By Julie Diamond
If you are a teacher in Ontario, Alberta, Newfoundland or Saskatchewan, you still have another month or so until Spring Break which may seem like light years away. With the hectic school year, switching from in-class to online, wearing PPE all day, along with all the other changes, teacher burnout may seem inevitable. Here are some tips that, while they may seem like no-brainers, serve as gentle reminders to reflect, and reset.
1. Eat Healthy & Exercise: You are always on the go, especially if you teach primary, so you need snacks that you can eat quickly and possibly with one hand. Some healthy options include air-popped popcorn (sprinkled with nutritional yeast), veggies and hummus, dried fruit & dip (mix yogurt with dry JELL-O mix), and pickles (if you are craving something salty). One thing I have really gotten into (on those busy days for lunch or as a late-night snack) are smoothies. I like to try different varieties using different things like spinach, apples, frozen fruit, hemp and chia seeds, Greek yogurt, along with protein powder or nut butter so it acts as a meal replacement high in protein.
As far as exercise, that may be exceptionally challenging to incorporate into your daily routine. If you can not seem to find the time to make it to the gym, or if the gyms are still closed where you live, here are some ideas for at home or, dare I say, in between classes. I bought a jump rope and on breaks I will skip for 2-3 minutes about 3 times a day. If you can manage that in between classes or marking at home, 10 minutes of jumping rope is equivalent to 30 minutes on the treadmill. It is a time saver and also super fun! Or, if you are looking for an option with less impact, try 20 squats after each bathroom break. Whenever you do not have the time to do the squats, you can keep track and catch up when you do.
2. Make Time to Unwind: How do you unwind? Whether it is with a book, tv, or hanging with the family, make sure you make time for it every day. Catch up with a friend over video or sit down for dinner with your family. Maintaining this balance between work and down time will keep you happy and ready to take on the workday.
3. Focus on the Positive & What You Have Done Well: This may have been a frustrating school year with all the changes and new things to learn and/or implement so it may be easy to spiral. Buddy up with another colleague or teacher, or even a non-work-related friend/family member, to keep each other in check. When either of you are speaking negatively, the other gives a gentle reminder to focus to the positive. It may be easy to think of all that has gone wrong this year, but for your sanity, shift gears and reflect on what you have done well. When you think positively, it makes the busy school days a lot more manageable.
4. Know When to Ask for Help: Whether you are teacher in their first or twentieth year, this school year is completely different, and you may be feeling stressed from learning new technology to mental exhaustion from being online and/or in class. You are NOT alone. Check in with yourself or your colleagues and know when to ask for help and/or recognize if a colleague needs your help. Teaching may feel really isolating being alone in the classroom, or this year online, so open the door to communication with other teachers to share lesson ideas or simply to vent. If that outlet is not available to you, talk to your partner, friend, or family member.
5. Prepare Ahead (With Flexibility): Procrastination during a school year like this one is only going to create unnecessary stress for you. Though preparing too far in advance may also be frustrating given all the last-minute changes with COVID. This past year has taught us to be flexible. Create your plans with lots of room for changes and ability to adapt to online (if needed).
6. (If Possible) Leave Work at School: If you find yourself taking your schoolwork home with you and then struggle to disconnect at the end of the evening, try keeping your work at school. Go in earlier or stay later (if that is a possibility) to finish and create that mental separation from work.
How are YOU managing this school year? What did we miss? What helps you prevent teacher burnout? Comment below.
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Julie Diamond is a certified teacher in Canada and the founder of Teachers to Go.