Although Gretchen has had many life mentors that have taught her about podcasting, blogging, business, and other things related to becoming a strong Edupreneur, she didn’t feel that she had that type of mentorship opportunity as a teacher. That’s what caused her to become a passionate, wise teacher mentor herself. Here is Gretchen and I’s take on identifying those tiny flickers of burnout and some advice on how to take action, big or small.
Step One: Identify Your Burnout
Burnout is different for everyone. Therefore, just like seasons are different, so are your types/causes of burnout. Knowing yourself (your strengths and weaknesses, for example) and the triggers that you have, is extremely important here. Check out this Burned-In Teacher Podcast Episode: What Type of Burned-Out Are You?
What’s happening? What is it that’s causing you stress? Write it all down.
- Why are those things happening? Now. I want you to pause for a second. You have to think within your locus of control here. What is causing these things to happen within your classroom, your time, and your career. I will always come back to the fact that, if you truly know yourself and have created healthy habits of mind and body, you will be better able to identify where your challenges lie (within your control) and where your strengths can come in and save the day.
- Why am I not growing?
- Why do I keep getting bad evaluations?
YOU HAVE TO BE VERY HONEST AND OPEN WITH YOURSELF. NO BLAME, NO EXCUSES. THIS CAN BE HARD, BUT IS SO IMPORTANT FOR STEP 2.
“By finding people who have strength in an area where I was weak, that turned down the burnout for that season and I was able to continue feeling passionate and loving what I was doing without leaving the profession completely. ”
— Gretchen Bridgers, Always a Lesson: Empowering Educators Podcast
Step 2: Seek Solutions/Support/ Sustainability
- You have to be a problem solver here. You have to know and be honest with yourself. This can be very hard, but worth it. Although we THINK we can handle all the things on our own and that we have the best solutions to every problem that lands in our lap or classroom, that is a flat out LIE. No one reaches greatness alone. Ever.
- Seek out a mentor. This could be literally anyone who is willing to help you in an area you are weak. You can choose where you start seeking, also. You can have a “top-down'“ approach and start with your principal or direct supervisor and seek advice and/or direction. This is also a great time to begin building a relationship of trust with your administrator and seeing if they are going to be a source of strength for you or not. If you’re leaning towards not, then move to a rung down, on your ladder of support.
- Seek out another teacher(s) in your grade level who has exhibited habits that you aspire to have. It’s time to let your guard down, get real, and know that you can learn from teachers older or younger, with more or less experience than you, and who have different backgrounds. Their strengths and perspective can give you A LOT of support and help you to sustain a high level of passion and productivity.
- Of course, you know that Gretchen and I are huge fans of PLNs (Personal or Professional Learning Networks) these can happen outside of YOUR school, if you’re finding it hard to find an in-person mentor. Check out Facebook Groups, Twitter, or in-person groups in your church, local library, or community center who could offer you personal or professional growth and support. Read this blog post for more information: 3 Creative Ways to Build Your PLN and Your Morale.
- Apply what Gretchen calls “tiny bandaids”
- Have your favorite food in your desk for those extra-stressful situations
- Take deep breaths (use a meditative app like Calm or Headspace) to get your mind right and breath out that stress and breath in control and confidence in yourself
- Change locations (no, not taking another teaching position YET), but literally move to a different place in the building while your kids are out of the room for a bit. Go to the teacher’s lounge when no one else is there, hide out in an empty classroom with a comfy chair you’ve found, go for a walk to a part of the building you’ve not been in for a while. Open your perspective by leaving your four walls.
- Blast your favorite song or channel, when kids are gone and mentally escape. I used to play my favorite music WHILE kids were in the room. Kids would hear me humming along to Dave Matthews or Bon Iver and they’d hear my calm. When I was calm, they were calm too (mostly).
- Set schedule boundaries. This is different for everyone, depending on your after-school obligations and family life. But Gretchen, before she had kids, would leave by a certain time every day, go home, turn on Ellen, and do her grading and planning while eating chips and salsa. Although I’m not a huge proponent to taking work home with you, if it works for you, great!
- If none of this is working, then you have BIGGER changes to consider. Changing grade levels, buildings, corporations, and more. YOU ARE IN CONTROL. Don’t just quit when it gets hard. You may need a moment of reprieve and you may need a bigger bandaid.
- Don’t give up immediately. Seek solutions and ways you can sustain your positivity, passion, and love of education and kids. That’s what staying in education is ultimately about: knowing that you have a gift to offer students, families, and education in general.
“Seasons are never forever. Don’t think, “I hate my job, it’s always going to be this awful.” It’s NOT. Nothing is permanent in this career. It just hurts for a moment, but never a lifetime. I’m so grateful that I didn’t give up on my dreams. I problem solved, changed directions a few times, but I didn’t pull the plug. ”
— Gretchen Bridgers, Always A Lesson: Empowering Educators Podcast
Step 3: Know that Seasons Aren’t Forever
There were many times in my career where I didn’t want to get out of bed, I cried on the way to school, and I had to force a smile. Those seasons came and went, several times. However, when I started following the steps that I’m sharing with you, the joy returned to my LIFE, not just my life as a teacher. Not just as a mom. But as a living, breathing human being. You are more than your career, your students, your state’s mandates and standards. You have to believe that ‘this too shall pass’ and if those tiny bandaids need to become bigger and bigger and you’re not seeing a change in your happiness and contentment, new directions in your career must be sought. YOU ARE IN CONTROL, but you also have to remember that sometimes, there can be changes in us that can make a world of difference too.
As always, I invite you to join in our conversation in our Private and Free Burned-In TeacherFacebook Group. Post a video, ask a question, use US as your PLN to seek solutions for your burnout. We’re here for you. BURN ON!