At the end of half-term, I felt absolutely exhausted and couldn’t help wondering how I was going to manage another ½ year without collapsing into a heap.
Thankfully, I have experience to fall back on and will be returning to my fail-safe tools for ensuring that I don’t burn-out. I tend to forget about these in the first half of every year but rely upon them in the last half. They support my physical, mental and emotional well-being and I hope they work for you too.
1. Prioritise what is most important
I have to prioritise. I learnt early on in my teaching career that I would never have an empty in-tray. Teaching is not an empty in-tray sort of job.
So, how do I prioritise 50 million jobs? I put to the top of the list those things that are going to impact on the children’s learning most.
That might be feedback, marking and/or planning. Whatever it is, that is my main priority. If it isn’t going to impact on my children’s learning, it goes to the bottom of my list.
2. The workload never ends, so you have to draw the line
In that vein, when I do tick off an entire to-do list (which isn’t all that often), I suddenly think of new jobs that I could do.
I could laminate ‘x’ and create a new display for ‘y’ and wouldn’t a brand-new resource for ‘z’ be invaluable? I will always think of more things to do, because I am a teacher and teachers are creative beings with minds that never stop.
I have to remember that my well-being is more important than working 24-7. If making that new resource or creating that new display is going to make me feel great, then it makes complete sense to do it. However, if I am going to do these things at the expense of my well-being, then I have to remember to say no.
3. Learn to say no
Saying no is vital in this job. I didn’t learn that for many years and as a people-pleaser I found it incredibly hard to do so. Say yes if it will benefit you, the children you teach or you have the time. Say no if it won’t – your well-being will thank you for it.
4. Allow for proper breaks during the school day
Stop! Remember to have a break during the day.
All too often, teachers try to do their work over lunch – marking with a sandwich in hand or worse still, not eating and just working. Undoubtedly, you got into school around 7.30am so will have already worked for around 5 hours, your mind and body are therefore in need of a pause, a chat, a laugh.
You need to replenish yourself in order to work for the next 4-5 hours. We don’t work short days, so it is vital that we give ourselves breaks during them. Lunchtime and connecting with others is such an important part of my day.
5. Give yourself time off throughout the week
Stop! Give yourself time off to reset.
When I became a teacher many years ago, my mother (also a teacher) gave me two pieces of advice:
a) take at least one day off at the weekend
b) don’t bring work home with you at night.
On the most part, I live by this sage advice. I am no good to anyone if I don’t take time away from work. It is vital for my well-being that I spend time with my family, develop my hobbies and hang out with my friends. All work, no play makes Mrs B. a poor teacher.
Sometimes, I don’t get all my work done at school so I refer to point 1 – have I done those things necessary for tomorrow’s learning? If the answer is yes, then why shouldn’t I let my hair down and relax.
I hope these tips help you to avoid teacher burn-out over the next ½ year. I know they have helped me over the years. Remember – prioritise, say no and stop, because you deserve to.