Monday, April 14, 2008

Tips for Reducing Teacher Burnout

I read somewhere that the lifespan of a typical special education teacher is 4 years. How do you get beyond the 4 year burnout? Here are a few tips that helped me! Please share what strategies help you in the comments section.

1) File your positive notes (Every now and again you will receive a really nice note, e-mail or card from a parent, an administrator or another staff member. Create a file! If you need a "pick-me-up" or a reminder of why you do what you do, go to your file and read a few notes.)

2) Find a mentor (Actually, my mentor and I refer to him as my "Tor-Mentor." He doesn't really mentor me, he torments me. :-) Primarily because he won't "yes, ma'am" me. He will tell me honestly what he thinks, challenge my mind set, kick me in the tush when it's needed or point me in a new direction. This is precisely what makes him a good mentor....he encourages me to continually think and grow.)

3) Make friends with your bookkeeper and custodian (I was well into my third year of teaching before I knew that I had a classroom budget for construction paper, glitter, paint, etc. I was into my fourth or fifth year before I realized money could be "found" if you really needed something. I was happy as a clam when the custodian reached my classroom quickly when a child threw up...ughhh!.... and pleased as punch when they figured how to get approval for the anti-bacterial spray I wanted for my pre-k room. They know secrets! Let them help!)

4) Beg, borrow and steal (Okay, don't steal, but definitely beg and borrow. Take time to find out what other teachers are doing and how they do it. Most teachers are willing to share ideas, tips, copies, patterns, etc. After you find out what they are doing, figure out how to apply it to your teaching situation. After you apply it.....share an idea back with them!)

5) Identify your favorite stress management technique (working out? going for coffee? reading a book? going for an adult beverage? What helps you unwind and put school behind you? Figure it out and then apply it! Enjoy your time away from helps you to stay refreshed and be a better teacher.)

6) Laugh and enjoy your students! Teaching is fun! Enjoy it!


fma1015 said...

I have about 19 years, 9 sped 3rd at present school and I am burned out. My biggest gripe is an aide that I resent! Any ideas?

Michelle_special_ed_teacher said...

Wow...tough one. When you work with a classroom assistant it is almost like you are married to them at school. You share physical space, you share responsibilities to children and you are with each other for a major portion of each day.

One thing I have found beneficial when I have started with someone new in the past is to review the schedule and the post 3 columns next to the daily schedule: what the children will be doing, what I will be doing and what I expect my assistant to be doing. It helps to make things crystal clear.

Since you have been teaching for 19 years, I suspect you may have tried something similar to this. If you have, maybe you could revisit it and put everything in writing so you have clearly defined expectations.

The next thing I would ask is, do you know what part of the job he/she really enjoys? Is there one? Is there a way to shuffle responsibilities so that you meet students needs but also allow her/him time to do something that is rewarding for them? Maybe if he/she is doing something that is personally enjoyable and also truly helpful for you, you could manage until the end of the year.

Finally, I would say, sometimes people just don't work well together. Their personalities just don't mix. It happens with kids and adults. If things don't improve, is it possible to have a change in classroom staff next year?

Sometimes staffing issues are out of our hands and extremely difficult. Good luck and let me know how it goes!