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Teaching Profession Opinion

How I’m Keeping Ahead of Burnout: 4 Tips for Teachers

Battling the long-haul blahs until spring break
By Kelly Scott — February 20, 2024 4 min read
Young woman cartoon character making step from gloomy grey rainy weather to sunny clear day.
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As teachers settle into the second half of the school year, there is hope on the horizon: While summer feels like a distant dream, the days are getting longer, and the ever-anticipated spring break is within reach.

So, how do you soldier on for these weeks leading up to the last big break of the school year?

Here are four tips from this teacher in the trenches to ease the long-haul blahs when you’re already feeling burnt out.

Limit negative teacher social media.

Following teacher accounts on Instagram and TikTok is pretty much synonymous with teaching these days. Many teacher-related accounts offer a hefty amount of validation by exposing the negative and downright ridiculous aspects of teaching that only fellow educators can appreciate or understand. These accounts are invaluable.

However, if your feed is inundated with only the most harrowing tales of bad student behavior, deplorable admin antics, and teachers confessing their desperate longings to leave the profession, this constant barrage of negativity is bound to affect your own mindset and attitude. What may start out as relief to know you are not alone in feeling irritated by poor student behavior and outrageous parental requests can quickly turn into frustration and disgust that doesn’t end when you put down your phone.

This is not to say you should adopt an outlook of toxic positivity and pretend everything is perfect; it just means it’s important to be aware of the content in your feed and how it impacts you.

Try balancing the negative with some lighthearted professional content and be sure to follow some humorous nonteacher-related accounts to sprinkle in a laugh here and there. Getting through the long haul to a big break is difficult enough without immersing yourself in anecdotes about how awful teaching can be.

Watch out for venting vampires.

Venting is natural and feels good, but some people turn it into their entire personality, making it their sole means of conversing on the job. These “venting vampires” seek out anyone to whom they can release every ounce of their pent-up anger, frustration, and disillusionment with a particular class, this particular school year, or the entire public education system in general.

Listening to a colleague vent now and then can be validating and build camaraderie, but being on the receiving end of nonstop venting can suck the energy from you, leaving you feeling worse.

Again, this is not about ignoring the real problems that plague teachers daily, it’s about protecting your emotions and not getting sucked into a depressed state where it feels like nothing is ever good or right with teaching.

If you find yourself on the constant receiving end of a venting vampire, offer a vaguely positive statement to interrupt the negativity such as “My class has actually been pretty cooperative this week” and move on. While the temptation to commiserate may be strong, it will only secure your position as their go-to listener for future venting sessions, so tread carefully.

Everyone is different, but be aware of how the attitudes of those around you can shape your feelings toward your time in the classroom, especially during long stretches without a break.

Limit mindless scrolling for job opportunities.

Perusing the job market to weigh your options and think about future endeavors is great, but if you are feeling burnt out, or seasonal depression is sinking in, be mindful of how much time you devote to job scrolling. What begins out of boredom and curiosity may turn into obsessively searching and thinking the grass is greener elsewhere. This could trigger a domino effect where you find yourself applying for jobs just to “see what happens,” which might lead to making a rash decision about your career.

Investing excessive amounts of time into job searching can also make you disengage from your current job, which will only compound negative feelings you may already have. If you didn’t think about leaving the profession before the long days of winter, stay in touch with how much time you are spending looking at other job opportunities. If you are using it to escape reality, this could result in feeling even more dissatisfied.

Take a strategic mental health day.

When you look at the school calendar and see nothing but five-day work weeks for the foreseeable future, it can be overwhelming. Taking a strategically timed mental health day can give you something to look forward to during this stretch, but it’s essential to make it count. Once you schedule the day, activate an out-of-office email response so you can completely unplug.

As tempting as it may be, do not use your day off to grade papers or to get ahead on planning. Your only planning should involve an indulgent activity for yourself. Maybe you spend the whole morning drinking coffee on your porch and listening to your favorite podcast, perhaps you go shopping and leisurely browse with no sense of time, or maybe you decide to spend the day in nature taking a hike in silence.

In order for this day to be worth using your sick time, it must be beneficial to your mental well-being. So be selfish and make the day all about you. This could be the very boost you need to keep you going until spring break.

A version of this article appeared in the March 13, 2024 edition of Education Week as How I’m Keeping Ahead of Burnout: Tips for Teachers

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