The possibilities in teaching are endless. Learning never ends. But unfortunately the school day ends, as does the actual day when the sun sets and you try to find a window of opportunity to sleep for eight hours.
You can spend your early mornings photocopying and laying out activities in classrooms; lunch breaks cutting out paper crafts; and spend your evenings at home marking books, while trying to watch the latest episode of the Great British Bake Off. Then there’s still plenty more to do.
You will feel selfless for helping the children of tomorrow. You may even feel satisfied with what you’ve achieved in the day (although you’ll more likely be pondering about the lesson you didn’t have time to make more interactive or the display board you didn’t decorate). Most of all, you will, at some point down the track, get teacher burnout.
Here are some of my ideas for avoiding burnout:
Planning ahead gives a buffer for when things get busy. Know where you’re headed long term with your units of study and assessment of students. Book trips weeks in advance, hoard stationery for a rainy day, start reading up on next terms topic so you appear knowledgeable to the students.
Have the long term plan centralised in the one place. I use Google calendars. Set email alerts and phone reminders so you don’t miss appointments.
If you want to achieve a lot, without losing the plot, look to someone who’s busy for advice.
I looked to an article about former Neighbours actor Brooke Satchwell where she explains the importance of time management in a busy schedule. Sure teachers are not appearing simultaneously in a variety of television programs. But with poor planning we can have an equally hectic schedule. To achieve the most from your potential, break everything down.
We enjoy keeping our students in a timetable. So keep yourself in a timetable.
On the flip-side, don't be so rigid with your routine that you become an antisocial, pedantic overlord of the time continuum. Make room in the schedule for being off schedule. Also be flexible to remove or relocate sections of your schedule to accommodate other people's time restrictions. Yet all the time keep your priorities at the fore front. Satchwell breaks her day down into 15 minute increments. Stick to what you planned for that increment so everything is completed as planned. Avoid distractions such as checking emails, sms and other things that can wait. Don't fall into a case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and sacrifice every minute at the expense of your own success and peace of mind.
Go with Ms Satchwell’s 15 minute breakdown and you’ll find yourself with enough time to start that a hobby like felting rocks out of old yarn.
Marking will be the death of you. So put that at the top of your list. Sure crafting a volcano from crepe paper, for your science display, looks like a more exciting prospect than deciphering the modern day hieroglyphics one of your endearingly dyspraxic pupils has etched into their notebook; but crepe paper volcanoes don't know the answers to times tables or the rules of English grammar. You'll have to make those corrections yourself. The temptation is always to do something more exciting. There is always something more exciting to do. There are usually thirty or so children under your supervision, each of whom could gain from your undivided attention. But there aren't that many hours in the day. The opportunities for learning are endless, but the workday comes to a conclusion. If you let too much spillage in your personal time and space, you'll be overcome. So get the important stuff done properly in the correct order.
Do yoga, or at the least breathing exercises before bedtime. Our bodies are part machine. Certain physical actions elicit certain physical responses.
Yoga will stretch and tire your muscles and so forth so you feel more relaxed. It is as many parts science, as it is goodwill from the greeting 'Namaste' and humming bowl.
Breathing exercises will slow down your heart rate and help your body relax. Counting sheep is also tried and tested. Let yourself become preoccupied with the sheep or breathing and you'll forget about being awake in no time.
And if you can sleep well without dreaming of lesson plans, unmarked books, and misbehaving students, then you have avoided teacher burnout.