Reignite Your Passion for Teaching

Practical advice for stressed teachers

Droopy plant with leaves falling off - representing a teacher who has lost their spark.

Taking time for reflection

Teaching can be challenging! Long hours, excessive workload, bureaucracy, feeling undervalued, burnout.

There are lots of reasons which might contribute to feelings of despondency with your current situation. If you’re feeling this way, you’re not alone. It’s no surprise that a significant number of teachers have considered leaving the profession altogether. Teacher stress is a common issue. 

Leaving a career altogether though, is an important and deeply personal decision. It may be the right one for your situation, but before you come to that conclusion, consider some of the reasons you got into teaching. After all, there must have been a time when teaching conjured up feelings of joy and optimism for you. Let’s explore some of them and look at some practical steps you could implement to see if you can rekindle your love for the job!

Practical steps

Go back and rediscover the ‘why’.

Amid those chaotic, stressful, rough patches, which can be all too familiar for some teachers, it can be easy to lose sight of why you chose the career.

If you’re like many teachers, you want to make a real difference in children’s lives. The bureaucracy involved in teaching, along with countless other pressures, can sometimes make it easy to lose sight of this.

Take the time to acknowledge how far you’ve come on your personal journey from when you started your training to where you are now and your many milestones and achievements.

While your specific reasons for entering the teaching profession may be deeply personal, try not to lose sight of them. Chances are, you’ve come a lot further than you think!

Make self-care a priority.

Putting your own needs first is not selfish. There’s a good reason you’re told to put your oxygen mask on first in an emergency on a plane. If you’re incapacitated somehow, you won’t be able to assist those around you effectively.

Making self-care a priority helps protect your physical and mental well-being, avoid the risks of burnout, and, therefore, allow you to give your best to your students.

Exactly how you practice self-care will be personal to you, but may include some of the following activities:

  • Practicing mindfulness or meditation.
  • Physical exercise.
  • Time outdoors / in nature.
  • Taking part in hobbies.
  • Journaling / self-reflection.
  • Reading.
  • Spending time away from screens / technology.

It’s important to pick activities that resonate with you personally and bring you joy or relaxation. Everyone’s self-care journey will look different.

Get creative.

Taking time to revisit old lessons and look at ways of injecting some fun and creativity can alter the classroom dynamic. Perhaps this might include looking at games or activities that could be incorporated into lessons to support learning. They don’t necessarily need to form the backbone of the lesson plan but could instead be used as rewards or homework. 

The physical environment can also enhance the learning dynamic by fostering fun, creativity and visual stimulation. This might entail rearranging furniture or objects to create a more conducive layout for discussions and interaction. It might also involve displaying class work on walls, which can be used as talking points or idea generation. Relevant posters, infographics, and images can also make excellent stimuli for learning. On a more primitive level, though, a colourful, happy physical environment can generally help people feel more positive, which can make a tremendous difference in motivation.

Embrace AI.

AI is a contentious subject at the moment, and there’s little doubt it will dramatically change how we live and work in the long term. Rather than be afraid of it, you could think of it as your personal assistant who’s there to support you with certain tasks.

Make a list of some of the tasks you need to do, and then consider, “Are there any tasks on this list that I would delegate to an assistant if I had one?”.  The following are just a few examples of ways to use an AI such as Chat GPT to remove some of the pressure and enhance your teaching methods.

  • Idea generation and brainstorming.
  • Building outline structures for Powerpoint presentations.
  • Simplifying complex concepts and ideas.
  • Coming up with tailored strategies to deal with certain students.
  • Getting feedback on writing.
  • Being a discussion facilitator.
  • Generating creative writing prompts.
  • Coming up with mock exam questions.

Check out this big list if you want some inspiration for uses of AI in the classroom.

Focus on the wins.

It’s often too easy to let the challenges of your job cast dark shadows over the reasons you initially fell in love with teaching. Negativity bias means that, as humans, we may be hardwired to focus on and over-emphasise negative situations. Whilst this might have several evolutionary advantages, it can lead to feelings of hopelessness. 

By focusing on our wins, both big and small, we can counteract this negativity and give ourselves a much-needed morale boost.

Over time, focusing on our wins breeds a sense of confidence in our abilities and a feeling that we are growing and making progress in our endeavours. Marking progress is crucial for maintaining motivation in longer-term tasks and goals, where it can sometimes be hard to see where we are making ground.

Getting a sense of moving forward and making tangible progress towards goals can give a real sense of achievement and allow us to celebrate successes. This moral boost helps us as individuals and as part of a team.

Being a mentor to others can give you a sense of empathy that turns the spotlight away from your own problems and towards the benefits of helping others. Through mentoring, you can develop several core skill sets, including leadership, communication, and problem-solving, which can then be transferred and applied to other areas of your life. In addition to these obvious benefits, mentoring can also help develop professional relationships and strengthen networks, which, down the line, might lead to new, fulfilling work opportunities in the future.

Benefits of the job.

It can be a beneficial exercise to occasionally remind yourself of some of the benefits that go hand in hand with your job. Again, these will differ for everyone but might include some of the following: 

  • Job security and/or stability
  • Opportunities for personal growth and learning
  • A sense of community
  • Making a real difference
  • The chance to express your creativity
  • Influencing others/being a role model
  • The academic diary – aligning with family life and holidays

Remembering these benefits helps you develop a sense of gratitude. This shift in focus can help to interrupt negative thought patterns, reduce worry and improve overall mental health.

Summary

Support

Finally, if you’re struggling with your mental health, please don’t suffer in silence. Talk to friends, family or colleagues and let them know how you feel. If you feel you might be depressed, remember that it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a health issue that many people face, and there are people and organisations you can reach out to for help and support. 

For those in the UK, the charity Mind has a list of helpful services for those in crisis.

If you think this article might help other stressed teachers, please consider sharing it using the links below. Thank you!