Preventing Teacher Burnout: How to Thrive as an Educator in 2023

Throughout your life, I bet many of you have had at least one really stellar teacher who has made a positive lasting impression on you. Or maybe the converse is true- the memory of that teacher is noteworthy in another way. Perhaps you don’t even consciously realize the impact your past teachers have made.

Great teachers give so much of themselves and maintain so much “on time.” They’re helping to form our future generations on a day-to-day basis.

Talk about an enormous weight on your shoulders!

Given the full lives we keep these days, oftentimes teachers spend more time with our kids than we do.

Talk about influence!

The fact that many of those in a traditional teaching role get a long summer break may even make this career choice sound “cushy,” when it’s far from.

The teachers I know spend quite a bit of their time away from their students planning and preparing for future lessons. In terms of workdays, theirs is long. Considering that “long break” many teachers have in the summer, I’d like to challenge you to dig a little bit deeper into the concepts of life balance and mental wellbeing.

Call to mind something that keeps you balanced and feeling mentally well. Maybe it’s going for a long walk or working out. Maybe it’s cooking a healthy meal for yourself or your family. Maybe it’s catching up with a good friend. Maybe it’s something as simple as taking a shower and getting comfy.

Ok, so imagine if you did that or those things with regularity. Really great, right?

Now imagine if you engaged in these practices every day for only the summer but not much at all during the rest of the year. For long periods of time, you proceed with so much on time that you are out of balance, tired, and for some, nearly burned out.

There has to be another way. 

As a mom, I am constantly talking with my friends about anything and everything kids, and I have a lot of teacher friends. Having to spend so much time with so many children for so many days of the year necessitates real mental health strategies to keep our wonderful teachers excited about their jobs and doing what they do so well.

I’ve talked with a few of my friends who are educators and asked each of them for the best insight they can offer regarding what has worked well for them to maintain work-life balance. How do they live in the space of mental wellness without falling into burnout territory?

Here’s what they said:

“When asked how I maintain excitement for teaching and avoid burnout, I immediately thought,

‘Whew, how DO I DO that?’

It has definitely taken me a few years to learn and grow in this realm, but it really does take discipline. It takes a mindset, creating work/home life boundaries (and actually sticking to them), and prioritizing self (your well-being) first and foremost.

Things I have incorporated over the years:
  • Leaving school when school ends.
  • Not checking school emails once I get home or on weekends.
  • If I have to take work home, I designate a time to complete it so it isn’t taking up too much of my day/night/weekend.
  • Realizing that MY health and wellbeing is important too, so not feeling guilty if I need to miss a day of school. 
  • Prioritizing movement, nutrition, and sleep. (These 3 things are a work in progress but really make a difference in how I show up for my students, family, and myself.)
  • I also truly believe that teaching in a school/community that is supportive of its teachers is crucial to teachers keeping their excitement for teaching alive and flourishing.”
~Amy L.

“I have been teaching since 2004, so about 18 years, and it has taken me many years to figure out how to manage the stress, responsibilities, and the emotional roller coaster that comes with this profession.

The practices that have helped me the most at home are making it a priority that I’m…

  • getting enough sleep
  • eating well
  • meditating
  • exercising
  • stretching
  • leaving work at work as best as I can
  • reminding myself that I am doing my best and that I love my students

When I am at work, I do my best to appreciate the moments when students are having fun in my class, telling me their stories, or when one overcomes a challenge and gets excited when they do well. I believe kids should enjoy school, and it should be fun. It’s also important that they know you care and love them.

I feel it has been most beneficial to reach out to my co-workers when I need help and to be there when they need mine. Simply sharing any valuable knowledge I have gained could help another teacher, especially someone new.

Life is too short. Teaching is hard, and I have learned the value of being in a positive, caring environment, working with people who have the same values as I do.

~Jennie E.

“I have 2 main tips for surviving and thriving as a teacher. These are really important in order to think positively and show up every day for the kids we teach. But even more importantly, these tips are for you- as a person- to know how to show up for yourself, in your own life, day in and day out. 

  1. Focus on what you can control. There is so much going on in a school, and most of it is not within our control. As teachers, we don’t choose our students, our administrators, or how meetings go in our schools. What you can control is how you react to those things. Choose your path. Don’t allow those things to get to you. Breathe. Process your feelings about them, and then move along. Use strategies that will help you stay on track in order to focus on what’s important. Something like journaling every day can help you to process what is happening in your classroom and evaluate your feelings about it. Then, after reflection, you change what is within your control
  2. Practice self care…. a lot! A major turning point in my teaching career was when I started meditation. Yoga quickly joined that as part of my daily morning routine, and this has had a huge life-enhancing benefit for me. But I didn’t stop my self care there- I kept incorporating different things into my day, and the more I did, the better I felt! Try to infuse the practice of caring for yourself in every way you need it: hang out with friends, learn new things, enjoy “tag Tuesday” with your children (have fun!), and last but not least: EAT HEALTHY. Your food choices should nourish, not deplete, your body. Try to eat fresh foods by packing your own lunch the night before. Avoid sugar and chemicals (including soda) in the teacher’s lounge, and if you need caffeine, only drink it in the morning. Food is a major influencer on how we feel, so try to make your body and mind feel good by putting good things into it! In order to get the most out of self care, find what works for you! Add more things that work for you at your own pace. Every little bit helps!”
~Sarah M.
When I assembled what each of these amazing ladies (and teachers!) above had sent me into blog post format, I’ll admit I got the chills. Wow. Such powerful advice, and many common themes!

Teachers out there, what else could you add to their insight? 

**I must add a disclaimer now. I am not a teacher in the sense to which I am referring in this post, so please feel free to comment on anything from my words in the introduction. I maintain that I oversimplified life’s complexities for the sake of discussion here but consider myself an always-learner, and I appreciate further input from those in the field :)

Thanks for reading.

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Yoga instructor and mental wellness coach Charlotte Wrzesinski

Hi, I'm Charlotte!

I wear many hats and understand everyday, real-life stress.

I am a mom, wife, pharmacist, yoga and meditation instructor, and mental wellness coach. I started focusing on wellness after having my second child as a means to manage stress, improve my own overall state of wellbeing, and become more balanced.

My transformation was so powerful that I made it my mission to help others achieve and maintain wellness in their lives.

Learn More About Me +

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