This post originally appeared on the blog Student Savvy. Teaching today includes a booming internet business filled with DIY projects and creative ideas for every topic and season of the year. As you walk down the school hallways, you see these designs coming to life in classrooms across the world. Why then, with all the creative and wonderful projects at our fingertips, do we have a higher burnout and teacher attrition rate than ever?
So how do we know when enough is enough? How do we know when it’s OK to be an effective teacher, and not a designer or architect?
Here is a list of top 10 ways you know you are neglecting yourself in pursuit of teacher perfection.
1. The custodial staff leaves school before you do.
2. Your husband invites you out on a date night and you show him five stacks of papers to be graded by midnight. Can he help, please?
3. Over Thanksgiving break, you finish the turkey and start planning the Christmas pageant costumes and music for your grade level.
4. You don’t know your own children’s teachers’ names.
5. You use a separate Pinterest account to create retirement boards, filled with dream vacation photos, cruises, and luxury homes.
6. The last family night out was during the summer break.
7. Even with highly effective lesson plans, you are still grouchy and on edge.
8. There isn’t an inch of your room without inspirational quotes or cute educational posters.
9. You go through the list of your students’ names when trying to call your own kids.
10. You have Pinterest boards for every day of the school year, even National Tortilla Chip Day (that is a real holiday).
Yes, the standards are higher and yes, the push to be creative, fun and engaging is growing, but what we cannot forget, under any circumstance, is that we are teachers in order to teach kids, not to have the cutest classroom. Would it really be the end of the world if your classroom didn’t look like it came out of Education Weekly’s top 5 decorated classrooms? No matter what, there is one constant in education. Students will come, we will teach, students will leave and what they need and desperately want to take with them is not the latest fad, but rather a solid education they can use and a loving mentor with whom they can stay in touch.
So you figured out that you might be overdoing it. Now what?
Take care of yourself, teachers!!! Here’s how:
1. Set a time you will leave school every day and stick to it with only a few exceptions.
2. Work smarter not harder; facilitate your students to work in groups and self-assess.
3. Not every paper that comes across your desk HAS to be graded.
4. Have the students create the cute stuff AS LONG as it produces valuable learning.
5. Set time aside for family and know deep in your heart it is ok to say no to school sometimes.
6. Exercise, laugh, and spend time with friends outside of work.
7. Let your spouse, family member, or friend be your support system and offer you a break once in a while.
The bottom line is that the burnout we are suffering as teachers can often be a self-imposed burnout. We must learn to prioritize for our own sanity and health. A stressed teacher is not able to teach at his/her best! We should try to accept that we cannot always be that elusive picture of perfection, that all teachers have stressful times in their careers. There is no perfect teacher nor perfectly decorated classroom. Let’s celebrate our own uniqueness and teaching gifts. Don’t be your own worst critic, by pushing yourself to your own version of perfection. Let’s relax and enjoy the wonderful journey that we have chosen as teachers!
Let’s work together to create a new perfect teacher image! A teacher who cares about her/himself so they can care for others: a teacher who shows students how to embrace their passion and how to learn using real world situations. Most importantly, we must be teachers who understand that education takes pacing so we can be in the classroom for the generations to come.
Which top signs do you relate to the most? What strategies do you use when you face burnout?
Suzanne is a full time curriculum designer on Teachers Pay Teachers and the author of the blog TeachStudentSavvy.com. She is a California credentialed K-8 teacher and is committed to creating effective and engaging teaching resources for the elementary classroom. Suzanne lives in Northern California with her husband Matt and two dogs, Mochi and Mindy. As a curriculum designer, her goal is to provide educational tools that make teachers lives a bit easier and that students will love and enjoy using in the classroom. Be sure to visit her on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and at her TpT store!