Photo via Jing

Jokes aside, teacher burnout is a legit condition, usually hitting teachers in the month of May or June. The sun is out, all our friends are posting pictures of themselves drinking cocktails by the beach on Facebook, and there is a swirling storm of screaming students surrounding us. We can only grade, lecture, and discipline for so long before our brains melt into a puddle of red ink, hand sanitizer, and children’s tears.

Many teachers turn to food, booze, sleep, or coffee to take them away from it all and I definitely take part in all those things for some peace of mind, but I like to get creative when treating my burnout. Here are the ways I’ve been surviving my current burnout. These ideas may not work for everyone….because well, I’m not everyone.

Playing mind games

I need to entertain myself and the best way to do that is mess with students. One particularly boring day, I started lying to a 4th grader about what I did on my weekend. I tricked him completely and said in a serious tone, “Never trust anyone.” Now, he will sneak up to me and say, “I don’t know where my homework is!” When I get angry, he slyly smiles and says, “I’m lying…” The student has become the teacher.

I actually mess with my students even when I am not burnt out, but I’ve been very open to joking around with them lately and so they have begun to fight back. One of my favorite girl’s desk is right by my desk in the back. During their math class, which I do not teach, she turned and stared at me as I worked. One of my class rules is that they cannot drink water in class, but many other teachers don’t enforce that. She looked me straight in the eye and drank her water, slowly, and mockingly. I wasn’t even angry. I was impressed.

Getting angry about anything for no reason

Now, I don’t do this one intentionally and I usually feel bad about it. I’m tired, I’m burnt out, and I have a mountain of papers to attack with red pen and some student comes and asks me what page they are supposed to be on. Cue me turning into a raging monster, screaming about how they need to get it together because they are third graders next year, and do you even listen, and why are you ruining my life!!!!…..Like I said, this isn’t the best way to deal with burnout, but it will happen and don’t be too hard on yourself when it does. The students get it. They are burnt out too, which is why they have no idea what page we are on.

Reading into the meaning of student gifts

Sometimes you are so bored from lesson planning that you distract yourself with even more boring things. Like counting hand lotions. My students have given me nine hand lotions in the last two years. That can’t be normal. Is there something wrong with my hands?! Do they think I am the crypt keeper? I’M SO OLD AND I AM TURNING INTO MY MOTHER.

Messing with the staff computers

My school has three staff computers that we can use to print and lesson plan. I started finding memes that made me laugh and making them the desktop background. Things like a GoT picture with “One does not simply begin work without coffee” and you know, pictures of David Bowie in Labyrinth. I would giggle as I clicked “make desktop background” and then, I would skip away, feeling delighted with myself. I think everyone else was just scared, confused, and probably, irritated.

Pretending I am the editor of Vogue 

Who hasn’t done this one, am I right? Yeah ok, so like I said, I’m not everyone. I just recently watched The September Issue documentary about Anna Wintour. I loved how she just ice queened it up, wearing her damn sunglasses IN HER OFFICE and, basically, running shit like the boss she is. It was lunchtime at school. I was bored and tired, and so, I started wearing my sunglasses in the classroom and talking to students like I was a British socialite. They acted like it was normal, which makes me wonder if maybe I have been burnt out this whole year….


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