5 Ways to Avoid Teacher Burnout

5 Ways to Avoid Teacher Burnout graphic with an exhausted teacher with her head down on a messy desk.

Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. Wondering how many more days we can take it, much less years. Teaching is hard work. It can be a physically, emotionally, and mentally draining career, and it’s often a thankless job where teachers are typically portrayed as the reason for all of educational shortcomings. We’re expected to play the roles of educator, disciplinarian, motivator, secretary, nutritionist, nurse, psychologist, and even parent at times. We’re asked to perform miracles, without the resources we need to perform those miracles, and many are micromanaged to the point of having absolutely no freedom. Feeling encouraged yet? With all of that  said, I do believe that it’s possible to avoid teacher burnout and to actually enjoy — even love — teaching. I won’t be naive enough to suggest that it’s possible to eliminate all of our stress and frustrations, but I would like to share 5 ways to avoid teacher burnout.

Teacher Tip #1: Positivity

Having a positive attitude will reflect on all areas of your life and make you a more efficient teacher. You can choose to be happy, positive and optimistic or you can choose to be pessimistic and critical with a negative outlook on education.

We may have to make a conscious effort to squash negative thoughts, but that effort is worth it. I’ve found that it is incredibly important to not focus on the negative, because it only intensives the problem, rather than helping solve anything. Rehashing negative thoughts over and over in your head, rumination, can be counterproductive. Guy Winch, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries says, “It’s like a needle in a groove. As the groove gets deeper and deeper, the needle has a harder time getting out of the groove.” Dwelling on the negative can actually make you more angry or upset than you were originally, because the issue becomes magnified in your mind.

Try to surround yourself with positive role models and avoid toxic negativity as much as possible to avoid teacher burnout. Jennifer Williams of Teaching to Inspire and I work together to administer a POSITIVE and SUPPORTIVE Facebook group where teachers can learn and grow together. We’d love to have you, so here’s a link if you’d like to join!


Low morale is certainly an issue an many schools, but there are things we can do to try to encourage and boost morale. One of my favorites is to start a teacher meme challenge. Yes, it’s silly and superficial, but there’s nothing like a good laugh, or even chuckle, to boost someone’s attitude. You could start with slipping something about copy machines in the work room.

Depending on your relationship with other teachers in your building, you could even prominently place a child appropriate meme in another classroom to surprise a coworker. We do silly things like this to each other frequently, and it really does brighten our day.

Food and Kindness

Teachers are often encouraged by food. At my former school, we had once a month snack days where teachers brought in different finger foods, and we enjoyed the snacks during our planning. If your administration and/or PTO is on board, can you imagine the excitement of providing breakfast, lunch or even desert. I used to work with the sweetest lady who would bake treats for the teachers just to be nice, and even though it’s been years I still remember how excited we would be to hear that Karen baked for us that day.

Random acts of kindness are another amazing way to encourage and boost morale, with students and teachers. I’ve created a little Random Acts of Kindness for teachers to help boost the morale of a school. Wouldn’t it be awesome to challenge a staff to complete all ten of the activities in a week, or even a month. I love the idea of letting this trickle down to our students by our modeling and eventually a student challenge. You can download the form for free here.

Another fun activity to build a little excitement for any holiday is a class version of You Got Booed. Classes take turns booing each other. To do this, you’ll need some type of basket or container. You can place some type of treat or goodie in the basket. You could add candy, silly straws, erasers, pencils, stickers, wikki sticks, spider rings, or anything fun in the basket. Just make sure you have enough for each student that will be receiving it. You could even add something special for the teacher.

Place the goodies, direction sheet, and We’ve Been BOOED sign in the basket and SECRETLY deliver the basket to another classroom. You can place it outside a classroom door or place it inside a classroom while the teacher and students are away from the room. The class gets to keep the treat, and then it’s their job to replace the goodies with something different, and it’s their turn to boo a different classroom. Once a class has been booed, they should place a We’ve Been BOOED sign on their door, so everyone can have the chance to get booed. You can download You’ve Been BOOED here.

When it comes to remaining positive, relationships are key. Regardless of what strategies we use, we need to intentionally do our part to create a fun, positive, and supportive work environment. These things are essential to avoid teacher burnout.

Teacher Tip #2: Consider Change

Anyone who knows me will agree that I hate change. I run away from it, resist it, and fight it tooth and nail. That said, I do try to embrace change in my classroom. I find that if I keep doing the same thing the same way I get into a rut and begin going through the motions. Change in my classroom keeps me on my toes and forces me to stay current on new educational research and practices. In no way, shape, or form do I use every idea and strategy I’ve ever read about. Instead, I take the bits and pieces that work for me and my students and assimilate those strategies into my current instruction. I could easily keep doing what I’ve always done, but I never want to stop learning and growing as a professional.

