CFT Blog Articles

 

Ten Strategies to Avoid Teacher Burnout


By Credits for Teachers - October 8, 2018

Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers, but it is also one of the most demanding. Teachers must fill multiple roles, such as record keeping, serving on school committees and, of course, teaching. Burnout is a state of chronic stress. If you are feeling exhausted and distressed, you are not alone. According to the  Learning Policy Institute,   almost 8 percent of teachers leave each year, for reasons other than retirement. The key to dealing with teacher burnout is prevention. Here are some tips to help you avoid burnout:

Set limits

Teachers tend to be hard working achievers. You may feel that you need to take on more than you should. Instead, know your limits.  Control which activities, in addition to your teaching duties, you take on. There is nothing wrong in a tactful but firm refusal.

Arrive at school early

For most of us, the early part of the day is the most productive. Arriving perhaps a half hour before your day begins gives you quiet time to organize your materials, answer emails, and then focus on your students.

Avoid the Sunday night scramble

You know what that is. Monday morning is hanging over you like a storm cloud. You have papers to grade, and lesson plans to complete. To avoid this, do your best to prepare for the upcoming week before you leave on Friday. Then enjoy your weekend, including Sunday night.

Team up with your fellow teachers

Whether it is lesson planning, or discussing classroom problems, sharing the workload with friends and colleagues makes all the difference. Other teachers may have problem-solving tips, useful information about students, or just provide a friendly listening ear, any of which reduces your stress level.

Take care of your physical health

Everything you do is harder when you don't feel well. Be proactive in caring for your health. It may be tempting to skip breakfast or lunch, but your body needs healthy food to function at your best. Being well rested also makes your whole day better, so don't deprive yourself of sleep.

Exercise

No matter how busy you are, you need regular exercise. It is essential for your physical health, but also releases endorphins that will keep you emotionally healthy. You don't have to go to a gym. You can take a walk, go for a bike ride, or do yoga. 

Maintain your perspective

The responsibilities of teaching can be overwhelming. You are trying to teach your students, as well as being aware of the challenges they face in their personal lives. It is important to remember that no matter how hard you try, you can't save the world. Do what you can for your students, but know your limits.

Nourish your mental health

Your mental health is important. Perhaps you need to spend a day reading for pleasure or listening to music. You know what soothes your soul and leaves you refreshed. You cannot help others if you are burned out.

Find your sanctuaries

You don't always need to take a whole day to recharge your batteries. You may need an hour in your favorite cafe, or a park bench in a peaceful place. It may even be a quiet place in your school. When you feel yourself becoming stressed, find your sanctuary and even if you only have a few minutes, breathe or meditate.

Separate your work and home life

Teaching can be all-consuming, but you do not have to sacrifice your personal life to be a good teacher. As a teacher, your work will never be completely caught up. Do the best you can, but when the day is over, enjoy your life with your family and friends.  

You will be a more effective teacher if you take care of your own needs and prevent burnout. 
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Credits for Teachers offers self-paced online Professional Development courses for K12 teachers. Whether you need innovative teaching strategies or graduate credit for salary advancement, Credits for Teachers has you covered...

 

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Why Multi-Tasking is your Worst Enemy


For years it was common to hear teachers say “I’m a great multi-tasker” or “multi-tasking is one of my gifts”.  From a professional development standpoint,  current research suggests that being a multi-tasker isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.   
 
In fact, multi-tasking has been proven to lead to lower levels of creativity, higher levels of stress, and a higher reduction in cognition than people experience from marijuana.

 
Here’s why multi-tasking isn’t the Holy Grail
When people are multi-tasking, their brain is jumping back and fourth from one subject to another.  The human brain can, at most, focus on two subjects at a time before losing cognitive abilities.
 
Once we begin to work on multiple jobs at the same time, our brain is pulled in multiple directions which decreases the “RAM” that is available for an individual task. 
 
Here’s the worst part – completing small tasks like sending a text message, email or tweet actually feeds our brain a small amount of dopamine.  Because of the way we are wired, we search out more and more of these “small satisfaction” tasks as opposed to focusing on the larger & more important projects on our list.
 
