I hit my burnout point last week even though I did everything I could to avoid this.
I followed all the “wisdom” to avoid teacher burnout:
-I got enough sleep. Ask my husband. I am OBSESSED with getting enough sleep every night. I am so worried about getting enough sleep that many nights I lie in bed at 9:15pm and suddenly think I forgot how to fall asleep.
Me: What if I forget how to fall asleep?
Him: That’s not a thing. You will be sleeping in 10 minutes.
Me: *applies Cedarwood oil excessively on my nose and temples to aid in sleep in case I forgot*
Him: You smell like a guinea pig cage.
-I exercise 150 minutes a week. My doctor said that is the recommended activity level so I literally count my minutes of working out. I am at 146 so far this week so it looks like 4 minutes of light cardio are in my near future.
-I find time for things I enjoy. Like eating. I never forget to eat or don’t have time to eat like some teachers. I MAKE the time.
-I start most mornings reading the Bible and in prayer.
-I stay caffeinated at all costs. (at ALL costs)
-I get to school early and have dim mood lighting and play relaxing music
-I occasionally read professional articles about my field (Ok I did this once)
-I nurture relationships with my colleagues. Maybe a little too much so. I almost lost my eyelashes this week due to an impulse purchase of cheap mascara. I sent many text messages to teacher friends before I went to sleep “My lashes are in God’s hands now. I will see you tomorrow.” Some might say I “over nurture” these relationships.
Guys, I did EVERYTHING I could have done to avoid teacher burnout. But here I am. Burnt out.
I told my husband last week that I just didn’t know how much longer I could do it. I googled “Freelance writing jobs” last night. In bed. At 8:30.
I have the privilege of working in a wonderful district with supportive admin and colleagues. I feel appreciated, and I am affirmed on a regular basis, so to be honest, if I am burnt out, I CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE how teachers are feeling who don’t have it as good as I do. Who have “that class” with no admin support, or show up day after day feeling undervalued and under appreciated. I don’t feel that way, but regardless, here I am.
If I am burnt out, Lord help the thousands of teachers who are beat down day after day just trying to do their job.
I’m starting to think that really no matter what you do, there WILL be times you feel done. Over it. Burnt out. Exhausted.
A few weeks ago, a student threw up everywhere. All over my carpeted room. It was purple.
Do you know the emotional exhaustion it takes to talk a group of kindergarteners down from this type of event?
We processed the purple puke for a solid 20 minutes. Students took turn sharing stories of times they threw up and what it looked like.
You might say, “Why would you let them talk about puke for 20 minutes? Why didn’t you just ignore it?”
If you are asking me that, you have never taught a group of 6 year olds. I could have brought in a pony, a dinosaur and a cute puppy in a top hat and the ONLY THING those students would be thinking about was the purple puke. They would have learned approximately nothing that I taught during that time if I ignored the puke situation.
That’s it. You discuss it, you deal with it, and you move on.
Later on, when a 2nd grade class was in my room, one our of cleaning staff came in to clean up the sawdust/purple puke mixture during one of my lessons.
“Second graders are older!” One might think.
“They could handle that!” some say.
Once again, you have an open invitation to my classroom.
I am not exaggerating when I say I go to great lengths to keep students engaged and excited about learning. My lessons are straight up WEIRD sometimes, all in the name of student engagement.
But when that staff member came in with a carpet shampoo-er, ready to suck up the puke, I knew my lesson was done.
Yes, I could have forced students to sit in front and try to ignore the events happening around the room, but doing that would have, quite seriously, taken every ounce of energy known to man (and still not worked.)
Students gathered around this carpet shampoo machine, wide-eyed and in awe, as they silently watched this woman suck up the puke for ten minutes.
They were quiet. Silent. Except for the occasional “ooo” and “ahh” they stayed totally engaged. Things teachers would sell their souls for. As I stood there observing, I looked at the screen with my colorful and exciting lesson that took so much prep.
And I raised my hands in defeat.
That, my friends is teaching. You just go with it. Every single day, something new and unexpected.
Along with managing (or attempting to manage) behaviors, lesson planning, IEP meetings, staff meetings, committee meetings, professional development, certification requirements, curriculum standards and ever changing legislation.
All that, and purple puke.
It is 50 jobs in one. It is counseling and mediating and feeding and teaching and providing and cleaning and organizing and planning and acting and breathing and balancing and doing, every minute of every day.
So yes, there are many things you can do to try to avoid teacher burnout. But can I just say, I think it is going to happen anyways?
That doesn’t mean I am actually going to hang up the towel and apply at Starbucks, (even though I promise you the majority of teachers have played with the idea at some point). It doesn’t mean I don’t love what I do. It just means I am human.
It means that I reach a point where if I hear about another wiggly tooth, I can’t act excited anymore.
It means I grow weary of teaching through being sick because I don’t have the time to write sub plans.
It means I am human.
And I need a break. I need to recharge and refocus. Step away, Breathe deeply.
Center myself back on Jesus. Re-prioritize. Accomplish things on my checklist that don’t have to do with school.
We still have 4 days until our break. And we will do it. My lessons may not be “highly effective” this coming week. I might not bring the energy like usual. but I will do it and we will do it and we will reach Thursday afternoon at 3:40.
If you still have a few more days til break, and are not feeling burnt out yet, PLEASE share your secret!
Fingers crossed for a puke-free week.