Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Evil Monster Called Burn Out

In Burnout: Trickle or Flood? from Cruel Shoes by eplybon, Elaine gives three steps to avoid burnout. They are:
“Take a break… I mean a mental break. Give yourself a few minutes each day to have a rest from the job. During this time, focus on something that is not school-related.

Change your thinking...Anytime you find thoughts creeping into your head that are negative about the job and the kids, recognize it. Turn it around - try to focus on the positives. If you can’t find positives, try to figure out why you feel the way you do. What one thing made that thought come into your head? Is it something that can be fixed/changed?

Never stop. The teaching profession demands that reflection and renewal be continuous."

I thought these were great suggestions. During this time of year (testing, IEPs, last 9 weeks of school, term papers, possible student failures for the year, graduation, contract renewals, etc.) the stress is piled on. I wanted to add a few more suggestions to the ones mentioned.

Exercise. This is a great way to relieve stress. It gets those endorphins going to fight any negative healthy thingys attacking your body. When you are under stress, you will find yourself feeling sicker more often. I believe that is one way your body is saying, “Hey, I need a break from all this stress!” I don’t mean you have to join a gym, but maybe schedule a walk every other day. I had a friend that would walk during her lunch break. Sometimes a friend would join her and they would have a chance to visit and catch up on things.

Get energized by other teachers. Ask the students what teacher they like best and why (they will be brutally honest!). Pick one (or more) and ask them if you could observe them and tell them that they were recommended by the students. They will feel honored and it will make you feel good too. Then when you observe them, notice strategies they do that are effective in their class and that you might use in your class.

Take a 30 minute break in your lessons for a heart to heart talk with the students. I’ve stopped in the middle of the unit and told the students that we just needed some time to talk. I mentioned that I was feeling stressed out lately and asked them if they were feeling stress. Usually that got the ball rolling and it amazed me about some of the things they were going through. Or talk about any topic you want. The kids actually love the attention and if you really listen to them, they will respect you even more.

Do something positive for others. This really helps too. I started writing happy notes on post-it notes for different students. I would praise them for doing something right the day before and leave it on their desks when they arrived. The smiles on their faces were worth it and it made the others hopeful that they would get one soon. If you do this, make sure you don’t just do the same ones over and over. Surely you can find one thing about every student to praise. Make sure it is sincere (or they will see right through you and it won’t mean anything). I only did about 5 each week so it didn’t overwhelm me and make this a chore. By doing this, I felt I was doing something that could make a difference in someone’s day.

I really like the thought of reflecting. Keep a journal, write a blog, or even record an audio about your day. Tell about the things that went great or didn’t, how you felt about them and what you would do differently. This may help you put things in perspective or at least get it off your chest. I always worried that other people wouldn’t understand so by doing this, it didn’t involve others and I could learn so much from myself.

I hope you find something in these suggestions to help you ward off the evil monster called Burn Out. I guess I used them pretty often because I taught Special Ed for almost 30 years. I hope you will try some of these and that you are successful in managing your stress levels. If you have any other suggestions, please share it with me!

Original image: 'Ignition ...' by: David Tomic


Mitch Weisburgh said...

Also, as little as five minutes a day of meditating can have a very positive effect.

Margaret said...

That's good. Wish I'd found this long ago. Actually, I needed this at the beginning of this year!

loonyhiker said...

Mitch: thanks for the suggestion. I need to work on that.

loonyhiker said...

Margaret: It's never too late! :)

eplybon said...

I love that you added to the list and especially like the one about talking to the kids. Sometimes, especially during this time of year, teachers and students are so stressed that they begin to feel disconnected. This opportunity to have a chat with them can not only help the teacher to feel better, it can help the students feel better, too.

loonyhiker said...

@eplybon: Hope you and your students are surviving spring stress! :)