Teaching comes and goes in seasons. Some you thrive. Some you barely survive. At the end of the semester, you might be feeling that teacher burnout. I just recently came out of one of the most difficult semesters of my own teaching career. If you have also recently had a difficult time, you may be wondering the same thing I was: How can you bounce back after a tough semester?
1. Acknowledge how you’re feeling
It can be easy to just shove everything under the rug and try to push through. But you should resist doing that.
Talk with someone you trust (try to avoid posting in a Facebook group even if it is private – assume anyone can take a screenshot). Take time to look back and reflect on the semester.
Acknowledge what happened, how you’re feeling, and that your feelings are valid.
2. Identify what needs to change
Make a list of all of what made the semester difficult(literally everything you can think of no matter how big or small).
Then categorize the list into what is an easy fix, can’t be changed, and what’s a non-negotiable change(if this doesn’t change, you’re out kind of thing). Whether it’s teaching too many classes that are outside of your content area, too many after school requirements, or something else, you decide.
Actually write down whatever your non-negotiable changes are to hold yourself accountable. If _______ doesn’t change by the end of this semester, then I will ________ (look for a new job, put in a transfer, consider going back to school, etc.)
Advocate for yourself. Talk with your admin. Talk with your union(if you have one). Set clear expectations.
Don’t be afraid to start looking elsewhere/leave your position if it looks like your non-negotiables won’t be met. Sometimes a fresh start is a great cure to fight teacher burnout.
3. Set new boundaries or re-establish old ones
Boundaries are healthy limits you put on your time, space, energy, and emotions. Sometimes when we have tough semesters, boundaries can be broken or new boundaries need to be set in order to prevent teacher burnout.
After last semester, I realized for the sake of my mental health, I needed to set clear boundaries on my time. No matter what, this semester I am putting my laptop down at 5:30PM at the very latest. Whatever
Setting boundaries can look like:
- Going home when your contracted hours are over
- Saying no to extra duties and favors
- Removing yourself from toxic co-worker situations like eating lunch in the faculty lounge
- Saying no to after work drinks/dinner
- Taking your work email off your phone
- Unfriending/unfollowing/muting people on social media
- Saying no to extra performance opportunities
- Only responding to emails during regular school hours
- Taking a personal day and telling people you’ll respond to them when you’re back
- Spending your free time how you want and releasing feelings of guilt that you aren’t working