It feels so good to revisit the 30 Goals Challenge especially now in the middle of summer when -like many teachers here in Greece- I reflect on the academic year that ended in June and gradually prepare for the new year that will start in September. I’ve seen the signs of burnout to almost every teacher I’ve met – including myself – and I totally understand that it is a constant struggle for many teachers out there. There have been many educators who have contributed to this goal before like lovely Vicky Loras but I would like to focus on what I try to do in order to avoid burnout.
- Set goals and reflect on them: Sometimes, especially when I am under a lot of pressure, it seems that everyday things demand a lot of energy to be done. What works for me is to make lists of goals and set priorities. I actually use 3 different colours to do so; red are the must-do ones, orange the ones I can postpone for later on in the week and green the optional ones. I prepare my list on Sunday or the night before any busy workday and I always check how many of my goals (especially the red ones) I’ve managed to accomplish by the end of the week. In case I ran out of time, I try to see what went wrong and how I could improve next time.
- Focus on your strengths: It’s easy for all of us to fall into a negativity trap and blame ourselves for everything that’s wrong with our classes. What I’ve done to remind me of my inner strengths is a “portrait” activity inspired by a series of psychology seminars I attended last year. My portrait is actually a piece of paper divided in 12 boxes (4 columns-3 rows). Each row represents 3 different aspects of my life and what makes me special in these 3 different fields (What makes me a special friend? What makes me a special teacher? What makes me a special human being?) Each of the 4 boxes along the row are filled with one word or a short phrase that makes me unique. Whenever I feel down, I look at my self-made portrait and smile.*** I’ve also created such cards with my students as an alternative Valentine’s Day gift to themselves. It was so difficult to reflect on their qualities and values that made me think of the struggle all of us go through our lives to appreciate and embrace ourselves.***
- Follow a balanced diet and drink plenty of water:This is a constant battle for me because I tend to be really sloppy with my food choices whenever I am busy at work. It is true though that water (and coffee) is what keeps me going through a busy day along with lots of healthy snacks.
- Sketch, sing and cook aka embrace your talents:One of the reasons we often feel stuck in the daily grind is that we forget we are so many other things apart from teachers. All of us are artists and creators and it’s really important to dedicate time during our day to those creative inner voices and do things that please us. To me, that’s singing and cooking! Even 10 -15 minutes a day are enough to relax and unwind.
- Keep an Encouragement diary: I keep a diary with positive thoughts and quotes that can get me through any difficult day.
- Break the routine – Play with (and without) your students: I’ve always loved playing games, especially HOG (you can read more about it here, so I really can’t imagine my life without playful moments. My teacher survival kit (which is one of the next goals to accomplish) always includes games or everyday objects that I can use for games. You will be surprised how much your class atmosphere can change by simply playing a tossing-the-ball game with your class.
- Learn something new every day: This summer I’ve started learning Swedish on Duolingo, watching Creole cooking videos on Youtube and have singing lessons again. Learning new things won’t only inspire you, it can also help you appreciate your learners more and pinpoint the challenges of learning when you are in the same shoes as they are.
- Share your fears: It’s difficult to open up when you are under pressure, but I feel it might sometimes be the only way to get things off your chest and be able to move on again.
Most importantly though, don’t forget that…