Let’s talk about teacher burnout. Burnout is a state of chronic exhaustion that occurs after prolonged periods of stress. Art teachers are no strangers to burnout. Lack of support for the arts, extra demands on art teachers, and poor supply budgets has always been stressors for art teachers. Added to that are problems made worse by the pandemic. Substitute shortages have led to teachers losing their prep periods to cover for other teachers. Meanwhile, behavior problems in schools have been on the rise. It’s all just a recipe for burnout.
How do art teachers deal with burnout? These ideas are collected from art teachers everywhere on what strategies they have developed that work.
Job hunt! Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side. Just be careful that the move is to an environment that better supports you. Some teachers also report changing levels also has helped them reset.
Address depression first. If you are clinically depressed seek help. That might include therapy, and/or medication.
Work part-time or research taking a sabbatical. Working part-time or taking a year off may not be an option for everyone but sometimes part-time work can bring back some needed life-work balance. Or taking a year to travel, study, etc can help you reset.
Leave work at the end of your contract time. You read that right. What if you just didn’t put in all those crazy extra hours? One teacher shared, “This year, I try to leave right at 3:20 and do things that I enjoy at home–reading, exercising, sewing–and my mental/emotional health is much better!” I know I had to give up the crazy hours I was teaching when I had children and I learned to “work smarter.” I prioritized, I relied on my experience, and I shared resources with my art teacher colleagues so we won’t always create projects and curricula from scratch. And most importantly, delete your school email account from your phone. Leave work at work.
Simplify. Stop grading, as much as you can. Have students do self-evals on the rubric, streamline feedback, etc. As one teacher explained, “I want to spend my time teaching and talking to my students, not doing paperwork.”
Be the calm you seek. Focus on being calm and peaceful in the face of behavior problems. One art teacher shares, “The more calmly I deal with probs, the happier I am!” Look to quiet your life as well. Close the door, pull the blinds, and eat lunch at your desk. I know a teacher who walks the school ground during her prep period and another who plays classical music when students work in projects.
Don’t neglect your health. If you need your sick days, use them and come back when you are ready. I used to push through or come back before I was really ready because my students were always bad with a sub. Don’t do that to yourself. Keep sub plans easy, student projects can wait. I’ve learned that if I try to have a sub carry on a project without me, the project quality is often pretty poor when I return. When in doubt, those generic sub plans are just fine.
Join your local art ed association. Take some professional development workshops. and got involved. One art teacher shared that getting involved with her state art teacher association “brought the spark back to my teaching!”
Take your personal days. Take it from an art teacher who wrote, “I take a personal day here and there with zero guilt.”
Practice saying “no.” No to all of the extras that are constantly piled on us as educators! One teacher practices saying, ”To honor my time as a professional, I just am not able to do x-y-z and I appreciate you understanding that.”
You do less, the kids do more. Early on in my career, someone said, “When you’re tired that means your doing too much and the kids aren’t doing enough.” One teacher explained how she trains a student or two to load the kilns, recycle clay, & mix glazes! Having “interns” changed her life as a ceramics teacher!
Look for the good. One teacher shared how every time she gets angry or frustrated by adults or kids she goes straight to the computer and writes “an encouraging, truthful email to parents of the 95% of kids who are amazing and doing the right thing.”
What strategies do you have? Share them in the comments.