It can be very easy as a teacher to ‘overdo’ it and end up being in a situation where you burn out, which can lead to all kinds of symptoms such as physical and emotional fatigue, lack of enthusiasm and lack of confidence. So what actually is burnout in this instance? Is it physical or emotional or a mix of the two? How does it come about and what can be done about it?
Making sure that there is a good balance between the administrative side of teaching, your contact hours with pupils and your personal life is essential to your overall health and well-being as a teacher. Here are some issues you might consider.
- Work culture: If there is an expectation of long hours & hard work, or you feel you need to prove yourself to your employer, this can take its toll on your energy levels. You might feel you’re slacking if you don’t put in the hours.
- Financial balance: Instrumental teachers tend to be self-employed and therefore generating income efficiently is important. Charging more per hour will mean you work fewer contact hours. This may be something to consider, but of course, it has to be balanced with what the market will accept.
- Time boundaries: Teaching at weekends or after school or office working hours is something to be wary of because it eats into your personal life, and time to rest and recuperate. Watch that you’re not pushing your own boundaries to accommodate the pupil or the parent’s schedule rather than your own.
- Hidden hours: If you’re keen to teach well and support your pupils, you may find that you are adding in extra hours without realizing it. Ten contact hours can easily become fifteen hours of work if you’re writing emails to parents as well or talking to them on the phone.
- When you give too much: If your pupil is not engaged in learning as you would like, it is only too easy to try to compensate for that by giving too much and trying too hard. As the teacher, you could be giving about 70% with the pupil giving 30% and this can be emotionally draining. It can also happen if the pupil isn’t practising either because they’re not interested or because they simply have too much going on. By sitting back and asking them to engage more, you encourage them to be more responsible for their learning and you maintain your energy levels more efficiently.
- Expectations: Wanting a pupil to do well or hoping for more than they are offering you can be very demanding on your energy. Sometimes the pupil simply can’t deliver as you would like for any number of reasons. Reducing your expectations of them can not only conserve your energy, but it can also take the pressure off them. They may feel more comfortable and start giving you more as a result!
- Isolation: Teachers can often feel very isolated. If you teach at a school, you’re likely to have more automatic support. Seeing other teachers in the staff room or at lunch is an ideal opportunity to share teaching issues with them and give and receive support. If you teach privately without teaching at a school, it might be worth searching out local teachers where you can make connections and build a support network.
Teaching well needs energy so learning ways to conserve your energy is essential, not only so that you give of your best to the pupil but also for your own health and well-being.