Video created by New Zealand Psychologist Dr Alice Boyes. This video is an experiment in making some basic videos.
1) Love your students (even when they’re not so loveable!)
Enjoying and growing with your students is one of the most important ways to combat burnout. Unfortunately when you’re stressed, it can feel almost impossible to see the kids as the beautiful people that they are. It’s really helped me to build times into our daily schedule which force me to step back and remember what’s important.
For example, in our class meetings, I set a timer for one minute and the entire class greeted one another by name, usually with a handshake of some sort. That’s all the time to takes for every student to smile up at me, shake my hand, and say, “Good morning, Mrs. Watson!” This act alone sets the tone for the day and reminds me that I’m dealing with kids who have feelings, too.
I also had my students give a ‘fist bump or handshake’ when they left the classroom each afternoon. This personal acknowledgement gave me another chance to connect with each child and really calmed me down at the end of the day when I was feeling stressed. Sometimes I also had ‘tickets out the door’—the kids wrote one thing they learned that day and handed me their paper (the ‘ticket’) at dismissal. Having a written record that YES, this day was worth getting out of bed for because I did actually get through to the kids, was enough to help me keep going sometimes when feeling discouraged.
You can have lunch or snack with your kids as a reward every now and then—an unstructured time to just sit and talk about what’s going on in their lives really endears them to you (and vice versa).
Look for little ways like this to accomplish the goal of seeing students as individual people with unique needs, feelings, and experiences. Sometimes the school system trains us to think of kids as machines that can be pushed to the limit every minute of the day and perform at 100% of their ability regardless of outside factors, and we have to intentionally do things to remind ourselves that this is not the case.
When kids feel cared for and respected, they will work harder for you and follow your rules, making the day less stressful and more productive for everyone. It’s worth taking the time and energy to connect with your kids, because the payoffs are ten fold!
2) Focus on your big picture vision
It’s easy to get caught up in the little things that are so frustrating about being a teacher: repeating directions over and over, dealing with the same behavior problem from the same kid every single day, completing meaningless paperwork, grading a million papers…and if you focus on the small things that drive you crazy, you WILL get burned out.
There is a reason you became a teacher—was it to make a difference in a child’s life? To express your creativity? To immerse yourself in a subject you love and inspire students to do the same?
Reconnect with that part of you.
Write out your personal mission statement and post it somewhere in the room where you (and maybe only you) will see it throughout the day.
Create goals that you know you can meet and celebrate your success when you reach them.
Don’t major in the minors or allow yourself to become discouraged by distractions. The extent of your work and your impact goes far beyond what you see from day to day. Seeds are being planted, and lives are being changed, whether you see the results immediately or not.
3) Create a strong support system
I am blessed to have had at least one person in each school I’ve worked in that I considered a true friend—not just a colleague or associate, but a person that I could call at 2 a.m. with a flat tire and know that she would pick me up. When I was single, I hung out with someone from my job almost every single day, whether it was for something fun like shopping at the mall or hanging out on the beach, or something practical, like running errands together or keeping an eye on her kids while she cooked dinner for us (a good trade, I might add.) Knowing that I had someone I can go to with any problem, personal or professional, was the main thing that got me through the day sometimes—that thought of, whew, in an hour I can go next door and just vent!
If you wish you had friends like that in your school, give it time. Because teachers spend so much time isolated in their own classrooms, there aren’t many opportunities to get to know one another, and it can take awhile to get close to your colleagues. Be open to opportunities, and don’t write anyone off–I’ve often bonded with people that I would have never imagined myself growing close to! Even finding just one wise person you trust and can share ideas with might be all you need.
When time goes by and you feel like you still aren’t making connections with anyone in your current teaching position, you could also consider moving to another grade level or even school where there are teachers that have similar personalities (and ideally, life situations) as you. Having a strong support system is just that critical, and it’s sometimes worth the move!
When a student needs a break and you have a trusted colleague, you can send the child to him or her to work for awhile, no questions asked. When you miss a meeting, you have someone to take notes for you. When you’re rearranging your classroom or revamping your behavior plan, you have someone to bounce ideas off. If you have even a single co-worker that you can count on for that, it’s going to make a big difference in your energy level and enthusiasm at work.
Even if you don’t have true friends at work—or if you prefer to keep your personal and professional lives separate—it is important to have people you trust and can go to when you’re stressed at school. Your spouse, friends, and family do NOT understand what it is like to be a teacher unless they have been educators themselves—what we go through on a daily basis in completely beyond the realm of imagination for the general public. You need to talk to another teacher who understands the pressure you’re under, so seek people out in teacher Facebook groups, message board forums, Twitter chats, and so on. Join one of my book clubs or The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. There are fantastic teachers out there who want to offer support and friendship!
