As a first-year teacher, it can be hard to avoid teacher burnout.
Have you ever spaced out and then realized you were spacing out so you snapped yourself out of it? What about driving? Have you ever gotten in the car, started driving, and then before you know it, you’re at your destination crossing your fingers, hope you obeyed all the laws because you’re suddenly at your destination and you don’t remember how you got there.
This is a lot like what burnout can feel like. And as a new teacher with a demanding workload, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and burned out. Learning coping strategies early on can help you manage your feelings of burnout and start your year off with enthusiasm and energy.
Here are 7 tips that will help you avoid teacher burnout once and for all.
So grab that cup of coffee, and let’s get to it!
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[su_spoiler title=”First Year Teaching: 7 Strategies to Avoid Teacher Burnout” style=”fancy”](00:00): And by the end of the day, you go to bed and you have no idea what you did that day because like I said, you are on autopilot. If this sounds like you, then I wanna let you know the whole reason I started the present teacher was because this was me too. Hey, teacher bestie. My name’s Helena and I’m the creator of the President Teacher podcast. I’m a first year teacher coach, and in this podcast you are gonna learn everything from simple actual classroom management, socialist learning, and teacher wellness strategies. You know that impact you wanna make in the classroom. Well, we’re gonna make it happen here. (00:40): Have you ever spaced out and then realized you were spacing out so you snapped yourself out of it? What about driving? Have you ever gotten in the car, started driving, and then before you know it, you’re at your destination crossing your fingers, hope you obeyed all the laws because you’re suddenly at your destination and you don’t remember how you got there. What about literally going through the emotions on a day-to-day basis because you’re so emotionally and mentally exhausted that you just go on autopilot, you wake up and you start your day and you are just not there. So you check out mentally and by the end of the day you go to bed and you have no idea what you did that day because like I said, you are on autopilot. If this sounds like you, then I wanna let you know the whole reason I started the present teacher was because this was me too. (01:31): You see, my first year of teaching, I found myself so emotionally exhausted by the end of the day that I would go on autopilot and I would scroll social media when I’d get home, and by the end of the day I would wonder where my life was going. I desired to be present and mindful in the moment, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to get out of that exhaustion so that I could show up mindfully and actually enjoy life. And after years of research counseling and talking to other teachers around the world, I realized what I was actually dealing with was burnout. In this episode, I’m gonna talk about the seven steps to avoid and get out of burnout. So myself, I’ve helped myself and thousands of educators around the world avoid and get out of burnout, and you can do the same for you too. (02:21): So stick around and listen to each step because they will build off each other and you can definitely feel when you are missing one of those steps. So don’t forget to do each step as we talk about them. The first step to preventing or getting out of burnout is to figure out where you are at. So this is called the awareness phase and building that awareness. So you can do this by reflecting in your journal or out loud or with a trained professional, but let’s figure out where you are at in the world. So I’m gonna give you a scenario. So imagine I put you in a helicopter and I drop you off in the middle of nowhere and I don’t tell you you what country you’re in, where the nearest civilization is, and I tell you to meet me there in a week. Could you figure it out? (03:07): All right, now let’s do a different scenario where I put you in a helicopter, I drop you in the middle of nowhere, but this time I give you a map and your location. Can you meet me in the nearest destination of the nearest town? Now, probably a lot easier with the second scenario, right? Well, that’s exactly what awareness is. It’s figuring out where you are at in your journey or figuring out where you are on the map. We can’t figure out how we wanna get better without figuring out first where we’re starting, right? The same goes with our kids. We wouldn’t try to figure out where we wanna take them by the end of the school year without first assessing them at the beginning of the year. It’s the same thing. So here’s some questions you can think about when it comes to building that awareness and figuring out where you’re at in your journey right now. (03:57): The first one being, how is life going right now? I know that’s a loaded question, but you don’t have to answer this out loud to me. Take some time to reflect that on your journal and then what is going well for me? What are some things that I can improve on? What are some things I can keep or adjust? All of these are super important for getting a clear picture of where you are at in your awareness phase. Step number two, transform your mindset. Have you ever had a student who performed really, really well in person? They