Ideas:

  • Start with triage: how to immediately address the burnout. This can be things like getting exercise, starting a meditation practice, actively doing less, sleeping more, taking up a hobby, or creating every day. 
  • Move to surgery: now it’s time to take a deeper look at the cause of your burnout and doing the work to address it long term. Consider questions like “do i need to leave, or do I just need a shift?”, “What are my core values and is the work I’m doing in alignment with those values?”, and “What’s my why and does it outweigh the frustrations?”. Cut out things like comparing yourself to others, being on and available all the time, and people who are constantly being negative. And then replace what you cut out with more positive, healthy alternatives: seeking out positive mentors or groups, choosing to find the good, and giving yourself grace.
  • Rehab your new habits into lasting change: Reflect on the change you’re seeing based on your new habits. What have you learned? How will you use this as fuel for your next steps?
  • Try to use Play to recharge. Our team is now setting aside one day a month to play together. This isn’t wasted time – it’s essential to all of us operating at our best.

Using Burnout as a Call Forward

Here’s what I know for sure: teacher burnout can be both your finish and starting line. It can help you see what needs to stop in order for you to stay healthy. And it can be the thing that kickstarts your next chapter.

In my own life, this has proven to be true. I used my frustration and burnout in teaching as a call to action for using arts integration as a method of supporting teachers and students. I’ve used burnout in my business to push me into hiring other people that help build a bigger dream than anything I could come up with on my own. And I’ve used burnout in my personal life to make healthier habits a priority. Rock bottom can be your launchpad.

Key Ideas:

  • Rock bottom can be your launchpad. What are you saying “no” to now and how can you pivot that into something that impacts and effects change beyond yourself?
  • Burnout can be a powerful “why”. When we’re in that space, we know that we want to prevent anyone else from feeling this way. So we’ll do whatever we can to help others who are in that space. Think of all the teacher entrepreneurs you know who have products or services you’ve bought or admire. I think of Patty Palmer, Angela Watson, Jennifer Gonzales, John Spencer, and so many others who have used their frustration to create something that can help so many others.

So let me ask you: what would help you (now or in a previous time of burnout) to climb the mountain a little easier? What do you wish existed that would have saved you time, frustration, stress, or from feeling a lack of achievement? Your answer may just be the medicine you were born to create. This is your Marie Curie moment, my friend. Time to get curious and see what’s waiting on the other side.

Additional Resources:

Curbing Teacher Burnout During a Pandemic

Teachers’ Views on the Relevance of Arts Integration

Self-Care Practices for Educators

Teacher Burnout: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Have a Question?

Do you have a question about today’s episode or need help with something? Let me know using the button below and I’ll make sure to chat about it on an upcoming episode.

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