- You’ve settled into your routines.
- The excitement of the new school year has worn off.
- The reality of the workload has set in.
- The disruptions to your day are constant. (Think picture day, Red Ribbon Week, assemblies, fundraisers…)
Find Joy Everyday
OK, OK… I know this sounds really cliche. But stick with me for a minute…
Even when a million things in your classroom are making you crazy and wearing you down, there are also a million things that can make you smile and keep you encouraged. I firmly believe that you see what you’re looking for, and I have to remind myself of that all the time. When I start feeling overwhelmed and burned out, I take some intentional steps to shift my focus OFF the things that are driving me crazy and ONTO the good things. How do I do that? Well, I’m glad you asked! Here are a few ways that I intentionally seek and find joy in my classroom every day:
- Add something fun to your plans every single day. This doesn’t have to be anything major. But even as important as routines are, if you let things get too routine, it starts to get boring. And that’s the last thing you want! So look for ways to add a splash of novelty into your day. Take your kids for a nature walk. Do a quick science experiment. Tell a story with puppets. Play a circle time game. Make a list of the things you really like to do with your kids and do them!
- Choose one kid to connect with every single day. I firmly believe that lack of connection is at the heart of a ton of the behavior issues we see. (And that’s not just my opinion. There’s a lot of research out there about this, too.) So, I make it a point to choose one of my kids and connect with them each day. And I’m not talking about, “How was your weekend?” or “What’s your favorite kind of ice cream?” kind of connection. I’m talking about real, intentional, personal connection. I talk with them while they eat breakfast about whatever it is that’s on their mind. I get on the floor and play with them during centers to really get a feel for what they like to play with and why. I make lots of eye contact. I smile at them a TON. And I make sure they know how much I love spending time with them.
- Control your thoughts. This one is definitely easier said than done, but for me it has been a game changer. When negative thoughts, frustrated thoughts, overwhelmed thoughts, anything-but-positive thoughts creep in, I consciously stop and redirect them. For example, if my kids are going bananas during circle time, instead of thinking, These kids just won’t listen no matter what I do, I change it to, These kids are having a hard time right now. Let’s do a song or fingerplay and see if that helps. Every negative has a positive. Every problem has a solution. So, take your thoughts captive and focus on the good stuff.
It seems pretty simple, but for me it works. Making myself find joy every day changes my perspective, it changes my outlook, and it helps curb my teacher burnout in a huge way!
Know What You Can & Can't Control
I want you to do something for me. Get a piece of paper and a pen. Make a list of all the things about your day, week, or month at school that are stressing you out, causing your frustration, or just simply driving you crazy. It’s OK… I’ll wait for you. Take as long as you need on this one!
Did you do it? Do you have your list? OK, good. Let’s move on.
Now I want you to go back through that list and cross off anything that you have ZERO control over. Yep, you heard me right. Cross it right off that list. If you have absolutely no control over it, we’re not going to focus on it right now. You’ve probably crossed of things like the special events that pop up during October, your lesson planning requirements, meetings that could’ve been emails. We’ll come back to those things in a minute.
Now go through what’s left on your list. Highlight the things that are 100% in your control. You decide it. You do it. You are the one responsible for it. One thing on this list for me is what I do in my classroom each day. (I’ve got a free circle time planning framework if you want to see how I plan.)
And the last step… put a star by everything that’s left. All the things that did not get marked off or highlighted, put a star by them.
Now get a new piece of paper, and turn those into three different lists. The things you highlighted go under “What I Control.” The things you put a star by go under “What I Influence.” And the things you marked off go under “Everything Else.”
When you look at those three lists, here’s what I want you to see:
- What I Control: This is where you should spend most of your energy. If the things on this list are causing you grief, YOU have the power to do something about it. Look at what those things are and dive in head first to find a way to change them, improve them, or fix them.
- What I Influence: You should definitely spend some time on this list, but not nearly as much as you’re spending on the first list. You have influence on these things, so you have the ability to a make a difference in them. But you don’t fully control them. When it comes to the things on this list, my motto is do your best and forget the rest! Do what you can to improve these areas then move on. Get yourself right back to that first list where you can really impact your classroom and your day.