always did the activities, like got a hundred percent on their assignments, but as soon as they started a test, they would get inside their own head and tell them that they’re gonna fail and then they bomb the test. It’s the same thing with our mindset here. (04:43): We need to talk about the difference between abundance and scarcity mindset. So abundance mindset is that growth mindset. It’s that mindset where there’s enough of everything to go around where scarcity mindset is the idea that there’s not enough to go around. So for example, maybe a thought could be, I don’t have enough time. Um, I’m not good enough, I’m not a good teacher. I need to do this to be a good teacher. All of these are examples of a scarcity mindset. What we need to do once we’ve built that awareness phase is we now need to transform our mindset from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset. So let’s use the scenario where the student bombs the test because they’re telling themselves during the test that I’m really bad at math. Let’s reframe that into an affirmation and transform their mindset every time they wanna self-talk and tell themselves that they are bad at math. (05:36): Instead, they tell themselves, I am amazing at math. I’m gonna ace this test. Their performance is gonna be a lot different based on how they’re talking to themselves. And the same goes for teachers. Whenever you catch yourself saying something negative to yourself, try to reframe that into an affirmation. This might have a lot to do with imposter syndrome and this might be something that you have to constantly work at, but this is something that’s a journey, not a destin or is a journey not a destination. So don’t focus too much on always having to reprogram your mindset. I still do, and many experts are still constantly reworking this. Another way to transform your mindset is to focus on gratitude. Every morning I like to write down three things I am grateful for and that transforms my life from a scarcity mindset to abundance mindset. Instead of focusing on the things I don’t have yet and the things I don’t have or am not doing yet I am focusing and putting my energy towards the things that are in my life that I’m grateful for. (06:42): Therefore, more positive things are coming my way. So focusing on gratitude is another great way to transform or reset your mindset. The third thing you can do is to prioritize your life. Step number three, prioritize your life. So I think we’ve all heard the experiment with the cup and the sand by Steven Covey. If not, I’ll kind of give you a rundown right now. But imagine that you have this jar and inside of it you fill it with sand, and then after the sand you fill it with pebbles and then after with big boulders. Well, what happens when you do it in that order is that the jar will overflow and you can’t put the lid on. But let’s say on the other side, you start with the big boulders first and then you start putting in the smaller pebbles and then you put in the sand and then the water, then you close the lid. (07:36): You’re gonna be able to fill in more into your life by doing that. The same thing goes for our priorities, and Steven Covey does a great job talking about this in seven habits of highly effective people. I’ll make sure to put a link in the show notes as well. But you wanna prioritize your life and focus on the big boulders first. So take some time and think about what are the major things that I wanna prioritize in my life? Go ahead and list them and then ask yourself, is my life right now reflecting that? And if it is, great, if it’s not, what can I do to change my life to show that what I’m prioritizing in my life is important to me and it is how I want my life to be prioritized and make sure to keep that in front of you. I literally have a list of priorities I set in my life and I keep it on my desk that way whenever there’s a time when my priorities are being questioned. (08:31): So if I’m asked, can I stay two hours late after work, I can look at that priority list and be remind myself, you know what? My family comes before my job. I apologize. I am not able to. I have a previous arrangement or a different priority at this time. That’s a great way to keep yourself um, accountable and to keep your priorities in your life in front of you. Step number four is to establish routines and systems. So your routines and systems should really help your priorities in life and it should help support your priorities and goals in your life. So some routines and systems you can start creating is a morning routine. When you start off your day having an amazing morning, you’re really setting yourself up to have an amazing day. Let me know if you can relate to this, but have you ever had one of the hardest mornings of your life and then you walk into your classroom and then it seems like the kids can just sense the negativity from that morning and they just exploded all day. (09:31): The same goes for having a great morning routine. I can’t tell you how life changing it’s been as a teacher to have a morning routine. That’s cha, that’s started my day on the right foot and therefore my kids have a better day. So creating a morning routine is one example on a system or routine you can start for yourself and that’s a great way to take care of you. The next one being leaving work on time. I know a lot of teachers struggle with this and I have some resources to help you, but leaving work