Multi-tasking kills brain creativity
While taking up all of the available space in your brain to process and make connections, this doesn’t leave any space for creativity.  When someone focuses on one topic at a time, they leave the rest of their brain available for creative thinking. 
 
When you multi-task, your brain becomes overly taxed and doesn’t have the faculties available to be creative or solve problems.  Instead, we are actually performing at lower cognitive levels.  Some studies have shown that simply multi-tasking can lower your IQ score by 10 pts.
 
 
Plummeting Productivity
Remember, this all started because we wanted to be able to handle more tasks and be more productive, right?
 
Research on multi-tasking has shown that people experience a 40% decrease in productivity when multi-tasking.  So, for all of us that thought we were being more productive by multi-tasking, we actually might have been making the problem worse.
 
It’s actually bad for your health
Ever seen that person who seems like they are always busy and extremely stressed?
 
You might want to show them this study - people who multi-task experience a higher heart rate when multi-tasking as well as increased levels of stress.
 
So, what’s the solution?
There are a variety of names and strategies to combat multi-tasking.  Some of these are called batching or the pomodoro technique. 
 
The basic idea is that it is important to focus on one task at a time and minimize your interruptions.  This allows us to put all of our cognitive faculties into one task and increase our productivity.
 
Why Organization can help
Good organization can also be a key to minimizing your multi-tasking efforts.  Everyone has had that situation where you are planning a lesson and then all of a sudden you remember something you forgot to do or you come up with a great idea for a lesson. 
 
What ensues is a neural ping-pong match where your brain goes back and fourth between your original task and whatever you just remembered.
 
Instead of jumping to that task, create a system that allows you to file that thought or idea away quickly and come back to it at a later time. 
 
The Take-away
Help yourself be more productive and ultimately, less stressed-out by creating an environment of minimal multi-tasking and reduced distractions.  This will not only help you to be a more effective teacher but also allow you to more fully enjoy your life outside of the classroom.

Do you have a personal example of decreased productivity due to multi-tasking?  Share with us in the comments section below.
 
(NOTE: Credits for Teachers provides self-paced online Professional Development courses for K12 teachers.  Teachers who take our courses receive graduate credit from our university partner that can be used for salary advamancement or license renewal - Learn More Now)

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Why Saying


Every good teacher knows this story, you’ve been working at your school for the past couple of years and last year was your first year to get involved in an “extra-curricular” activity.  It might have been a club, sport, or even a committee within your school. 
 
You had a great time and are planning to continue next year, but then a member of the administration approaches you.
 
“Hey Jen, you did a really great job with the Girls Soccer team last year.  The girls loved you and the parents couldn’t stop talking about what a great experience it was.  We’ve got an opening on the track coaching staff and would love for you to come on board.  What do you say?”
 
Educators are asked to wear so many hats these days.  We all know the person whose car is the first in the parking lot every morning and is often the last to leave at night.  Depending on where you are in your career, being so involved in your work might be what you want.  But if you are in a different part of your life, you need to feel comfortable saying “no”. 
 
Telling a colleague “No” may not be the right response to every request that you receive.  But you need to feel comfortable turning down extra-curricular involvement so you don't spread yourself too thin. 
 
What is most important here is that you genuinely reflect on the time that you have available.  If you are coaching soccer in the spring but you aren’t involved in something during the winter or fall, then maybe a seasonal activity works for your schedule. 
 
However, it’s easy to get over-booked if you aren’t looking at the big picture.  Here’s an example of a teacher I know.
 
“As a district-wide professional development opportunity, I was asked to join my school’s Differentiation team.  That went well and so the following year I decided to take on the role as the boys JV Basketball coach.  Right as the year began, we had a staff shortage and my principle asked me to head up another committee.  I was slightly stressed but I thought I could make it all work. 
 
A few months later, I had to go back to my principle because I had realized I had made a mistake.   I was in the middle of basketball season and between leaving early for games and my two committees, there had been an entire week when I needed a sub to cover my last 2 periods of the day.  I felt like my job as a teacher was definitely impacted and I couldn’t do it anymore.  Something had to change.”
 
