One of the great pieces of advice that I received in my teaching career is that at the end of the day students should be more tired than the teacher. The other great piece of advice that I got was from a freshman in one of my classes. She said, “Why don’t you just give us some work and leave us alone.”
So I let myself off the hook.
Before that, my classes were all discussion or whole-class activities with me as the facilitator. I was trying to get students to discuss while also trying to get those not interested in learning this way to keep quiet all while taking notes on the board and moving every student in the room on to the next piece whether they were ready or not. It took a while to learn how to take the burden off myself and put it on my students, but when I did, it was a big moment in my career as a teacher. I still aimed for a discussion every other day, and when I facilitated a discussion with all of my classes on the same day, I was as exhausted as I was that first year teaching, but I also learned a few tricks to give myself a break.
Here are my best tips for avoiding teacher burnout:
Let students teach themselves and each other as often as you can. Jigsaw activities, group questions, partner work—kids love this kind of activity because they get to spend time with their peers without direct adult supervision. You take the pressure off yourself, and you can spend the class checking in with groups and individual students and letting them all go at their own pace rather than trying to get everyone on the same page for the entire class.
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