Now, I am not talking about mandated change for the sake of change. That’s a completely different story. I don’t think I’ll ever be a teacher who jumps on the latest trends in education. I’ve been teaching long enough to see far too many programs and initiatives that had no place in the classroom. Instead, I approach new techniques and ideas with caution, common sense, and an open mind.

teacher joke

Change is what prevents me from becoming bored and gives me a new energy for my profession. For example, I had been using my Number of the Day review for morning work for years. I loved it and was 100% confident in its effectiveness, but I could go over it in my sleep. It got to the point that I dreaded that part of my day, because I was tired of the same thing over and over again. I found myself rushing through it or even skipping it altogether.

That was my sign that it was time for a change. If you have a task, review, or unit that you don’t enjoy because it’s boring, maybe it’s time for something different. Sometimes I can add or replace a couple lessons within a unit, and I’m good to go. Other times, I completely rewrite a unit, because I need to keep things fresh and exciting. I recognize that my students won’t know if I’m teaching from a new or old unit, but I am a firm believer that students absorb their teacher’s like or dislike of a topic or assignment.

teaching change

If your frustration and stress is on a greater scale, it may be time for a more significant change. When I found myself starting to go through the motions of teaching third grade, I knew that to preserve my sanity and avoid burnout as a teacher, I needed a big change. I ended up making a huge leap of faith and moving grade levels and schools. Sometimes we need a fresh start to challenge, motivate, or encourage us. While I can’t say that it was easy, I did regain my excitement and passion for teaching. You never want to feel like the walls around you are imprisoning or trapping you, because that’s not an environment conducive for happiness or joy.


Teacher Tip #3: Take Care of Yourself

I think many teachers by nature are givers, and they give from themselves until there’s nothing left to give. We find ourselves working way too many hours, not getting enough sleep, lacking time to exercise, much less enjoy activities outside of school. We tend to place the idea of taking care of ourselves somewhere in the future when achieve certain milestones in our lives, but our body and minds need taken care of regularly. Sometimes we may have to say no to various extracurriculars, committees, and additional responsibilities. Of course some will fall within the parameters of our required duties, but we don’t have to take on every opportunity to serve that presents itself. We should shift our mindset from thinking of rest and rejuvenation as a luxury to an essential tool for us to maintain the level of work required from us.

Time is always a factor when it comes to taking care of yourself. Now that my children are a bit older, after a full day of teaching my afternoons and evenings consist of WAY too much extra events. I find myself constant running without ever having even the briefest moment to unwind during the day. I do try to streamline my day to be as efficient with my time as possible. I’m learning to eliminate things that are not the best use of my time, both professionally and personally. There are things I used to do as a teacher that I’ve let go, because it wasn’t worth my investment of time, and I have to use my time as wisely as possible. I’ve also had to learn to accept that I will never have enough hours in the day to do everything I need to do. You can read more about how to take care of yourself in this blog post.

7 Tips for Avoiding Being Teacher Tired graphic with a teacher sleeping on her desk.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that this does not come easy for me. More than once my husband has had to ever so kindly encourage me to put my computer away, so I would stop working. It’s easy to become so consumed with work life that we miss out on our real life. We need to avoid this; otherwise we will quickly head toward teacher burnout (you know, that thing we want to avoid).

Teacher Tip #4: Let It Go

It’s important to accept that some things are out of our control. There is nothing I can do about state testing, students’ home life, or state/system wide decisions. I have to learn to let these things go. They’re not worth my emotional energy. Instead, I should focus on what is in my control and work to improve those things as best as I can. Try to focus on what I can control and place my energy on those things. I’ve wasted far too much time worrying about things that are outside my reach as a teacher.

For the most part, I can control what happens in my classroom. Sometimes I feel like a broken record…”don’t interrupt, did you read the directions, pick up your pencil, etc.” There are little things that drive me crazy during the school year. Sometimes it’s important for teachers to think about what strategies and management styes aren’t working and either abandon or modify those techniques. I absolutely realize that there are things have control over {ahem-testing anyone} but I’m not talking about those things. IEvery now and then I try to pinpoint the things that just aren’t working for me. This year I’m not happy with my dismissal procedure. What I’m doing isn’t working, so I’ve got to experiment until I find something that is effective for me. These changes can be procedural or academic.

Teacher Tip #5: Think About Purpose

Sometimes when I get caught up in the day-to-day chores of teaching, I lose sight of my original purpose in becoming a teacher. I start sweating the small stuff as well as the big stuff. It’s sad, because I allow myself to lose sight of what matters most, my students.

I know it sounds cliché, but teachers have the unique opportunity to impact, shape, and change lives. That’s a pretty big deal. We may never know the end results of our efforts or just how far our reach will go. I have to imagine that we’d be more than a little surprised and may feel a little more validated about all of the sacrifices we’ve made for our students. You may never hear these words but… You are important. Your students need you. Your work and effort is appreciated.

Guess what? It’s okay to have fun while you teach. If you enjoy your job, you will do much better. Being in the classroom can be fun. Of course, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine in my classroom, but I try to have something to look forward to throughout the week. It’s so much easier to get out of bed and ready for school when I have a lesson that I can’t wait to teach. It may be as simple as a new book for a read aloud or something as elaborate as a new STEM lesson.

Teaching is hard! Here are 5 ways to avoid teacher burnout. Some of them you can do right now!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top