Situations like the one above happen all the time.  Remember that saying no isn’t a bad thing, in fact, sometimes it is the right thing.  It’s always better to do 1-2 things really well than many things halfway.  

Strategies for Saying "No" the Right Way
 Often the difficulty in these situations isn't whether you should say "yes" or "no" to the request, but how to say "no" the right way.  Use some of the strategies below to help you communicate your decision professionally and avoid the guilt that often comes with saying "no". 

1. Focus on the Time Commitment, not your Desire
When you've turn someone down, their initial thoughts will often be that you didn't "want" to help.  Many times that's not the case at all, you just didn't communicate the situation properly.  Here's a phrase you should use to avoid this pifall.  

"I'd really like to help, unfortunately, that's not something that I can committ to at this time."

By using this phrase, you've shown that you WANT to help them, but that due to time constraints you aren't able to committ to it.  

2. Thank them for Asking
Saying "no" can be tough, but being the one that is turned down is often even more difficult.  When you are asked to help with something or take on a project, it's important to understand that someone is recognizing you for your talents.  Be sure to thank them for offering you the opportunity:

"Thanks for thinking of me to take on that project.  Please keep me in mind and if my committments allow, I'd love to help with that in the future."

3.  Refer them to Someone Else
Saying "no" becomes 100% easier when you have an alternative solution for.  Obviously you don't want to just refer your colleague to anyone, but if you genuinely know of someone that might be willing and capable of filling the role, then you should definitely suggest them.  

This immediately takes you out of the role of being the "person that said no" and you've become the person that's helping a colleague solve a problem.

4.  Be a Last Resort
For some requests, you might not be able to give it 100%, but you can at least solve the problem in the short-term.  Here's an example, your school track team has so many kids that have signed up to participate that the AD is looking for 1-2 additional coaches.  You can't committ to coaching the entire season, but you could offer to help organize/supervise for one week until the AD can find a permanent solution.  

This not only helps the school but allows you to keep your long-term committments balanced.

Do you have some strategies that have worked for you in the past?  Share them below in the comments.
(NOTE: Credits for Teachers provides self-paced online Professional Development courses for K12 teachers.  Teachers who take our courses receive graduate credit from our university partner that can be used for salary advamancement or license renewal - Learn More Now)
 
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Standards-Based or Traditional Grading - Why not Both?


There are many reasons to support both Standards-Based & Traditional grading.  

For teachers trying to jump into Standards-Based Grading (SBG) and don't know how, a hybrid option might seem like an easier transition from a traditional grading system.  Other teachers may want to fully switch to SBG but because of their school’s requirements or even pressure from parents, they still need to adhere to giving out standard letter grades.
 

No matter what you do, the focus should be on the grade reflecting student learning and comprehension.
 
Here’s a grading system that helps those of you looking to find a balance of both.
 
Weighting Grades on SBG Principles
Instead of throwing all of your old assignments, quizzes, & tests out the window, weight these items appropriately to reflect SBG principles.
 
Often assignments can be divided into two categories: assessments & work habits.
 
Assessments
These include quizzes, tests, or any other form of assessment that you use to measure student learning.  If you want to go more in-depth, you can divide these into formative vs. summative assessments - but that’s a topic for another article.
 
Work Habits
This category includes anything that measures a student’s level of work or study habits such as homework, class work, attendance, participation, etc.
 
Now in traditional SBG, students would not receive any credit or points for items in the Work Habits category.  What some teachers have found is that students & parents are still “focused on grades” and have a hard time embracing a concept that focuses soley on mastery of the standards.  
 
To marry these two concepts together, teachers can still give grades to Work Habit assignments but lower the weight that they have on the final grade.
 
Example of a Hybrid Gradebook
Based on this concept, here’s one example of how you could organize your gradebook:
 
  • Assessment 80%
    • Projects (20%)
    • Quizzes (20%)
    • Tests (40%)
  • Work Habits
    • Homework (10%)
    • Classwork (10%)
 
This is a simple breakdown of the percentage that could be given to each category in a hybrid SBG/Tradational grading system.  Teachers should feel comfortable adding & subtracting categories or modifying these percentages to fit their classroom and situation.