- Everything Else: Look at everything on this list and repeat after me: It is what it is. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that all the stress, all the frustration, all the griping about these things does not do ONE THING to change them at all. All you’re doing is making yourself miserable. You don’t like it, but you can handle it. Just keep breathing and keep focusing on what you do control.
Learning to let go of the things I don’t control has been game changing for me. Now, don’t get me wrong… I still struggle with this A LOT! I constantly have to remind myself not to get upset about the things I don’t control. I constantly have to remind myself to take a breath and let it go. But when I’m able to do that, my mindset changes. And when that happens, my level of teacher burnout goes WAY down.
Be As Proactive As Possible
Being proactive is a life saver for me. I try to make sure that I have things 100% ready for every week, every day, and every lesson ahead of time. This way the sudden interruptions or schedule changes don’t mess me up and overwhelm me. Here are the simple steps I take to make sure I can do this:
- Every week: At the end of each week I try to make sure I’ve got everything I need for the following week prepped and ready. My read alouds, morning tubs, center activities, large and small group lessons, and circle time games are all planned, and I’ve either gathered or made whatever materials I need for each one of them. (These are my go-to games that I’ve always got at my fingertips!) I try really hard to have all of this done by the time I leave on Friday. But when that can’t happen, I make sure it’s done by the time I hit the door on Monday.
- Every day: Before I leave each day, I put away everything from that day and get out everything I need the next day. My read alouds are on display in my circle time area, my small group activities are in the tubs, my morning tubs are on the tables, my anchor charts are prepped, and my circle time activities are ready to go within arms reach of my chair.
- Every activity: When I’m done with something, I put it away. I don’t let materials and activities pile up on a shelf or table. I make myself avoid the mess and clutter that will drive me crazy by being disciplined about putting things back where they go once I’m done with them.
If you can get a similar system in place, it takes away the constant stress of not feeling prepared. You don’t have to worry about your kids losing focus while you run across the room to grab the book you’re supposed to read. You don’t have to worry about shifting gears at the last minute because you didn’t have time to that morning to prep your activity. You don’t have to worry about not being able to find the circle time game you need in the pile of crap on your teacher table. Being proactive and following these three steps has lowered my stress level a ton, and that helps me SO much when it comes to teacher burnout.
Give Yourself Some Grace
This is by far the hardest one for me. But that’s only because I’m a perfectionist by nature. I want everything in my room to be perfect. I want my circle time to be perfect. I want my centers to be perfect. I want my routines to be perfect. And when it’s not (which happens a LOT this time of year), I really beat myself up over it. Anyone else out there who can Identify with this? If you’re a perfectionist too, you are my people!
But here’s the problem with being the president of the Perfectionist Club… It gets me into a cycle that can be impossible to get out of. Here’s how it goes:
- When things aren’t perfect, I get down on myself.
- When I get down on myself, I get discouraged and overwhelmed.
- When I get discouraged and overwhelmed, I get burned out.
- When I get burned out, I don’t put effort into anything like I should.
- When I don’t put effort into things, nothing goes the way I want it to.
And then the cycle is right back at the top. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. It never ends.
Unless I give myself grace to be imperfect.
Perfection isn’t realistic or possible, and when I remind myself of that it helps a ton. Remember that motto I used earlier? Do your best and forget the rest? Yeah that REALLY applies here too. Give yourself some grace my friend. You’re doing the best you can, and you need to be OK with that.
I hope those suggestions are helpful! Battling teacher burnout, especially in October, is no joke. And you can never have enough tips, tricks, and tools to help you overcome it. When your teacher burnout sets in, no matter what month it is, just remember to find joy in every day, know what you can and can’t control, be as proactive as possible, and give yourself some grace. You’ve got this, my friend! And I’m here to help you when you feel like you don’t. If you’re needing some extra encouragement or support from some like-minded preschool teachers just like you, head on over to my Facebook group! Join us and let us know how we can help!
Talk to you soon!
Get the free guide!
This 5-step planning framework is the backbone of Circle Time Made Simple™ and will change the way you look at your circle time! Learn how I plan and manage my circle time so that I get my students engaged and KEEP them that way!