Some days I just don’t feel like teaching anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I find a lot of fulfillment in helping my students to be successful, but some days are better than others. I sometimes find myself asking “Why bother?” when many of my students don’t seem to care at all. I can spend hours prepping a lecture or an in-class activity and it falls completely flat. Sometimes I just stumble over myself and I feel like I’ve totally confused the entire class on a simple topic. Other times I feel like I can’t compete with the electronic world grabbing for my students’ attention. I can look out over the classroom and see students with their phones in hand half listening to me. Just last week I had a class that completely bombed an exam. It’s hard for me to not take it personally when my students fail. It is times like these that call for chocolate and a bubble bath, and some serious introspection. Here are a few ideas for helping you to prevent these sorts of things from completely dragging you down:
1) Develop a mission statement. Steven R. Covey wrote about developing a personal mission statement in his book , “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. In his TED talk, Simon Sinek, talks about the power of starting with the question, “Why?” We all came into teaching for our own reasons. They anchor us and drive us to action. It is easy to forget those reasons and become disillusioned when we get caught up in the daily activities of our jobs. It is a good idea to write down a formal mission statement and when time get tough take it out and reflect on it. With each new activity that you try, each new class that you teach, use your mission statement as a measuring stick. Are you working toward your mission or is this new thing a distraction?
2) Let it go. Practice the serenity prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Students will fail. Sometimes you could have prevented it and sometimes it is completely out of your control. I really struggled with this during my first semester teaching. I am beginning to realize, however, that not matter what I do, some students will not pass my class. I have to let it go. I cannot control my students behavior, I can only give them the opportunity to succeed if they so choose.
3) Make friends. Use the buddy system. Teaching can be very isolating. Sometimes we don’t have anything to compare ourselves to. By making friends with other teachers at your institution, or across the internet, you can gain useful information and see how you stack up. Often we are own own worst critics and it helps to know that you are not the only person struggling with an issue in the classroom.
What do you suggest for preventing burnout in the classroom?