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How to Remedy Teacher Burnout in the Age of Virtual Learning

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COVID-19 forced schools to re-conceptualize education in the blink of an eye, so it’s understandable that teachers find themselves under more stress than ever. That stress quickly leads to burnout in a profession already grappling with high attrition. 

Historically, somewhere between 19%-30% of new teachers leave the profession every year, often due to stress and burnout. Unchecked, distance learning-fueled burnout could exacerbate those numbers. Here are 5 tips to keep things in perspective and to stay positive this fall.

Bring in Your Passions

You know that effective instruction involves more than multiple choice tests and rote memorization. One way to prevent burnout is to bring your passions and joys into the classroom, incorporating your hobbies and interests into your daily lesson plans. Some examples of this could be:

  • Using baseball stats to help teach specific math concepts
  • Playing clips from your favorite television show to illustrate literary or historical concepts
  • Incorporating cooking into a lesson on fractions
  • Using poetry to teach computer programming concepts

Incorporating your interests can help you stay fully engaged in the topic and present, minimizing those moments when you may feel as though you’re teaching to a screen.

Facetime with Other Teachers

One of the most socially challenging and mentally draining aspects of remote learning is the isolation—not only for the students, but for the teachers as well. The feeling of working in a silo can be deflating, especially if you’re used to collaborating with colleagues on lesson plans or instructional strategies. 

One solution is to establish common “lounge hours” via video conference. This can be simple and informal or structured and regulated, depending on your preferences and work habits. Instead of conferring in on-campus offices, teachers would keep video conference windows open while they work from home. That way, educators can lesson plan or converse about education strategies just as they might in person. The result is often a significant improvement in feelings of isolation.

Learn Some New Skills

In the era of COVID-19, social isolation, and remote learning, time has less meaning. Days can start to blend together, feeling monotonous. That’s when it’s important to remember that learning is one of the most energizing ways for you to keep your teaching fresh. 

Especially when integrating technology into lesson plans creates added stress, professional development courses can help keep you from feeling the sting of burnout. You’ll get to try out new skills and techniques with fellow educators, and acquire novel strategies and pedagogies to deploy in your virtual classrooms.

When you focus on developing your own skills, you can help break up the monotony. What’s more, you can learn strategies to make remote teaching easier and more effective, tapping into the best pedagogical practices of so-called Distance Learning 2.0 to help ensure your students succeed no matter what format your classroom might take in 2020 and 2021.

Stick to Your Boundaries

Because teaching can feel essential and existential, there’s a tendency for teachers to put in extra hours. This can mean grading essays and exams long into the night or it could take the form of lesson planning throughout the weekend. 

Avoiding burnout can often be accomplished by setting and sticking to boundaries designed to preserve your mental health and work-life balance. For some teachers, this could mean:

  • Finding more efficient ways to administer and grade assessments
  • Adapting already existing lesson plans that could meet your curriculum goals
  • Extending deadlines both for students and for the return of marked work
  • Disconnect. Avoid checking work email (especially on cell phone) after a certain time 

Don’t be afraid to build in time to refresh and recharge; which  includes fully disconnecting from technology in the evening.

Think in the Long Term

Teaching has changed profoundly since the start of 2020, so it makes sense that it will take some time for you to figure out what works and what doesn’t. As schools moved to remote models in spring of 2020, many were doing so in a reactive sense. 

As schools refine their distance learning models and adopt hybrid schedules, it’s important to accept that distance learning is not a passing fad. Refocusing your long term goals can help keep 2020-2021 in perspective and help students do the same.

After all, if you’re burned out, you can’t help your students. It is in everyone’s best interest for you to set aside some time and take care of yourself.

Looking for more back-to-school teacher tips? Check out our blog post on Driving Student Engagement and Attendance in Remote Learning.

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