I fell into the teacher stereotype of leaving the classroom after 5 years of teaching. HOWEVER, I did know after about 3 years that I wasn't going to be in the classroom forever.
Why? Because of what I learned each year.
First year. People don't how to include their students with disabilities.
Second year. I can teach people how to include their students with disabilities.
Third year. Everyone loves making sure everyone is included and wants to be a part of it.
Fourth year. I am bored because I have accomplished my goal and I want to do more.
Fifth year. Moved and went to another school that wasn't practicing inclusion. Was extremely ableist and I left. They also didn't hire me back..it wasn't a surprise. They didn't want my students included and I kept including my students. But I was done being stuck as a teacher and wanted to train schools how to practice inclusion.
Bottom line. I didn't leave teaching because I was burnt out. I left teaching because I wanted to do more in education and I couldn't accomplish the goals I had in one classroom at one school.
So after a pandemic, having two kids, and moving out of state for the first time in my life.. I decided to start my own business, Inclusion Starts Now, where I support schools include students with disabilities. If you are interested, learn more about what I offer here.
Even my first year teaching, I felt like I made really healthy boundaries at work and took care of mental health. I want to go over specific tools that helped me love my job and important reminders to keep you from burning out in 5 years!
Now before I dive into my tips, I definitely have to tell you about some of my FAVORITE books that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND! Now I don't like buying books from Amazon, but affiliate links is just another way I try to make some sort of income. Purchase these books through the links OR go to you local bookstore (which I prefer) but most importantly, add these books to your TBR list.
I read this books years ago but it really hit home. It is definitely targeted towards women In the fields of education or medicine (more specifically nurses) but I remember using (and I am sure still using) the techniques explained in this book. Burnout is on super sale on Amazon but seriously, local book store.. GO!
Set Boundaries, Find Peace is brilliant. It goes over boundaries in each section of your life, including relationships with your friends, family, and partner. Different settings like home and work. And it goes over boundaries for yourself and social media, it really hits it all.
And Hidden Potential is gold. I am in the process of reading this book and I am trying to read it slowly so I can appreciate everything Adam Grant has to say. And if you aren't Adam Grant or Nedra Glover Tawwab fan, they recently had a podcast together that you can listen to here.
Now we can move on to 3 practices to perfect to
AVOID TEACHER BURNOUT!!!
Be proud of your accomplishments.
Now you have to want to make this change. Get coworkers or friends to hold you accountable, set an alarm on your phone to reflect, get a journal to write down your successes but you need to spend EVERY DAY celebrating ONE thing you did that you are proud of. And try to make them different every day. Some days it might just be that you got out of bed but as you continue to be verbally recognize reasons to be proud of yourself, you will start noticing all the good you might be missing every day.
I even used to do this with my classroom. I would have every student and staff recognize something they did that day that they were proud of. It sounds cheesy, but these gentle reminders can really change your mindset in the classroom. Too often we judge our successes by comparing them to other teachers on social media and that is just not real life.
2. Set boundaries.
Of course the books above will give you SO MANY tools to start implementing but here are things I did for myself that helped me set boundaries at work.
I would set an alarm for when to leave. And no matter what I was doing, I would get up and leave. It was hard sometimes. I would be in the middle of prepping something but knew I could be there for another hour. I also didn't want to feel stress in the morning. But I left and when I showed up the next morning, life wasn't over. The day was great and someone helped me finish prepping the activity and all of the students were happy. And I was happy.
I also took days off. If I noticed that there were no days off for 3 weeks, I would take a mental health day. I usually would take them in the middle of the week too. It was easier to get a substitute and it was a nice break in the middle of the week for me to look forward to.
Starbucks, or any coffee shop that makes you smile, is something I made sure to gift myself once a week. And it was always a game time decision. I would wake up in the morning and think, ok I am feeling good, I don't really need a chai latte today, I will save it for tomorrow. But the days I got it, sparked that serotonin I needed.
Lastly, hobbies. Have a hobby or an activity you love to do. I am a huge extrovert, I was in a dodgeball league, attended work out classes like Orange Theory and Barry's Bootcamp, and made plans to have dinners with my friends as often as I could. These afternoon activities helped me recharge every day after work and it was great.
3. Clear expectations.
Now this is something that I strongly suggest you make clear during the interview process BUT there is a strong chance you are already teaching, so where do we go from here? We have the conversation with our boss. I know, terrifying, but necessary,
My last year teaching was a new job (we moved from Northern California to Southern California) and my entire interview was about including students with disabilities. They hired me on the spot. However, I didn't ask them about the inclusive goals for the specific class I was assigned to. I didn't asked them their thoughts on inclusion. I also didn't ask what their expectations were of me. What I learned quickly, was that they wanted a submissive teacher to just be ok with their segregated classroom and to be thankful when they were told they were "allowed" to attend a pep rally. [insert eye roll here]
I would write down your expectations on paper so you can even reference it. Is your admin trying to put more students in your class when you are already understaffed? Is your admin expecting you to stay after contract hours? If your admin expecting you to volunteer a certain amount of hours after school? These are expectations that everyone needs to make clear sooner than later.
Did you find this helpful? What did I miss?
Inclusion starts with you and I just want to help.