As many educators around the country are about to embark on winter break, or perhaps you already have, it has gotten us to think about our passion for teaching, and how sometimes it waxes and wanes. Lately, it seems with everyone there are more wanes than waxes. With this, we have put together 5 ways to avoid teacher burnout and reignite your passion for teaching when we come back in January.
At the end of every school year in June, I like to reflect on what I would do differently, how I will revamp units, and even about the fun stuff, such as how I will redecorate my classroom.
In a way, when everyone is starting a brand-new year on New Year’s Day, us teachers “plug” along. I personally do not get too excited. It just doesn’t *feel* like a new year until August rolls around. Yet, as teachers, we should also think about how we want to do things differently as we head into an actual new year, even within the same school year to avoid teacher burnout and reignite that passion.
It is one of the hardest times in education to date. We are in our third year of pandemic teaching. Many extra responsibilities have been placed on us. We are trying to juggle the demands of the profession with the burdens of the cultural times at the moment, and every which way we turn, there is something new thrown onto our proverbial plates. How can we, as educators, avoid teacher burnout and regain that passion, when the world is doing everything around us to blow out that flame? Here are some keyways I specifically reignite my passion for teaching.
#1 Examine Your Why
Why did you become a teacher? What made you decide to major in education, or if you took another career path…what made you decide to jump into the world of teaching?
For me, I was born a teacher. I used to line up my stuffed animals and teach them when I was a little girl. Plus, I had amazing teachers that inspired me to go into the same profession. I loved reading and wanted to spread that joy.
From a young age, I watched my mother in education. From helping her cut materials, complete bulletin boards, and even grade her papers, education was always in my blood. Yet, I also made the decision for myself to pursue it when I was in high school. After watching the movie, Pay It Forward, I knew it was my life’s calling.
In Pay It Forward, a Social Studies teacher assigns a project to have students come up with an idea to change the world in a direct way. This project ends up changing the trajectory of a student’s life and impacts the entire community, including the teacher’s life. This teacher, by one assignment, made an amazing difference.
I think about the difference we make every day. Children grow up and remember their teachers, not the lessons. Children grow up and remember how their teachers made them feel and how they helped motivate them to love reading or to pursue an interest. Teachers change lives.
Even if our *why* was built on an idealized version of what kind of a teacher we would be, get to the bottom of why you chose this profession. Find your why again. It will definitely help you to reignite your passion for teaching once again.
#2 Take Care of Yourself
I know that “self-care” has become a bad eight-letter word. Sometimes self-care can become another burden on us. It’s just another thing on our to-do list, so I’m not going to tell you to take a bubble bath or put on a face mask.
I’m going to tell you to drink water, eat three meals a day, take your vitamins, and try to get a good night’s rest. (I know that’s easier said than done as I have a 20-month-old toddler who loathes sleep.) I’m also telling you to try not to bring work home. Get a mental break from school, so you can feel refreshed and ready to go on Monday.
We cannot simply pour into our students if we have nothing to pour. Students benefit from a well-rested, healthy, and happy teacher. They cannot benefit from a teacher who is run ragged, who is grumpy, disillusioned, and running on fumes.
For me, some weeks are better than others. This past week, my toddler was fighting a cold and her hatred for nighttime sleep was even worse. That combined with sheer exhaustion from teaching in December, and many weekends spent cleaning and doing laundry, has made me not feel my best. It’s difficult being a working mom. I know I need to reassess and figure out some solutions to help me make it through.
Some weeks are just plain harder and that’s to be expected. When you feel like your gas light is on empty, it’s time to reassess. How can you take care of yourself in tangible ways that benefit you and your students? Should you pick up dinner instead of cooking for an hour every night? Should you clean your house every other week instead of every week?
Once you figure that out, your passion for teaching can increase because you’ll have energy again. You will feel better and be able to work at your best.
