Reviewed by Rita Platt
Are you overworked? Are you tired? Do you feel like you do too much? Are there times when you dread Sunday because you know it means Monday is just around the corner? Do you ever just feel burned out?
Teaching is a tough job. If you are a teacher who can’t answer yes to at least some of these questions, you are rare indeed! The unique combination of social, emotional, and intellectual requirements of the profession can make it exhausting to the point of being completely overwhelming.
Yet, if you’re like most of the teachers I know, you love the job, even when you feel slightly burned-out. If you’re like most teachers, you just need to take the time to administer burnout first aid in the name of peace and success.
Great ideas to relieve, rejuvenate, and energize
Jenny Grant Rankin’s book, First Aid for Teacher Burnout: How You Can Find Peace and Success, is the perfect salve for the tired teacher’s soul. This short book is packed full of great ideas to relieve, rejuvenate, and energize. It reads like a love note to teachers from teachers.
Clearly, that love note is needed. The statistics Rankin offers are a stark reminder that burnout is a problem (p. 3).
- Only 19% of teachers say they are satisfied with the profession.
- 55% of teachers report they have low morale.
- More than 40% of new teachers leave the profession within five years.
Some years ago, as a part of a training to become a mentor for new teachers, I read Ellen Moir’s theory of the phases a first year teacher moves through. I remember thinking that phases seemed more universal to teaching than specific to that first year.
Most veteran teachers recognize the phases noted in the image at right. Whether they are experienced in a single year, several years, or over the course of an entire career, anticipation, survival, disillusionment, rejuvenation, reflection, and anticipation are states of being familiar to most teachers.
The key to longevity is to stay in those high phases more and linger in those low ones less. Rankin’s book can help teachers do just that.
Finding balance and joy in daily responsibilities
Each of the 15 short chapters focuses on a topic related to the issues teacher face that lead to burnout. From adopting healthy attitudes and habits to managing a busy schedule, saying goodbye to “fluff,” avoiding tedium, and diminishing stress, the author offers strategies and practical tips to help teachers find balance and joy in the daily job of a teacher.
Woven into each chapter are jokes, anecdotes from classrooms, research-based best practices, and exercises for practice and reflection. The book is very easy to read and the ideas presented are easy to implement. While good advice is rife, below are some of my favorite nuggets.
- Organize and declutter (p. 20). A messy, disorganized room can lead to an increase in stress and a decrease in brain power.
- Grade less (p. 47). Not every assignment needs to be graded. Sometimes the process is as important as the product.
- Just say no! (p. 79). Overcommitting can be a key factor in burnout. Decide on a maximum number of extra commitments you can manage and do not exceed it!
- Fight tedium (p. 101). Shake things up! Have fun! Do the unexpected! Take an online class, apply for a grant. Just do what you can to keep the job fresh and exciting.
- Beg, borrow, and steal! (p. 118). Teaching should not be a do-it-yourself endeavor. Work with colleagues near and far to share ideas and lessons.
To get a more complete sense of the content and style of the book, check out Rankin’s post, right here on MiddleWeb, First Aid for Burnout: Avoiding Toxic Traps.
This one’s a must-read
In my 22 years of teaching, I have read a lot of books about how to be more effective, how to help my students be more successful, and how to improve the culture and the climate of my school. Rankin’s book, however, stands alone. It is a must-read for teachers, administrators, and anyone else who is interested in understanding the profession and helping to make it a sustainable career choice.
It is the only book I’ve seen that is written with the goals of doing all of those things through helping teachers. Reading it truly felt like a gift. Without hesitation, I recommend First Aide for Teacher Burnout: How You Can Find Peace and Success to anyone who needs a shot in the arm to decrease or continue to avoid teacher burnout.
Rita Platt (@ritaplatt) is a National Board Certified teacher with master’s degrees in reading, library, and leadership. Her experience includes teaching learners in remote Alaskan villages, inner cities, and rural communities. She currently is a teacher-librarian, teaches graduate courses for the Professional Development Institute and writes for We Teach We Learn.