5 Ways to Prevent Early Burnout Amid a Pandemic

Tyre’ Jenkins is a middle school teacher at Southern University Laboratory School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He is also a doctoral candidate at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. With six years of teaching, he has great experience working with students in urban, rural, and private settings in elementary and secondary levels.

Learning my new school, getting acquainted with the atmosphere and staff culture, making copies for beginning of the year activities, creating seating charts, and ensuring that the class was creatively decorated was my first-year teacher stressors. As you know, or will find out, it will feel as if there is a never-ending checklist to complete during the first few weeks of school. After six years in this field, I have finally mastered the beginning-of-the-year routines.

Amid a global pandemic, it is safe to say that this school year has looked drastically different than previous years.  COVID-19 is a novel virus that has changed the lives of many people across the world. Within a few months, learning modes shifted from brick-and-mortar to virtual learning platforms. Being able to adapt from in-class instruction to an online platform may be stressful and unfamiliar. Teachers may struggle with developing online engagement strategies, accommodating struggling students, fostering a personal rapport virtually, and dealing with the lack of interaction with a supportive team.

Be mindful that burnout and traumatic stress during this pandemic has implications for teachers’ capacities to teach and provide the necessary emotional capital for students. Teaching, like any caring profession, is highly susceptible to physical fatigue, emotional exhaustion, and cognition weariness (Maslach & Leiter, 2016). Although it is essential that you strategically plan and prepare yourself for the year, understand that your social, emotional, and mental health is vital for you to be effective and efficient.

Therefore, while preparing for this upcoming school year, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Be flexible. This pandemic is unchartered territory. No one has all the answers. It is completely OK for you not to know everything or have it all together. You cannot do it all; just do what you can.
  2. Learn from your mistakes. Amid a global pandemic and being in the infancy of your career, mistakes are inevitable. However, always be open to learn from them. Ask for help when you need it.
  3. Self-care is essential. You can’t be of service to anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. Be mindful that you need to find ways to demonstrate resilience for your students and team, but most of all, for yourself.
  4. Let your students know you care. Many of them are facing trauma, grief, and may be just as confused as you are. Building those personal relationships is still the most important thing that you do.
  5. Find a teacher buddy. Every teacher needs a friend to process things with, gain clarity from, and receive direction along the way. You will find comfort in knowing that you have a team member.

It is important that you take care of yourself. Your students will need the best of you. Teacher resilience is a necessary and key component of success for this upcoming school year. Your mental, social, and emotional state matters. Do not overwhelm yourself with the things that you cannot change, but be the best, most effective and efficient at the things that you can change.

References:

Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (2016). Understanding the burnout experience: recent research and its implications for psychiatry. World Psychiatry: Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 15(2), 103–111. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20311

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