Have you tried a hybrind SBG/Tradtional grading system in your classroom?  Share your experience in the comments below.
   
(NOTE: Credits for Teachers provides self-paced online Professional Development courses for K12 teachers.  Teachers who take our courses receive graduate credit from our university partner that can be used for salary advamancement or license renewal - Learn More Now)

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Teachers: How Batching can 10x your Productivity


May 8, 2017

A typical day…
The last student files out of your classroom and you start to get excited thinking about all of the work you are going to get done during your plan period.
 
As you sit down at your desk, here is just a short list of events that derail your productivity on an average day:
  • Reading & responding to email
  • Checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • A friendly visit from a colleague that turns into a 30-minute discussion
  • Remembering and trying to complete some personal errands/tasks
 
Sound familiar?
 
Human psychology allows us to get easily distracted and pulled in so many different directions.  Teaching feeds into this type of environment where your mind is being pulled in 500 different directions at the same time.  It’s easy to see why it is so difficult to get anything done.
 
This is why batching your work can be the key to boosting your productivity.
 
What is Batching?
Batching is the process of taking similar types of work and grouping them together.  The concept of batching has been well documented to increase productivity and creativity while decreasing stress and fatigue. 
 
In addition to grouping similar tasks, minimizing “interruptions” is one of the most important pieces of keeping this time productive.  UC Irvine performed a study where it was discovered that on average, it takes someone 23 MINUTES to resume his or her work after being interrupted.  That means that all it takes is 2 interruptions and there goes your entire plan period. 
 
How does this Apply to Teaching?
There are a variety of applications of this concept in the education world.  Teachers can use this concept when planning.  For example, take one day out of the week and block off time where you plan every lesson for the upcoming week.  Sure, you can make tweaks to these if needed, but research shows that once you are in this state of “flow” while creating one lesson plan, you will be much faster & more creative with the subsequent lesson plans.
 
Here are some additional applications where this could come in handy:
  • Grading: Identify grading that is similar and batch it.  Batch essays together and save the multiple-choice grading for another time.
  • Email: This is a tough one for many of us.  Checking email constantly can be one of the biggest time wasters.  Identify just a couple times a day to check email and stick to them.
  • Chatting with colleagues: According to a study by CareerBuilder, “Gossip” and “co-worker drop-ins” combine for the #1 productivity killer in the workplace.  So what can you do about this?  Set-aside a time during your day when you can “chat” with co-workers.  If someone wants to drop-in or have a general chat outside this window, let them know you are busy but that you’d love to catch-up later.
  •  Others examples include:
    • Parent phone calls
    • Researching lesson plan ideas/strategies
    • Making Copies
    • Reflecting on Lessons
    • Planning Units
    • Updating your grade book
 
The Multi-Tasking Myth
For years we’ve been taught that multi-tasking is a virtue of a productive person.  We’ve written an entire article about the science behind why multi-tasking doesn’t work – but for our immediate purposes, just trust us that multi-tasking is not your productivity friend.
 
What Benefits to Expect from Batching
When done correctly, batching provides you with 3 wonderful benefits:
 
1. Productivity
By focusing on a single-task at a time, you free up your brain allowing for higher levels of cognition.  This leads to you tasks getting done faster with more creativity and fewer errors. 
 
2. Energy
Distractions and multi-tasking take an unbelievable amount of energy.  Help yourself feel more energetic by consciously focusing on one thing at a time.
 
3. Focus
The length of time you can focus on a task greatly increases when you eliminate outside noise and batch your work.  With constant distractions, the average worker only gets 11 minutes of real “work” completed before getting distracted.  Eliminate these distractions and your ability to focus on a single task will increase dramatically.

Do you have an example of how you've batched to save time?  Please share in the comments below.
 

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(NOTE: Credits for Teachers provides self-paced online Professional Development courses for K12 teachers.  Teachers who take our courses receive graduate credit from our university partner that can be used for salary advamancement or license renewal - Learn More Now)

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