4) Focus on flexibility and express your creativity
For me, one of the best aspects of being a teacher is the ability to be creative and let my classroom and daily routines reflect my personality and interests. Before you complain that YOU don’t have that kind of flexibility, let me assure you, I taught in Florida where third graders were automatically retained if they didn’t pass the state standardized test, so I was under a tremendous amount of pressure. We had to have our schedules posted and were supposed to adhere to them at all times. Our lesson plans had to be planned as a grade level team and followed precisely.
And even with these types of restraints, I still maintained a sense of freedom in my classroom. Sure, I needed to teach a specific standard on this day between 11:15 a.m. and 11:45 a.m., but I could teach it any way I wanted—with apps, individual dry erase boards, games, manipulatives, group activities, music, and so on.
I’d start the lesson I had planned, gauge the kids’ interest, and then adjust accordingly. I don’t know of any teachers, other than those who have scripted lessons, who are not allowed that sort of freedom, in reality if not on paper. Don’t lose sight of how awesome it is to choose many of the activities you do each day!
You probably have more control over your classroom than you realize. If your head hurts, you can have the kids can do more independent work; if you’re feeling energetic, you can teach using a game; if you want to sit down for awhile, you can call the kids to the carpet and teach while relaxing in a rocking chair. We have a tremendous amount of flexibility that we CANNOT overlook.
Think about how many people sit behind a desk nine hours a day, every day, doing the work other people assign to them. Hardly anyone gets to change tasks to suit their moods and still be productive—we do, because teaching is as much an art as it is a science, and there are a limitless number of ways to teach effectively.
Yes, there are many limits and restraints on teachers that threaten to suck all the joy out of our profession. But when you focus on what you DO have control over and all the ways that you CAN be flexible and express your creativity, you return to that original passion you had for teaching.
You took this job because you wanted to do awesome things with kids every day. So do that! Stay focused on your vision rather than the restraints that create burnout.
Go into your classroom and focus on what’s meaningful. Use the flexibility and opportunities to be creative that you’re given. Surround yourself with awesome teachers and a strong support network so you don’t feel isolated. Return to your big picture vision as a teacher, and enjoy your students. You can do this, and remember–it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be worth it! Next Sunday, I’ll share four more keys to avoiding burnout right here in this post.
As parents, we love our kids so much we want to protect them, help them, and cultivate them into perfect, happy humans. Unfortunately, this overparenting has the opposite effect, leaving our kids unready for the world and life as adults.
“We parents, we’re doing too much,” says Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen at Stanford University and author of “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” “We have the very best of intentions, but when we over-help, we deprive them of the chance to learn these really important things that it turns out they need to learn to be prepared to be out in the world of work, to get an apartment, to make their way through an unfamiliar town, to interact with adults who aren’t motivated by love.”
Now the mom of two high schoolers, Lythcott-Haims’ a-ha moment came in 2009 after telling parents at Stanford’s freshman orientation to let their kids go and then coming home for dinner and cutting her then 10-year-old son’s meat.
“That’s when I got the connection,” she says. “When do you stop cutting their meat? When do you stop looking both ways for them as they cross the street? These are all things that we’re doing to be helpful, protective and so on, but if you’ve sheltered your 18-year-old all the way up to 18 by doing all of those things, then they end up bewildered out in the world. I realized this was why the Stanford freshman I was working with, however accomplished in the G.P.A. and childhood resume sense, were reliant upon mom or dad to kind of do the ‘work’ of life.”
Are you ready to stop helicopter parenting and prepare your kid for life as a young adult? Lythcott-Haims shares 12 basic life skills every kid should know by high school:
1. Make a meal
“By the time your kid is in high school, they really ought to be able to do everything related to their own care, if they had to,” Lythcott-Haims says. “I’m not saying stop making dinner for your kids, but I am saying you ought to have confidence that they could make a breakfast for themselves, that they could make a lunch.”
While most days you are going to be preparing their meals, you want them to be able to feed themselves if necessary. “When something happens, grandma gets sick and one parent’s got to rush across town to look after her and the other parent’s off at work, you want to know your freshman in high school has what it takes to pack their own lunch, make his own dinner, you know? The more they age, the more they should feel that, ‘Yeah, I’ve got this.’ There’s a competence, and there’s a confidence that comes when we build competence.”
2. Wake themselves up on time
“By the time your kid is entering high school, you ought to have confidence they can wake themselves up and get themselves washed and dressed in clothing that’s clean,” Lythcott-Haims says. “I underscore this because too many of us are letting kids off. We’re their alarm clock and then what happens? They’re late for breakfast; they’re late to school; and we drive them. All that teaches them is, ‘I’ll always be there to wake you up and drive you,’ which is not true.”
