I have been teaching foreign languages to young students for over 25 years now and training teachers for over 10 years. As far as the journey from newbie to experienced language teacher is concerned, burn-out is an all too common problem. So how can language teachers prevent burn-out? What about you? How can you spot the signs early and prevent it, or what can you do if you’re already feeling tired and uninspired?
The Stages of a Language Teacher’s Development
I have identified three stages of a teacher’s development, the third being the most common area where burn-out can creep in.
When you start teaching you are full of excitement, but also full of apprehension and perhaps lacking in self-confidence. You spend lot of time preparing classes, researching and learning. On the plus side, you get sweaty palms and mega excited when you see your students succeed.
After a while you reach a comfortable plateau – you know your games, you can work with any age group, you are confident. You still enjoy your classes, you don’t have to spend as much time on preparation and your repertoire of songs/games/resources is quite substantial by now.
And then stage 3 comes – the mastering stage. The longest and my favourite as there is always more to learn :). How you manage this stage will determine if you burn out or continue to be an inspiring teacher. It might look something like this:
Are you being mindful?
You walk into your classroom with a plan in your head. You are confident, you execute your plan and you check off the items on your list. Vocabulary exercise: check! A song: check! A game: check! You are so busy being an effective teacher that you don’t notice what mood your students are in and you don’t see individual students and identify their needs. Maybe you need to repeat something, explain something again or omit something from your plan because it’s clear that your students already know it well.
You are great but not 100% there yet. Sound familiar? You have grown “SUPER”. Maybe too confident. Too good. You need to stop and review the situation. The fashionable word for it now is “mindfulness”, but what that really means that you give your students your full attention, not just your knowledge.
What to do now? – slow down, look and listen, notice every individual, take time to work at their pace, look for the “key” to every student and I guarantee that you will leave your class more satisfied.
Bored with teaching materials?
You are getting a bit bored with your teaching materials – the same games, so many groups, it seems like a déjà vu. You cannot wait for your last class to be over.
What to do? Get inspired. Watch a tutorial online, find some new flashcards (we have plenty of printable flashcards in our online shop), new songs (we have those too on our YouTube channel, Fidgety TV™), ask another teacher if you can observe his/her lesson, join a teacher group on Facebook, go to a conference, listen to a webinar or try teaching another age group. There are many options, but do not choose “do nothing”.
Fed up with the kids?
You teach well but get tired with the kids: the noise and their behaviour. You’re physically exhausted and feeling like you’re heading for burn-out!
What do to? Try teaching a different age group (youth or adults) or maybe go into training – you might find that your experience will be greatly appreciated by those young teachers with buckets of energy but no tools.
YOU have the tools, share and enjoy the results.
I hope you have found this helpful. Do you have any thoughts on the subject? Maybe you are an experienced teacher yourself and would like to share YOUR thoughts with us? Please do!