How do you know when to leave teaching? To answer that, ask yourself… have I tried everything? You may have exhausted your personal list of things you think you can do to be a better and happier teacher, but what about gremlin taming? Have you tried that?
That may seem like a strategy I just pulled from The Lord of the Rings – but it’s a real strategy that good teachers possess that help them to fight burnout. Gremlin taming – among other strategies – help teachers stay happy, healthy, peaceful and balanced so they can remember the reasons they got into teaching in the first place.
Prefer the vlog? Here you go, friend:
First, a story.
I was a freshmen in college the year the twin towers fell. It was a time when everyone in the entire country wanted to be close to their families. And I had just moved away to be at a college where I didn’t know anyone. I was lonely and WAY out of my comfort zone.
I tearfully declared to my mom one day that I wanted to come home – to quit. She lovingly acknowledged how hard it is to be away for the first time (this was not her first rodeo – I’m the youngest of her four children) – and challenged me to finish out the year. She said she would support my decision as long as I could say that I gave it my very very best effort. That meant that in addition to my studies, I needed to get involved, meet more people, and put myself out there.
She reminded me of the very important fact that when life makes you want to quit, we have to give life our very very best effort before throwing in the towel.
So – here you are thinking “Well OF COURSE I’ve given it my best effort!!” I know you have, but here are some non-traditional things you may not have thought of to try yet:
The edge of burnout can be a sneaky place where your internal negativity gremlins run amok and have a free-for-all with everything that doesn’t seem to go your way. Our gremlins tell you that you aren’t good enough, that you aren’t doing enough, that if you go home and nap you are being selfish etc. Our gremlins win when we engage in unproductive complaining/venting to other teachers. Our gremlins win when we let them rule our thoughts.
So, to be a happy teacher, you have to tame those gremlins! Whip them into shape any way you know how! Here are some gremlin busting strategies I like:
- Celebrate success (both yours and your students)
- Practice gratitude as often as you can
- Practice self-care (get enough sleep, eat well, relax and take time for yourself)
- Mental Management a.k.a “Yell at the Gremlins” (My favorite gremlin-busting one-liner: “That’s not true and I’m not going to go there”)
Try on a Beginners Mind
For many of us, we expect ourselves to immediately be great at everything we do. And whether you are a first year, third year, eight year, or fifteen+ year veteran teacher, you should always be doing new things with students – which means we are ALL new at certain elements of teaching (new strategies, etc.) every year!
A judging mind (what most of us have – if we’re honest) thinks:
- What’s wrong with this person, situation, or me?
- What do I need to do to stay in control?
- Who is to blame? Whose fault is it?
- How can I look good?
A beginners mind sees the world with fresh eyes and thinks:
- What can be appreciated here?
- What can I learn?
- What are the choices?
- What am I feeling and experiencing right now?
Happy, wholehearted teachers have a beginners mind. How can you begin to switch your mindset to be more like a beginners mind?
Self-Care Like a Champ
Lack of self-care is the root of a lot of our negativity gremlins and judging minds. When we don’t take care of ourselves and prioritize our needs (either because we don’t know what we need, or we prioritize our to-do list), resentment begins to build and build and build. Resentment breeds inside us like cancer cells.
When we take care of ourselves, we are sending ourselves a message that we are important and valuable. If that’s a message you haven’t received in a while – examine your self-care habits.
Ways to self-care include:
- Take a walk (for bonus points – invite a friend!)
- Do yoga
- Take 3-5 deep breaths throughout your day
- Eat well – nourish your body with things that make it function well and feel good
- Relax – a bath, massage, pedicure – you name it!
- Sleep/Nap (be sure you are getting the sleep your body needs!)
- Quiet Time (sit in quiet, meditate, pray, breathe)
Happy, wholehearted teachers know that their energy is a limited resource and that it needs to be refueled through self-care on a regular basis.
Remember Your Why
I know that this tenuous place where you are located – the edge of burnout – is not exactly where you planned to be. I know you had high hopes and big plans as a teacher. What were your original desires when you got into teaching? How often are you able to do the things that connect you to your purpose for becoming a teacher?
Find some ways to reconnect to your ‘why’ – your purpose for teaching.
Don’t Go it Alone
Having community with other teachers who understand, but are also a positive influence to you, is absolutely critical to happy, wholehearted teaching.
Some schools have a terrible school culture of negativity. If that’s the case at your school – find teachers outside of school to connect with. Find a Facebook group, a Twitter PLN (professional learning network) or an Instagram Tribe to connect with.
A great way to have community with other teachers while also working on these skills is to join a coaching group of like-minded teachers in the same boat – supporting each other and working toward a happier life as a teacher.
Still Ready to Leave?
If you still think you are ready to leave teaching, you may benefit from working with a career coach to be sure you know what your next steps are and also to help you manage the time you still have left in your current position. I offer career transition coaching for teachers through my one-on-one coaching service. Contact me if you’d like to set up a quick call to discuss how I can help you!
The Bottom Line
The bottom line here is that you deserve a life that you love! If you love teaching, but just need to master some of the elements that make teaching tough – then there are lots of resources on this site to help you! If you aren’t sure you even love teaching anymore, then it’s okay to leave. Guilt and Fear are not reasons to stay in a job you don’t love. So, if that’s the case – then contact me, and let’s get you into a career and life you DO love!
What’s your next move?
All my love,