Lythcott-Haims recently heard from a colleague at a major university that a parent had installed a webcam in the dorm room of a freshman to wake the kid up. “That’s a parenting fail,” she says. “We’ve gotten ourselves worked up into a frothy frenzy about grades and scores in high school, and further into college, and we sort of treat our kids’ childhood as if every day, every quiz, every afternoon is a make or break moment for their future,” she continues. “We feel the stakes are high, and therefore we must help, but the stakes are low in childhood compared to what they will be in college, and what they’ll really be in the world beyond.”
3. Do laundry
When teaching teens basic chores like laundry, we have to be careful not to be snippy and make them feel bad about not knowing how to do it yet. “If they haven’t learned, it’s because we haven’t taught them,” she says, “so parents need to acknowledge [to their kids] that they’ve been over-helping.” Instead, show them the ropes, watch them do it themselves once to make sure they’ve got it, and then let them handle it on their own.
4. Pump gas
“When they learn to drive, they better know how to pump gas, okay?” Lythcott-Haims says. “I know of college students who have always had their parents fill their tank, whether at home in high school or even in college. The parents just top off the tank whenever they come visit her. Well, one day a 20-year-old student is out driving around, and her tank is near empty. And she says, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to get gas. I’ve never done that. But I’m smart, I can figure it out.'” Long story short: She accidentally puts diesel in the car because no one ever taught her what to do. That’s an expensive and unnecessary lesson.
5. Pitch in
“Employers these days are saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute, what is it with these 20-somethings, they just want to be told exactly what to do, kind of step-by-step, and they want to be applauded for doing it,'” Lythcott-Haims says. “If we’ve just served them, if parents have just said their academics and activities are all that matter and we’ll take care of everything else, no chores and no helping out around the house, then they get out into the workplace and they don’t have that pitch-in mindset.”
“Kids need to learn how to contribute for the betterment of the whole,” she says. “Maybe they have siblings and one is stressed out about something, and the other says, ‘I’ll do your chore for you. Because I see you’re stressed out and you need some help.’ That’s building a sense of it’s not just about me. I can do for others.”
6. Advocate for themselves
Most of us have heard the stories of the parents who are calling college professors to complain about their kids’ grades, right? News flash: This needs to stop in high school, too. “If you’re the one throughout high school who’s always got to be emailing the teacher, you basically are teaching your kid, ‘You’re not competent, and I’m going to have to do it for you,’ which is terribly harming,” Lythcott-Haims says.
Instead, teach your child how to have a conversation with an authority figure and advocate for themselves. “So I’d say, ‘Look honey, I know you’re frustrated about this grade or you’re upset about that happening on the soccer team, or you don’t understand this information. You need to be the one to go talk to your teacher respectfully and advocate for yourself.'” she says. “And if they look at you in horror, say, ‘You can do it; I know you can do it. Do you want to practice with me?’ The only way to teach them is to get out of their way and make them do it.”
Also, prepare them to listen well to what the other person is saying and understand it might not go their way. “Many times they won’t get the outcome they desire, and it’s ‘Well, ‘I tried.’ And they come home and they learn to cope with it, because not everything in life will go your way.”
“We’re always putting their stuff in their backpacks,” Lythcott-Haims says. “‘Oh, don’t want you to forget your homework!’ And then that backpack becomes a bag or a briefcase one day in the workplace, and they haven’t learned that skill of being responsible for remembering their own stuff, doing that inventory every morning, ‘What do I need? Wallet, keys, lunch, work, laptop.'”
8. Order at restaurants
While this skill should be taught sooner than high school, if that’s where parents find themselves, it’s not too late. If they’ve never ordered for themselves, say, “Hey, guys, it’s time you started ordering for yourselves. I realize it’s not for me to decide what you’re going to eat, or me to assume you’re going to have your usual order, or for me to order for the whole family,'” she says.
Remind them to look the server in the eye, be polite, communicate their request, and say, “thank you.” “One day before long, they’re going to be out with friends or out with a girlfriend or boyfriend, and they’re going to want to have that skill to not only order food, but to do so respectfully—and not look like a jerk who’s an entitled kid with a credit card, who can pay for it, but can’t really treat the server respectfully,” Lythcott-Haims says.
9. Talk to strangers
“Their life will be full of strangers, if we think about it, but we have this blanket rule, ‘Don’t talk to strangers,’ which isn’t the right rule,” Lythcott-Haims says. “The right rule would be, ‘Let me teach you how to discern the very few, creepy strangers from the vast, vast majority of normal strangers.’ That’s a skill.”
Then, send your children out in the world to talk to strangers—safe ones. Lythcott-Haims taught her own kids this skill by sending them to a store within walking distance of their suburban home to run a small errand and ask the sales clerk for help. She handed them a $20 bill and off they went. “They come back with a spring in their step,” she says.
