Has your enthusiasm for teaching started to fade? If so, you're not alone—teacher burnout is an all-too-common phenomenon. Maybe you've been teaching the same subject or grade level for years, and your passion for education just isn't what it used to be. Or perhaps you only have a few years under your belt and you're starting to wonder if maybe a teaching career isn't as good a fit as you thought it would be.
Lots of teachers start to feel this way sooner or later, but teacher burnout isn't inevitable. Many teachers are able to maintain their passion and look forward to working with new kids each fall. So what's their secret?
1. Remain a Professional Learner
One way teachers can keep their interest alive is by embracing new challenges at work. For example, incorporating technology into instruction can bring an exciting new world of possibilities into the classroom. Rather than insisting kids leave their phones in their backpacks during class, some teachers encourage students to use them as learning tools during the school day.
For example, several teachers in my school encourage students to use free or inexpensive learning apps like Math Slide or Reflex Math to help them practice math skills. And simply being able to find clips of Romeo and Juliet easily online made a difference for a veteran high school English teacher I know. She said showing those clips makes the play a lot more relatable for her students. Incorporating this into her teaching helped her keep things fresh, and it has made her job a little easier, too.
Keeping abreast of new research and teaching methods is another way you can keep things interesting and avoid burnout. Your school library may carry publications like Education Week that teachers can read and share. Some schools even offer teachers the opportunity to attend conferences like ASCD Conference on Teaching Excellence or the National Reading Recovery & K-6 Literacy Conference. Learning about the latest trends, research, and teaching techniques while interacting with colleagues from all over can be inspiring, and can give you ideas on how to make teaching more exciting and less stressful.
2. Find Diverse Ways to Grow
Mentorship relationships are another way for both veteran and novice teachers to learn new strategies and reinvigorate their passion for teaching. Experienced teachers can offer classroom support for new teachers and help them navigate the system. And when a new teacher observes a veteran at work, it's not just the novice who benefits; experienced teachers are often inclined to re-examine long-held practices as they're seen through new eyes.
Sharing professional expertise isn't limited to experienced teachers helping new teachers. I've worked in schools where teachers embraced the practice of observing and informally evaluating one another as a means of professional growth. It doesn't matter whether you have one year of experience or 20 — everyone's ideas matter. Swapping fresh insights into how to make teaching more effective, interesting, and fun is a great way educators can avoid losing interest in their jobs.
Further reading: 4 Teacher Motivation Tips
Some teachers just need more of a challenge to keep things interesting. Volunteering to take on new responsibilities—like serving as a department chair, on the principal's cabinet, or even on district-wide committees—can provide an extra layer to your daily work while allowing others to benefit from your expertise.
3. Expand Your Horizons
For some who are feeling education fatigue, bringing a fresh approach to the classroom can be enough to ward off teacher burnout. For others, it might not be enough. It's important to realize that although you may be passionate about education, your current role might not be a good fit for you. If this is the case, you should consider pursuing another path as an educator, whether it's as a school administrator, special educator, teacher of English language learners, or school psychologist.
Enrolling in classes can be a good way to see if a new career path might be a good fit for you. For example, I know an English teacher who eventually left the classroom to become a school librarian, and it was a decision she doesn't regret in the slightest. I've also known quite a few teachers who pursued a certification in school administration while they were still teaching. Some eventually became administrators, but a few ended up deciding after their administrative internships that classroom teaching was actually a better fit for them. Either way, exploring a new role as an educator could be exactly what you need to break out of a rut.
Further reading: 9 Stress Management Strategies
Teacher burnout is common, but it doesn't need to be. Take your career into your own hands, and take the steps you need to rekindle your passion for education. Implement a new approach, build a new relationship, try out a new role, or go back to school. You can avoid burnout by embracing new challenges, and there's no better time than now.