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Teaching can be an extraordinary career and a calling. But it can be very stressful, too. If you feel as though there are not enough hours in the day and your workload extends into nights, weekends and holidays, you are heading for burnout.
Nationally, 40 to 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years. Before that happens, learn to recognize the signs of burnout and the ways to stay healthy on the job.
Know the signs
- Irritability and quick to anger
- Chronic exhaustion
- Physical symptoms of anxiety, including dizziness, headache, stomach ache, heart palpitations and shortness of breath
- Chronic insomnia
- Brain fog
Know you are not alone. Teachers who experience burnout usually don’t share their situation with others, which exacerbates the problem.
Create a supportive work environment at your school. A trusted coworker can provide a healthy sounding board for your questions and concerns. First-year teachers are entitled to a mentor. The UFT’s Partner Through Experience Program can also match newer teachers with a newly retired teacher for tips and strategies.
Know that setting boundaries is necessary. Too often, newer teachers will say “yes” to a principal’s or colleague’s request without thinking about how it will affect their mental or physical health to take on the new task.
Draw on the expertise of your chapter leader, who can explain your rights and responsibilities.
Make your day interesting with lessons infused with creativity.
Maintain a healthy work-life balance. The same way sleep refreshes you for the next workday, a fulfilling life outside of work can contribute to greater happiness in your work life.
Accept that this career, like any other, will have ups and downs. Just because this year is particularly tough doesn’t mean the next one will be.
And remember, your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep some energy in reserve, maintain a healthy lifestyle and turn for support to your colleagues, your chapter leader and your UFT district rep when problems arise.
The UFT Member Assistance Program offers short-term counseling and outside referrals to help you deal with a wide range of issues. You can contact MAP by calling 1-212-701-9620 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Appointments and referrals are available Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 50 Broadway in Manhattan.
What is your favorite movie about a teacher?
Dead Poets Society
Stand and Deliver
Mr. Holland's Opus
Total votes: 657