10. Go grocery shopping
Has your child ever even noticed that the grocery store aisles are nicely labeled with signs hanging from the ceiling? They should know how to navigate a supermarket on their own, Lythcott-Haims says. “Send them off on their own with one of those little hand-held baskets to go get five or six things,” she says. “If you’ve got a 13-year-old, and you’ve never let him or her out of your sight in a grocery store, you’re going to be freaking out; but 13-year-olds don’t get abducted from grocery stores.”
11. Plan an outing
“Whenever the peer group is old enough and ready to plan an outing, let them do it,” Lythcott-Haims says. “I’m the parent who’s very comfortable with my 12-year-old girl going to a matinee movie with friends where she arranged it—you know, one parent’s going to do the drop-off, one’s doing the pickup, but the girls are getting the tickets, bringing money for snacks.”
While you should ask them to walk you through the plan so you know they are not setting off willy-nilly, don’t let your fears for them make them fearful of the world. “Making their way out into the world’ to go to the movie, or to go to a mall, or to go walk up and down the big street in town and then get some food somewhere, whatever it is—they want that,” Lythcott-Haims says. “This is them trying to spread their wings.”
12. Take public transportation
When I travel around the country, people say, ‘Oh, my gosh. I wouldn’t let my 17-year-old daughter ride the metro alone,'” Lythcott-Haims says. “And I’m like, ‘What’s your long-term plan here? Would you let your 25-year-old daughter? Is it even up to you when she’s 25?'”
“Of course, [17 is] old enough! People join the Marines and the Army and the Air Force and the Navy at 18,” Lythcott-Haims points out. “This is just a lovely example of how far we’ve strayed, because no one is yet saying at 18 they’re too young to sign up to go fight for our country. So, we’re fine when [kids choose the military], but the kids who choose a four-year college? Oh, no, no. They need their mom or dad there all the time. It’s a reminder of how absurd it is.”
Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.'” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.
The problem: “My child doesn’t listen.”
A student with ADHD might not seem to be listening or paying attention to class material. He may be daydreaming, looking out the window, or focused on irrelevant noises or other stimuli. As a result, he misses lessons, instructions, and directions.
The reason: ADHD is not just an inability to pay attention — it’s an inability to control attention. Children with ADHD have a lower level of brain arousal, which in turn decreases their ability to screen out distractions like noise in the hallway, movement outside, or even their own inner thoughts and feelings. Children with ADHD have an especially hard time tuning out distractions when an activity is not sufficiently stimulating.
The obstacles: Children with ADHD struggle to stay focused on lectures or any tasks that require sustained mental effort. Sometimes, this distractibility can appear intentional and annoying — which then works against students with ADHD in getting the help they need. Remarks such as “Earth to Amy!” or “Why don’t you ever listen?” will not correct this attention deficit. If children could pay better attention, they would.
Read on to discover classroom and home solutions to end distractibility.
Solutions in the Classroom
— Select seating wisely. Keeping kids with ADHD close to the teacher and away from doors or windows will help minimize potential distractions and provide the best stay-focused results.
— Allow all students to use distraction-blockers. In order to prevent singling out children with ADHD, let everyone try privacy dividers, earphones, or earplugs to block distractions during seat work or tests.
— Keep things interesting. Alternate between high- and low-interest activities and when possible, keep lesson periods short or vary the pacing from one lesson to the next.
— Accommodate different learning styles. Use a variety of strategies and teaching techniques to accommodate the multitude of learning styles in the room so all students have the opportunity to approach lessons the way they learn best.
— Include visual, auditory, and kinesthetic facets to all lessons. Also, give students opportunities to work cooperatively, individually, and with the group.
— Redirect rather than reprimand. Instead of scolding a student who becomes distracted, redirect him in a way that doesn’t cause embarrassment. Sometimes, asking the child a question you know he can answer, or giving nonverbal cues, such as standing close and patting him on the shoulder, can bring the child back into focus.
Solutions at Home
— Establish a daily homework routine. Some children need to take a break between school and homework or may need frequent breaks between assignments. Figure out what works best for your child in order to help her avoid distractions and procrastination.
— Help your kid with ADHD “set up” in a distraction-free environment. Sometimes the best learning environment can actually be the kitchen table with music playing in the background. Experiment until you find the ideal learning spot.
— Get her started. Sit down with your child and make sure he understands what is required for each assignment.
— Supervise as needed. Most children with ADHD need significant adult supervision to keep on task. As situations improve and the child matures, you can move away from constant supervision to frequent check-ins to make sure your child is on task.
— Allow short breaks between assignments. Have your child stretch or have a snack once one assignment is complete. This can help make his workload seem more manageable.
— Break down large assignments. Divide big assignments into “bites,” each one with a clear goal. If your child feels like a task is manageable, he’ll be less likely to become distracted.