on time can be such a hard thing because you have priorities, your boundaries and all mixing in to that you need to be accountable with. But when you have these priorities and systems in place, you wanna have them working so well that they’re on autopilot because when things are on autopilot, they don’t take energy from you. (10:23): They’re just a habit like brushing your teeth. It doesn’t take energy anymore for me to brush my teeth because I just naturally do it. The same goes for our systems and routines and here on the present teacher, I love talking about creating these I am. I could go on and on about creating systems and routines. So if you need more help with that, I will put some resources down below. But like I said, creating those routines and systems really make it so it’s a habit and you don’t have to think about it. And at the end of the day, the last thing we wanna think about are these things. So create ’em in two days. So they’re natural, so you don’t have to think about ’em will save you energy in the long run. Step number five is to be a friend. An honor with five. (11:07): Part of the awareness phase that we talked about in step one is to check in with yourself weekly, if not daily or several times a day, and ask yourself what you need right now and how you are feeling. So how can you take better care of yourself or how you take care of yourself is going to reflect how you care for others. I learned this the hard way because I thought that if I would focus on myself as a first year teacher, I was going to be selfish. I thought time spent on me was wasted, that I could have spent on others. And I thought, you know what? I will just be great at taking care of others and I will put myself on the back burner. But what I realized was how I was truly helping others when I wasn’t in my prime health, when I wasn’t taking care of myself, I wasn’t able to help others as I impactfully or as deeply as when I was being a friend to myself. (12:01): So make sure to ask yourself throughout the day, this is an important practice to incorporate. Ask yourself what you need, uh, throughout the day and then honor that and take the five minutes to follow through. So for example, if right now I feel like what I need is to just journal for five minutes, I’m gonna make sure to prioritize those five minutes and do be a good friend to myself and take those five minutes. Maybe it’s to sit five minutes in silence or blaring your favorite music before you walk in and you switch from teacher, teacher hat to parent hat. Take those five minutes that you need in order to be a friend to yourself and to help you take care of others even more deeply and impactfully throughout your day. You won’t regret it if you need ideas on how you can start taking care of yourself in those five minute increments. (12:54): I do have the 40 self-care ideas that take five minutes or less, and I will make sure to put that in the show notes as well or the link down below so you can grab that. Step number six is to practice being mindful in the moment. So remember when I talked about how it can feel like you’re on autopilot and you suddenly wake up and then you realize that where has my life gone? Everything’s just passed and I wasn’t here for a single moment of it. I learned this the hard way. My whole day was like that. And the thing about mindfulness is it’s like a muscle. I get stronger with practice. So I didn’t know how to be in the moment anymore after spending so much time on autopilot because I was just trying to survive. So what my counselor told me and what other resources and researchers and other teachers and just experience in general, the first thing you wanna do is to start a little at a time and eventually you’re gonna build up to each day. (13:51): So pick one thing that you can do and do it mindfully instead of autopilot. And this could be walking from class to class, maybe it’s eating or breakfast, drinking or coffee. Um, doing chores for some reason that really works. For mine, it was vacuuming when I first started. If I would just mindfully focus on vacuuming on the weekend, I was able to reprogram my brain to go from autopilot to mindfully in the moment. What this does and why this is so important, and this is the whole reason for the present teacher, is to allow, sorry, it allows you to live your life to the fullest and it makes life sweet. I don’t know about you, but when you’re on autopilot, you’re just not living to the same extent and it’s just not as fulfilling. So learning to be back in the moment is so important. (14:42): Step number seven is to get ahead. I know a lot of teachers struggle with this and it’s really hard to figure out how to mainstream your systems and processes to get ahead, but when you’re able to do this, what you’re actually doing is able to get more done and less time. And one way to do this is to batch your days. So I know I’ve talked about this before, but for example, batching is doing like-minded tasks within the same group. That way you’re not task with task switching. So on average it takes seven or 21 minutes to refocus on a task once you get distracted. That’s why it’s so important to keep your like-minded task together and to do the same thing over and over again per day. So think of Henry Ford and the factory line. It’s the same thing. So what how I incorporate this into my days is I actually theme my days. (15:37): So on Mondays I’m writing lesson plans, I’m