Inside: Teacher burnout comes for us all, but knowing this one simple thing can change everything.
Have you ever seen this chart about the first year of teaching? Maybe in a professional development workshop or at a conference…
Studies have shown that 35% of teachers leave the profession during the first year. By the end of the fifth year, 50% of teachers have left the field.
There is no doubt that teaching is one of the most challenging professions in the world, and being an art teacher comes with its own unique challenges—hundreds of students instead of a few classes worth, less curricular and financial support, being one of the only creative outlets for students, and more.
When we’re in survival mode less than two months into a new career, is it any wonder so few teachers make it past five years?
We deserve better. We deserve to thrive. That’s why I’m sharing the thing that will save you from teacher burnout.
Digging Deep to Avoid Teacher Burnout
When was the last time you really thought about why you chose to become an art teacher?
In my time as an art educator, I’ve come to realize just how important it is to stay in touch with your teaching why.
At first, defining your teaching why may seem like a simple thing, but it’s a big deal. When we get real about why we do what we do and why it matters, our whole perspective shifts. When we prioritize what matters to us, we become better teachers for our students and our lives are more balanced too.
Knowing your teaching why gives meaning and purpose to each day, and it makes the million and one decisions that come your way a lot easier to make. That’s how you stop teacher burnout in its tracks. Think about it.
What are the things that stress you out?
Is it not having enough classroom supplies? ✂️
Or the kid who makes a crappy joke when there’s nudity in an artwork? 😖
Is it being asked to paint 15 posters every time there’s a school event? 🎨
Maybe it’s the admin who thinks your class isn’t important? 😩
Or that committee you’re on that you never wanted to join? ✋
Your Teaching Why
Knowing your teaching why can improve a lot of the stress from school. Because when you know your intentions and priorities and respect them, the actions you need to take to make your teaching life better will be clear and actionable. So…
Why do you teach art?
An answer may occur to you immediately, but I encourage you to really go deep and think about why you do what you do and the impact you want to have on your community.
Whether you need to advocate for more resources for your classroom, find a new way to address the class clown, say no (and mean it) when you’re asked to make all the posters, let go of others’ misguided beliefs, or drop the commitments that don’t fit your why, you’ll find the freedom and teaching joy you deserve when you align your identity as an educator with your day-to-day actions.
You cannot do all the things, but you can do all the things that matter.
Your teaching why is powerful because it gives you clarity about what matters to you. But it’s useless if you ignore it or don’t set boundaries based on it. Be true to yourself and your values. That’s how you avoid teacher burnout. That’s how you serve your students.
Once you have your teaching why, write it down. Make it the background on your computer or phone or put it up somewhere in your classroom. Put your why where it can energize you.
Anything in conflict with my why is removed from my teaching life. No pointless committees. No staying quiet when it’s time to speak up. No busy work without purpose. This may seem harsh or even impossible, but this is the line in the sand that enables me to be the best art educator I can be. My students and my community deserve my best, and so do I.
Find your teaching why and do the things that matter.