Teachers spend their days giving all they have to others. Their developers, problem solvers, ambassadors, BS sniffer outers, counselors….and then school ends for the day and they move on to their home life responsibilities. It can be quite overwhelming, especially for new teachers as they try to get a rhythm down. How can you tell the difference between a few stressful days and teacher burnout? I’ve put together 5 warning signs of this sneaky little guy to help new teachers spot him before he takes hold.
1. No Spark, no smoke….no fire
When you’re motivated and in love…it’s really noticeable. Can’t you spot in others when they’re truly invested in what they’re doing? When you’re loving what you’re doing, you’re peppy, and excited to jump into the ring with a student, your attitude is skipping through the hallways, high fiving fellow teachers and spreading positivity everywhere. The leading indicator of teacher burnout is the replacement of this peppy feeling with …”meh”. Thoughts like Doesn’t really matter, who cares? or Didn’t work last time, won’t work this time sneak into our everyday internal (or, yikes, external) dialog.
2. Isolation Increases
Burnout manifests in isolation, turning us into solitary creatures who complain…a lot. Communication outside of this sucks ceases with our work mates, we become focused on everything that is going wrong, how terrible it all has become and we mentally (and physically) check out.
3. Negative thoughts about school envelop everything
Trouble spots about school, students, administration etc. become the center of your thinking patterns. Evenings, weekends, breaks are no longer safe from overwhelming, consuming, thoughts of what you should be doing, could be doing, don’t want to be doing regarding school related tasks.
4. Push till (fill in the blank) break
The days are marked on your desk calendar – 27 days until winter break, then just 31 days until mid-winter break…and so on throughout the school year. It’s one thing to count occasionally (I know I am guilty of this!) but to have each and every semester be a push until the next break isn’t healthy. It means that being in the moment isn’t working out well, something is amiss.
You’re missing in action from school functions – that bell rings at 3:17pm and you’re outa there. Your desire to be around other people, especially your peers dips low low low. This is especially true for teachers who are high fiving students and skipping through the hallways (refer to item 1 on this list). You stop participating in meetings, stop sharing ideas and brainstorming with colleagues – you shut yourself of.
Teaching can be a super rewarding career, that is fulfilling and empowering. It can also be emotionally and mentally draining. Keep an eye on your fatigue level. Did you read this list and say wow…people feel this way? Whew, not me. - If reading this spoke to you in some (or all) aspects, reach out to a peer teacher you can trust – I bet they’ve been there too. If not, shoot me an email, we’ll problem solve together. Teacher burnout CAN be overcome, here are some of my favorite strategies.