Teaching college can be a burnout profession, especially for adjunct faculty with heavy class loads or tenure-track professors balancing research and publishing. Last month we wrote about student anxiety, so as we close out academic year 2018-19, it seems appropriate to address how college instructors’ demanding jobs can lead to teaching fatigue, and how to avoid it.
Between prep for multiple classes, mandatory administrative duties, the tyranny of endless grading, and the necessity for continuing professional development, it’s hard to stay fresh. Add needy students and the constant pressure of student evaluations, and it’s little wonder the flame that drew us to teaching flickers from time to time.
But who among us wants to be the instructor who looks bored before the semester starts, whose lack of enthusiasm kills even the most energetic student’s drive? To help you recharge before greeting your new students in the fall, we’ve put together some strategies that may help you approach your job differently next academic year.
Manage student expectations. Tell students early in the term that you are not available 24/7, and set policies for responding to student e-mails. You might, for example, tell students that you’ll reply to their questions within 24 hours and encourage them to connect with classmates to ask questions about assignments or missed class. Preserving time away from your students—protecting your downtime—is crucial to avoiding burnout.
Remember why you became a teacher. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day details: meetings, institutional requirements, administrative duties, and the like. Try to tap into what drove you to academia in the first place. Regularly remind yourself about the positive aspects of your job.
Develop efficiencies. Examine your workload and see where you might make changes that will ease your load. Perhaps you can develop rubrics that make grading a little less time consuming or drop one or two assignments. If you’re a researcher, maybe it’s time to slow down and engage with your job in a different way. Sometimes changing just one element of your routine can make an immense difference and help you feel less drained.
Be ready for under-prepared students. A common source of instructor burnout is dealing with students who are unprepared for academic rigor. While you cannot control your rosters, you canshow students that academic rigor is in their best interest because it helps prepare them for their futures as members of the workforce. By doing so, you can feel good about helping to create a generation of resilient learners.
Pursue positivity. Think about one or two positive events each day and reflect about why they were important. Research shows that this simple activity leads to less depression and improved satisfaction.
Weed out the negative. Track what adds to your energy level and what diminishes it. Add more of the activities that bring personal satisfaction and eliminate those that drag you down.
And last but certainly not least—take it easy over the summer!
Have you experienced burnout? How have you overcome it? Tell us your story.
This is very good! Should we name a source? Or sources?