#3 Become Interested in What You’re Teaching
If you have some flexibility within your district or school, make your lessons interesting to not only your students, but to yourself! If you are excited about what you’re teaching, it’ll reignite that passion. It’ll also make your students motivated as well.
A super interesting lesson or fun project can give the students something to look forward to and something for you to look forward to as well throughout the day.
I know that sometimes if I’m not excited about teaching a lesson, then I know the students probably are not looking forward to sitting and listening to that lesson. My lack of enthusiasm for that subject matter probably rubs off on them, just like my bubbling enthusiasm would influence them as well. Find simple, yet creative ways to spice material and lessons up.
For example, I teach 8th grade Social Studies which happens to be Economics. I am an English teacher through and through. Economics borders on high-level financial math sometimes. I struggled to teach this subject last year, as I, myself, did not find it interesting at all. I never looked forward to that class, and I knew my students were not enjoying it.
After doing some unit researching, I was able to find fun hands-on projects that still hit those Economic standards, but was something my students and I looked forward to. Now, Economics is made up of some projects like Holiday Budget Shopping, Design your Own Coffee Shop, and Make your Own Charity Benefit Concert. It’s more fun for us all around!
Whatever flexibility you have, use it to make those lessons creative and engaging so you will love teaching and they will love learning.
#4 Examine Your Environment
Environment influences how we feel. When our classrooms are neat and tidy, it makes us think better. When my classroom is cluttered, it makes me feel like my mind is cluttered too.
I am a big proponent that the classroom environment is extremely important to teacher and student well-being. When students and teachers are in a welcoming environment conducive to learning, they are able to think clearer.
As a middle school teacher, I value and teach organization. A place for everything and everything in its place. I feel like on days when I just can’t get organized or there’s papers everywhere or the classroom is messy, then my passion for teaching fades. I find myself getting frustrated and distracted by my surroundings instead of focusing on what I was meant to do.
If you’re finding that you’re getting aggravated or your passion isn’t quite there anymore, examine what your environment looks like. Do you need to take some time to reorganize? Do you need to take some time to create a cozy and welcoming classroom that makes you excited to come to school?
My classroom is coffee-themed with calm blues and greens throughout. I have some fake plants placed around the classroom and lots of books in my library. My classroom makes me feel instantly calm and excited when I enter it in the morning.
Decorating a classroom is one of the fun parts of teaching. Even if you are lacking time, just bringing in some new decor that makes you feel at home can instantly lift your mood and make you feel excited to teach again. Design an organized and cozy classroom that you love to be in!
#5 Don’t Grow Stale
If you are currently doing the same things in the same ways, sometimes this can grow humdrum and your passion fades. As teachers, we should be lifelong learners and bring that new information into the classroom to not only make us motivated to teach, but to aid in our students’ success.
Read up on the latest strategies and newest ways to teach concepts. Read resource books that get you excited about trying new things.
Find interesting and new ways to incorporate the different types of learners into your instruction. Perhaps, it’s just a shift into adding an artistic element into a project to excite those visual learners, or adding a song in as a way to remember a concept for the auditory learners. Revamping units, learning the latest strategies, and trying out new ideas can help rekindle your passion.
Another way that helps me regain my passion is being around other teachers who are rocking what they’re doing, enjoying their career, and having fun. If you find it hard to make time to get to know other teachers in your building, then Instagram is another way to connect with other teachers, share new ideas, resources, and get inspired. Instagram is a way to access teachers all over the world that have ideas that perhaps you’ve never thought of. I love to follow certain teachers who share their ideas on Instagram and inspire me to approach novels in different ways, try out exciting methods, and just inspire me overall. When you are inspired by others, it will help reignite your passion.
Teaching, like any other career, can have its highs and lows. We are at a historical point right now in the educational world in which we are the most exhausted we’ve ever been as well, making our passion for teaching fade. By examining your “why,” taking care of yourself, being interested in what you teach, examining your environment, and not growing stale, your passion for teaching can surely grow and bloom into what it once was!
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