As schools open up again for the coming year, teachers across the country are bracing for another year of pandemic teaching. Now 18 months after the first school shutdowns, teachers have not had a break from adjusting (and readjusting, and readjusting) to COVID-related school policies. Although there have been two summer recesses during the pandemic, teacher burnout accumulated during the past two years cannot be resolved in a few months, during which teachers prepare and anticipate the coming school year.
As a teacher faced with converting my entire practice to a virtual setting in March 2020, and then converting that again to a series of hybrid settings throughout the 2020-2021 school year, I know how much frustration, anxiety, fear, and outrage teachers have felt. No one knew that teachers would be faced with yet another school year riddled with COVID policies, mask mandates, social distancing, vaccination requirements, and emerging variants. Just when teachers felt like they could catch their breath at the end of this past year, they are now faced with an ominous back to school season. Some districts are even announcing a virtual option for students as the school year begins, yet another challenge for teachers to overcome.
Teacher burnout has always existed, but not always acknowledged. Now, in a world grappling with mental health issues, it is more important than ever to appreciate the toll the pandemic has taken on teachers. Although every profession has been affected somehow, teachers have had an enormous weight on their shoulders, pressured by administration and parents alike to make sure that their students are still learning, while acting as normal as possible.
Teachers have had to grin and bear their way through the past year and a half, which has caused more burnout than ever before. Looking forward to the coming school year is daunting for many teachers who feel uninspired and under appreciated.
Here are 5 strategies for teachers to face pandemic burnout:
Know Your Limits
Teachers have a special place in their hearts for kids. That is why they have such a hard time creating boundaries between work and home. Now it is more important than ever for teachers to draw boundaries and maintain them. Sometimes it’s hard to say no, but when mental health is at risk, boundaries need to be observed.
Even with anxiety-inducing school policies, try to look for one good thing every day. Maybe it’s a joke you hear in the hallway, or a breakthrough moment with a student. Although there will be times when it’s hard to see the good, celebrating little moments will make each day a little brighter.
Go with the Flow
Don’t try to fight the new normal. Going with the flow can help reduce the stress teachers have felt when trying to make hybrid, virtual, and socially distanced classrooms retain pre-COVID structure. School policies resulting from COVID are out of the control of teachers, so instead of swimming upstream, try taking new measures in stride and evolve with them.
Talk it Out
You are not alone! Teachers across the world are faced with the same burnout you are. Talking to colleagues about their concerns and coping methods will give you a broader perspective and a better outlook on this school year. You will feel less isolated when talking to other teachers who feel the same way you do.
Advocate for Yourself
If administration doesn’t know how you feel, then nothing will change. If you feel like your supervisor, principal, or superintendent could do something to make your school year more successful and your burnout less invasive, speak up! It can be difficult to bring up a topic like mental health at work, but doing so can bring serious change to your experience this year.
For more resources on facing teacher burnout, check out these articles: