Tessa Hardiman is the author of Surviving and Thriving: 21 Tips for First Year Teachers. You can find out more about the online community for first year teachers by visiting the website: Surviving Your First Year.
When I was in college, my professors warned my classmates and me about teacher burnout. They quoted the haunting statistics right and left. It was like they were saying, “None of you will ever make it for longer than five years.”
I know the statistics on new teachers remaining in the profession aren’t great, and teachers today face greater obstacles than ever before. Even in these tough times, there are ways to avoid feeling burned out.
1) Realize you can’t do it all. You are given a finite amount of instructional time. It’s hard enough to squeeze in the required curriculum, much less implement some new tool or website you found. This can be frustrating to many new teachers. You want to share the next great resource that your kids will love. One suggestion: start an idea folder for next year. When you stumble upon a great resource you want to use, write it down and put it away. Just make sure you remember where the folder is next school year.
2) Don’t sign up for everything. In an effort to prove to the administration you are a valuable asset to the school, you will be tempted to sign on as yearbook sponsor, debate club leader, scholar’s bowl sponsor, and the underwater basket weaving head coach. These activities will leave you with less time to refresh and recharge after a long day at school, which is where your focus should be when trying to avoid burnout. Transitioning into full-time teaching is hard. You are going to need opportunities to reenergize for your students. Give yourself a break the first year around.
3) Solicit the help of expert teachers. Many new teachers avoid this step because they don’t want to appear ignorant or dumb. When you ask an expert teacher for help, they won’t think you’re stupid. They’ll think you are trying to get better at your job. The teacher of the year is a great place to start. Sit by him or her at the lunch table or at faculty meetings. Carry a notepad with you to jot down ideas they mention. Visit their classroom to see how it is arranged. Make note of the procedures and policies. Chances are if they’ve been using them for years, then they must be doing the trick.
Teaching is a difficult profession. It can be time-consuming and frustrating at times. That’s why it’s helpful to be prepared for your first year on the job. It’s different than anything you may have experienced in college. Accept the fact that you won’t be able to do everything. No one expects you to. They want you to teach and do it well. If you remember the above tips, then you’re well on your way to thriving as a first year teacher.