Battling Burnout

 

Woman with three child. African American woman with three child prepare for Easter.

“Pursue confidently your dreams of being a teacher. Teach every day as you once imagined you would. Don’t let today’s obstacles keep you from yesterday’s dreams.” – Robert John Meehan

 

Anyone that has worked for any length of time in an early childhood classroom has had “one of those days.” You know the one—the one where your lesson plan flopped, the one where it rained all day and everyone was stuck inside, the one where a disgruntled parent expressed his/her disdain about something that happened in your classroom, the one where simply everything seemed to go wrong! At the end of a day like that, it’s easy to feel discouraged, to feel like you don’t want to come back and try again tomorrow.

You are not alone. All teachers have felt like this at one time or another. Let me say that again—ALL TEACHERS have felt like this at one time or another. The question is, how do you reflect on “one of those days” and find it within yourself to come back and try again, and again, and again?

  • Each day, have a Plan A, Plan B…and sometimes Plan Z! Take the time to set up your environment, consider your children’s needs, and plan activities that are interesting, enriching and hands-on. Make sure that you have a backup plan in mind (and oftentimes, more than just one) should your first set of ideas fall flat. If it rains, can you do your gross motor activity inside? If the children aren’t interested in reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, would they maybe like to read The Very Quiet Cricket instead?
  • Reflect on the day: At the end of the day, take a few minutes to think about what happened in your classroom today. What did you like about your day? What are some things you’d like to change? If you had the chance to do those things over again, how might you have done them differently?
  • Let it out: Sometimes all the reflection in the world can’t solve a problem that has factors you simply can’t control. Sometimes you just need to let your feelings out – keep a journal, find a trusted friend who you can vent to (but remember to maintain confidentiality), or scream into a pillow!
  • Practice self-care: When you’re not at school, do you like to exercise, watch movies, spend time with friends and family, or have some other hobby that brings you happiness and peace? As natural caretakers of others, educators often have difficulty making time for themselves. For your own mental, physical and emotional health, DO IT. You’ll be a better teacher, and a better person, for it.
  • Know when to go: There comes a time in the career of some educators when they realize they just know they need to leave the classroom and move on to something else. Maybe they want to pursue another aspect of the early childhood field—administration, advocacy, consulting, or working with adult learners. Maybe they want to move on to another field entirely. Whichever is the case, if you choose to leave, leave on a high note. Continue to give it your all until you find another position—allow the children and families you worked with to always remember you fondly.

Battling burnout is an all too common occurrence for those of us who work with young children. Every day we pour from our own pitchers in the hopes of filling many smaller ones. The key to hanging in there for the long haul is to recognize, appreciate and love just how those little pitchers eventually fill us right back up.

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About Merideth Burton

I am a professional development specialist at 4C for Children in the Southwest Ohio region. I often draw on my prior experiences as a classroom teacher, and as an administrator of a highly rated program, in my work with early childhood educators. My primary role is to support them in the development of using best practices in their programs, as well as through their Step Up To Quality journey. In my personal life, my husband and I are parents to 5 fantastic kids in our blended family. We enjoy going to concerts, or laughing together at a stand-up comedy show, but what we love the most is spending time outdoors together as a family, exploring nature, and playing, any chance we get.