Dealing with Teacher Burnout
One concern that even the most dedicated of English teachers will face in their careers, is the dreaded Teacher Burnout stage. Perhaps this stage is especially difficult for TEFL teachers living in a foreign countries where you simply can't turn to the resources or family/friends you have at home when you are going through a rough patch at work. In this blog entry, I'll try to explain what Teacher Burnout is and more importantly how to avoid it and how to get out of it if you are burned out from teaching.
Teacher Burnout is pretty much what it sounds like; simply being tired or exhausted (emotionally and physically) by the many problems and issues that plague teachers on an everyday basis. These problems can include student behavior issues, over-sized classes, inadequate salaries, too much marking, conflicts with co-workers or administrators, etc. For all the rewards and satisfaction that you can get from teaching, there seems to be a equal amount of problems one faces from this profession.
The consequences of Teacher Burnout are most often felt by the people we are trying to help the most; our students. A burned out teacher is often an apathetic, under-prepared, uninspiring educator simply going through the motions of teaching everyday. Your students depend on you to learn, and a burned out teacher is often unable to meet the needs of their students.
SO....how can we avoid being burned out from teaching???
Here are a few of my own suggestions to keep you motivated and connected while teaching:
1. The number one way I believe that teachers can avoid being burned out from their jobs, is by LEAVING YOUR WORK AT WORK. I know this sounds impossible, but it's something you have to try to do. I'm not saying don't plan and be prepared for your lessons, but leave the worry and stress at work where it belongs. You must make a conscience effort to use your weekends and free time the way you want to, without thinking about work or talking about work. And believe me it takes a lot of effort. When work starts creeping in your mind, you have to tell yourself I'm not going to worry about this right now.
2. Stay Healthy (Physically and Mentally). You may not think it has a big impact on teacher burnout, but making healthy choices (diet, exercise, sleeping, trying to learn new skills, etc) will help immensely in staying fresh at work. I know if you're teaching in Korea for example, where drinking alcohol is a big part of people's social life, that this can be difficult, but its essential that you keep your mind in body in top shape to avoid becoming burnt out. Being healthy means having energy; something all teachers need in their jobs.
3. Change things up. As a teacher, even one that is teaching abroad, its very easy to fall into routines and to just keep using what's worked in the past. Although, these type of routines can be convenient, they can also kill you motivation to teach. It's essential as a teacher to try new things in your classes. I also think it's essential for everyone to try new things in our lives. Although every new thing we try in our classes may not be successful, at least you tried and you got your brain thinking in a way that left your comfort zone. Another great way to change things up is by getting away. Even if its only a couple hours outside the city (or visa versa), being away from familiar surroundings will help to freshen your perspective on life and teaching. If you can take a longer vacation away from home, that's even better.
4. Be prepared for your classes and arrive early to work. As I mentioned earlier one of the biggest causes of teacher burnout is stress. When you are not prepared for your classes or arrive with just minutes to spare before you have to teach, this can cause a lot of stress. I know I said earlier leave work at work, but its also critical that you spend time planning and prepping for your classes. Perhaps you can do this before work or after work at school. This extra prep will make you life so much better, trust me. Also arriving early is a good way to avoid stress that can lead to burnout. If you live and teach in a hot country like Thailand or China in the summer, you're going to sweat a lot. Arriving late to work, sweaty, and rushing to class is no way to start you day. Give yourself extra time before teaching and it will really be worth it.
5. Don't forget to have fun. No matter what age you teach or what subject , you should try to have fun teaching everyday. This doesn't mean you shouldn't take your job seriously, but it means incorporating something enjoyable into every lesson. By sharing some jokes or personal funny stories, or use learning games in class you and your students will enjoyed your time together in class much more. The same goes when dealing with co-workers. Its very easy for teachers to complain about their jobs, as teaching can be tough. This complaining can also make a school a toxic environment. I think its important that you try to have fun and remain positive with colleagues as well. There is a good chance that you will spend almost as much time with them as your family and friends, so its crucial you have good relationships with these people...which leads me too advice #6.
6. Help/Compliment other people. I've found that whenever I'm feeling down or burnt out, helping my colleagues or students or giving someone praise for something they have done, is a great way to feel better. The thing is, if you dedicate yourself to helping others or making them feel good about themselves, you'll find that they will do the same for you, which can help when feeling burnt out
I know I said I was going to give advice for people who are currently experiencing Teacher Burnout, well my advice for them is the same as the people trying to avoid this feeling. If you do feel burnt out try to start following the advice above. It may not be easy to do these things, but it will be worth it.
Let me know if you have any additional advice to help people avoid teacher burnout in the comment section below.