Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What Creates Burnout? Identifying the Triggers and Finding Solutions

Burnout happens to every teacher…even art teachers and bloggers.  There are some years that push you so much to the brink, you feel helpless and unable to cope with everyday tasks at work or at home.  Burnout should not be a taboo subject.  According to MetLife Survey, teacher satisfaction has dropped from 62% in 2008 to 39% in 2012.  The reality is that we all face it at some point in time, and once the exhaustion takes place, we need to find  our ways to cope and carry on.  Lately, I have been seeing burnout on the rise even among my colleagues.  With political opinions, common core push, testing, and teacher evaluations, many educators are feeling more and more helpless as the year goes on.  And if the teacher is a new parent?  Managing a classroom, meetings, committees, and home life?  We know many parents manage in their everyday careers, but the exhaustion still sets in (especially when the baby's up all night).

We enter our profession with a need to share our passion for the arts with our students, staff, and community.  Knowing full on that the arts are not considered a core subject in most schools, we take on the task anyway, walking onward with our head up high and are paintbrushes raised, advocating the importance of creativity in a child's education.  Many of us knew it was an uphill battle.

As some of us fall backwards in our journey, we must first take the time to identify the triggers that cause our burnout so we can move forward again.

#1 Identify why you're burnt out.  Believe it or not, if you take a moment to "sit down" and write a list (yes, take a pen and paper) of what's troubling you at work, you can identify the causes of your troubles.  Don't worry about complaining too much or sounding whiny, sometimes you need to get it out.

#2 Now that you've identified your troubles, attempt to create solutions.  For example, if you feel a lack of support from your administration or colleagues, make the time to address that in a calm manner.  Communication can be a great tool to fixing many problems, and it will help alleviate future frustrations.

#3 For those troubles you can't fix, find a creative outlet to release the stress.  We are artists, so take the time to do something for yourself.  Create art, write a story, or do a dance.  Sometimes our burnout occurs from lack of our own creativity, so take the time to release your bottled up imagination.

#4 Realize that you are not alone, and many others may feel the same way you do.  Sometimes it's best for you to take the first step to brighten someone's day.  We may feel that we are walking in a dark tunnel, but shining your inner light can help guide others along their path.  Remember that kindness is contagious, so in being a positive light in your school environment, you can help others in shining their lights.

#5 Take time for yourself.  Get out of Pinterest and lesson planning, close the laptop, and go for a walk.  Clearing your mind can help in organizing yourself.  Exercise, go shopping, read a book, or take a nap!

#6 If need be, get help.  Burnout is not just a physical strain on your body, it takes an emotional and mental toll as well.  Some of us fight so hard that we overdo it, and need to step back and recollect ourselves.  It is not a bad thing to go and talk with a counselor.  Sometimes we need some extra support to keep going, no matter what anyone thinks.

For everyone reading this who has gone through burnout, depression, and high anxiety over our careers that we love, I wanted to say that I am very proud of you.  Taking the time to identify your troubles is the first step in moving forward in a positive direction.  It's very easy for others to say to "get over it," but in order for us to "carry on," sometimes we need a helping hand.

Some of you may have seen that I have not posted in over a month, and I wanted to share why I had to leave my blogging alone for a time.  For the first time in my education career, I will be at one school for the 14-15 school year.  For 7 years, I traveled from school to school, pushing carts, and teaching out of cafeterias.  I learned how to manage storage space and share a classroom with others.  Having a room of my own and not having to bring materials from one school to another is going to be a refreshing start.

Sadly, my previous home base school had lost their dedicated art room.  I don't know the exact amount of years the art room was there, but I'm told it was there when my mentor started in the district 40 years ago.  It is always a tragedy when any of the arts loses their dedicated space and have to travel from room to room, but we make the best of it.

Thank you for sticking around.

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