Mantras for Preventing Teacher Burn-Out

My student teaching experience was one blur of overwhelming anxiety, zero sleep, and limitless work habits.  I would wake up between 4 and 5am, work before school started, fight desperately to stay awake on my commute, teach at 7:25, and then not stop teaching/planning/grading until about 11pm, then get up and do it again.  Midway through the semester, the sinking feeling in my stomach–the one you get when you feel like something is or is about to go gravely wrong–was a permanent feeling.  I was a nervous wreck and a workaholic.

I was extraordinarily passionate about teaching and public education, but I already felt myself losing my resolve.  Growing up with a mother that was a middle school teacher, I was well acquainted with the dangers of teacher burnout.  Teaching is a marathon, and I knew something had to change for me to pace myself or I wouldn’t make it.

I can’t think of anything else that is more important to the longevity and quality of a teacher’s career than self-respect and time-management.  And I’m not just talking about efficiency and work ethic, but knowing when to call it quits for the night.  Too many good teachers–the BEST teachers–work themselves to the ground, forcing themselves to leave the profession.

Over the past 2 years of teaching, I’ve gathered a few time-management philosophies from other professionals for my teacher time-management that have helped immensely.  I hope these ideas will help your own time-management as much as it’s shaped mine, and maybe even help preserve a few amazing teachers.

Here are a series of ideas that have transformed the way that I think about my time and my work.

  1. The less time you spend working on school, the happier and better teacher you are.
  2. Don’t be so busy chopping wood that you forget to stop and sharpen your axe.
  3. The one who’s doing the most is learning the most.

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