writing lesson plans, not only for the upcoming week, but I like to go two, three weeks out. So I’m doing lesson plans for two or three weeks. That way I’m two or three weeks ahead and I’m not feeling like I’m on this hamster wheel of, you know, lesson planning, creating content or creating resources and parent letters and communication. I am two or three weeks out so I don’t have to feel like I’m drowning and just trying to get above water each time. So on Monday I like to work on lesson plans. Tuesdays I like to print out all my materials. Wednesdays I work on parent communication. Thursday is grades and data. And then Friday I like to make a makeup day in case I miss anything. But by doing two or three weeks at a time and batching your days and themeing them, so you’re doing one thing consistently all day makes it so you get more done and less time and it gets you ahead. (16:36): If you follow these seven steps, you’re gonna be able to transform your life from being spaced out to mindfully thriving in and outside of the classroom. And my question to you for this episode is what do you do to get out of teacher burnout? I have a teacher friend who is gonna be on the next podcast episode. You guys are going to love her, who is gonna share her thoughts on this question, but make sure if you are on my email list to respond to my email and let me know so I can feature you on the next email. Make sure to subscribe and give this podcast a review. I would love to hear your thoughts on this podcast, what you love about it, what I could do to make it better. Remember teacher bestie, we are stronger together and I am always here for you. I will talk to you in the next episode. And with all the love, Helena, a k a, the present teacher. Bye teacher bestie. (17:30): Thank you so much for joining me on today’s episode. I hope that you were able to take away some value that will help you thrive inside and outta the classroom. It would mean the world to me. If you could take five seconds right now and leave a review on this podcast. And if you found this podcast especially helpful, make sure to take a screenshot of this episode right now and tag me on your socials to let me know you’re listening. As always, remember that we are stronger together with all the love in the world. Helena a k a, the present teacher. See you next time. Teacher bestie.[/su_spoiler]
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Take time for yourself
The first way to avoid teacher burnout as a first year teacher is to take time for yourself. It’s important to remember that taking care of yourself is a top priority as a teacher. You can do this by scheduling down time into your day, whether that’s grabbing lunch with a colleague or sitting in silence during your prep period. Make sure you get adequate sleep and physical activity – all of these things can help reduce stress and fatigue.
If you need some ideas on how to take time for yourself, checkout these 40 Self-Care Ideas that take 5 Minutes or less!
Set clear boundaries
One of the best things any first-year teacher can do is set clear boundaries between work and home. Your job can be all-consuming, especially with the start of a new school year. Give yourself time off that’s unconnected to lesson preparation and grading so you can maintain proper balance. This may mean taking time each day or week to devote to your family, hobbies, or anything that brings you joy outside of teaching. With clear boundaries, it’s a lot easier to avoid teacher burnout.
Maintaining certain routines throughout the school year can be a great way to avoid teacher burnout. Establish routines for yourself during the day and prioritize tasks that need to be done, as well as leave time for rest. This will help you stay on top of things and keep from feeling overwhelmed with more tasks than you have time for. Additionally, maintain regular office hours so you have time to connect with students without feeling like your job follows you home every night. If you want to learn more about leaving work on time, click here!
Prepare Ahead of Time
As a first year teacher, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and burnt out by the amount of lesson planning that is required. To avoid this, try to plan ahead and create as many lessons as you can during the summer months before school starts. This will help reduce stress when the school year begins and give you more free time during the year to relax or pursue other projects or hobbies.
Nourish Your Body and Soul
Don’t neglect your mental and physical health in the pursuit of an effective classroom experience. Make sure to take breaks throughout the day to recharge, get some fresh air, and step away from your desk. Eating healthy, nutritious meals can also help reduce stress and give you the energy you need to make it through every day with a smile on your face. Taking time out for yourself is important—be sure to treat yourself occasionally so that you don’t experience burnout!
Take 5 minutes for yourself
It’s extremely to be a friend to yourself if you’re looking to avoid teacher burnout. One great way to do this is to take 5 minutes for yourself each day. One thing about life is it’s one great experiment. You don’t have to have it all figured out yet. Just pick one thing and try it for 5 minutes. If you need ideas check out the Ultimate Self-Care Guide!
Overall there are several different ways you can avoid teacher burnout. Just remember that: