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From burnt-out to fired-up! Strategies to reignite your passion for the classroom and life



By Morgane Michael (she/her), teacher, Victoria


Teaching can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding professions out there, but it can also be incredibly challenging and stressful. As a full-time Kindergarten teacher with two young children at home, I know first-hand how challenging achieving “balance” can feel.


Many teachers experience burnout at some point in their careers. According to research, burnout is a common problem among teachers, with studies showing that up to 50% of teachers experience it at some point in their careers. Symptoms of burnout include:

  • feeling emotionally exhausted

  • lacking motivation and enthusiasm

  • feeling cynical or detached from one’s work.


Sometimes, educators even question their efficacy in the classroom, but it is possible to prevent and overcome the symptoms of burnout. As a practising educator and parent with children of my own in the school system, I recognize the significance of systemic issues like underfunding and lack of resources that currently exist; however, in my book From Burnt Out to Fired Up: Reigniting Your Passion for Teaching, I explore some research-based strategies centred around five themes, or the “5 R’s”: reflect, reframe, refocus, reconnect, and reveal. These themes enable educators to regain a sense of control, efficacy, and meaning within their professional and personal lives.


Reflect

To prevent burnout it’s important for teachers to prioritize self-care and make time for activities that recharge and energize them. This might include exercise, meditation, spending time with loved ones, or pursuing hobbies and interests outside of work. By taking care of themselves, teachers can build resilience and better manage the demands of their jobs.

  • Set aside time each day for quiet reflection or meditation.

  • Keep a journal to track your thoughts and feelings.

  • Ask yourself what you really want and what makes you happy.

  • Identify your personal values and make sure your actions align with them.


Reframe

Another key theme in the book is the importance of mindset in shaping our experiences and attitudes. Adopting a positive mindset can help teachers overcome obstacles and stay motivated in the face of challenges. This might involve reframing negative self-talk, focusing on progress rather than perfection, and setting realistic goals. By cultivating a growth mindset, teachers can approach their work with a sense of possibility and excitement, rather than fear or frustration.

  • Challenge negative self-talk and replace it with positive affirmations.

  • Look for opportunities to learn and grow from challenges or setbacks.

  • Focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t.

  • Practise gratitude by focusing on what you do have, rather than what you don’t.


Refocus

We have deep-seated dreams that reside within us, and there comes a time when we must take a good look at our lives to determine what we want our story to be. Refocusing allows us to take stock of these dreams and to recalibrate our compass so that we can step into the life we’ve always wanted to live.

  • Set clear goals and prioritize tasks accordingly.

  • Identify areas where you can delegate or ask for help.

  • Break big projects into smaller, more manageable tasks.

  • Use tools like time blocking to stay focused and productive.


Reconnect

Another important strategy for preventing burnout is to build positive relationships with friends, family, students, and colleagues. Creating a sense of community and connection in the classroom can help teachers feel more engaged and fulfilled in their work. This might involve getting to know students as individuals, actively listening to their needs and concerns, and providing them with meaningful feedback and support. Likewise, building positive relationships with colleagues can help teachers feel more supported and less isolated in their work. This might involve collaborating on projects or lesson plans, sharing resources and ideas, and providing each other with emotional support and encouragement.

  • Connect with supportive friends or family members.

  • Try new activities or hobbies to bring excitement into your life.

  • Volunteer or get involved in a cause that is important to you.

  • Prioritize friendships by engaging in novel experiences.


Reveal

We are all born creative. It is only in adulthood that we lose our child-like capacity for divergent thinking. Cultivating a sense of play and creativity is an important way to bolster our well-being as educators. This might involve incorporating creativity and playfulness into the classroom, exploring new teaching techniques and methodologies, and seeking out ongoing professional development opportunities. By staying engaged and curious in one’s work, teachers can maintain a sense of purpose and excitement that can help prevent burnout.

  • Identify your strengths and look for opportunities to use them in new ways.

  • Consider doing some of the activities and hobbies you did when you were a child.

  • Sign up for a new class or learn about a new interest through podcasts, YouTube videos, or courses.

  • Think about what success really means to you and redefine it in your own terms.


There are a wealth of practical strategies and insights for preventing and overcoming burnout in the classroom; however, prioritizing yourself and your overall well-being begins with a decision to live life differently. By prioritizing self-care, adopting a positive mindset, building upon positive relationships, staying inspired and motivated to achieve big audacious goals, and by pursuing our creativity through curiosity and novel experiences, educators can cultivate resilience and fulfillment in our work and personal lives. By doing so, we can not only prevent burn-out but also create a more positive and engaging learning environment for our students and colleagues.


About the author

Since 2008, Morgane Michael has been an elementary school educator with the Greater Victoria School District in BC. She is a passionate advocate for social-emotional learning, kindness education, and educator well-being. In her free time, she loves playing with her two children, Makena (9) and Tyson (7), hosting her podcast KindSight 101, working out, offering professional development for educators, and writing. Learn more about Morgane at www.morganemichael.com.

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