• Meagan Gillcrist

Teacher Burnout: 10 ways to prepare before burnout hits

Happy new school year! Well actually, it is a few weeks in. Your students are settled into their normal routine, your entire caseload has an annual IEP review due on the same day, and you've run out of all the cool lesson plans you made over the summer. You love all of your students though and you feel a little guilty that the big S (STRESS) has already slowly crept into your thoughts. As an exceptional educator, especially new to the field, this-is-completely-normal.

There is a multitude of responsibilities you have to juggle as a special educator. Not to scare you, but it may take years to develop efficient systems that allow you to have more time freedom. What I can promise, however, there are things your can do to begin feeling "comfortable being uncomfortable." Your work WILL get easier, but it is important to plan ahead in order to prevent burnout! Remember, no great artist was created overnight, you will get there. Until then here are 10 ways to avoid burnout early on in the year.

1. Give yourself permission not to do everything. As an educator you are here to guide your students. It is a blessing that you get to be a huge part of their lives, however in order to truly be present and great for them, you have to give yourself permission to not do everything. It is important to take breaks, especially on the weekend. There will always be more work to do. Keep in mind that if you aren't recharged, then you cannot give your best self.

2. Make a self-care plan. Just as you plan for students, you need to create a self-care plan for yourself! You will be more likely to utilize something that is positive and calming when you have planned for it. What do you plan to do when you are feeling stressed? What strategies do you have that help you recharge your batteries (e.g., running, art, hiking, reading a book)? How will you manage your stress level in your classroom? Be honest with yourself and what you need.

3. Build your teacher tribe. It is important to have people on your metaphoric team who get it. Having those you can vent to but also problem-solve with is incredibly important. Not everyone needs to earn this title, but having just a few people in your corner will make all of the difference in the world. Building your teacher tribe takes time and a conscious effort.

4. Set obtainable and realistic goals. Look we all want to be the very best at something immediately, especially when the stakes are incredibly high. The reality of the situation is that it takes 5 years of doing something consistently to become an expert. Just as you create scaffolded goals for students for a year, do this for yourself. Being able to grow as a professional and obtain goals allows you to feel satisfaction in a job well done.

5. Get organized. Half of your job in the first few years is writing paperwork. From testing students, writing and scheduling meetings, on top of communicating with teachers and parents it is a full time gig in itself. If you struggle with organization, ask your school to order The Together Teacher . It took educators years to develop these skills, invest in reviewing what they have done in order to save yourself loads of time.

6. Engage with your school community. Education can be isolating if we allow it to be. It is easy to come to work, teach your courses and leave. This is especially true when you feel overwhelmed with all of the work you have to do. Taking time to engage with your school community through PTA events, sports games, clubs, etc... allows you to see your school community in a new way. It is important not to overly commit to these events either. The goal is to engage and to become apart of the community within your own healthy limits.

7. Be transparent and genuine. Not everyday can be an awesome day. By building genuine and transparent relationships you are able to have real conversations with your students, their families and other teachers. There is nothing wrong with being vulnerable and allowing your students to know that you are just having a rough morning. In modeling this type of transparency in a positive way you are actually teaching your students great career readiness skills.

8. Keep your hobbies. One of the first things we give up in our world are our hobbies. It is easy to cancel the workout class, stop cooking, give up hiking, or cancel our plans with people we care about when we are incredibly focused on the job and feel stressed. However, it is important to have these things in our lives. They allow for us to be grounded and feel intention in other areas outside of work.

9. Have a growth mindset. The reality is, you will mess up A LOT! Even experienced educators make mistakes. Becoming a reflective practitioner of your work and continually seeking to learn allows for you to growth professionally and take a lot of stress out of the equation. Give yourself lots of grace in your career.

Give yourself lots of grace in your career.

10. HAVE FUN! Teaching is FUN! Students bring something new each and everyday. There will be days you want to pull your hair out, but if you make your classroom a home for learning you truly will continue to stay in this work!

The world needs teachers like you so make sure you are taking the necessary steps to prevent burnout early on.

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