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Abby Connors - Early Childhood Arts Educator & Author
Use Your Creativity to Find the Beauty of Burnout : Page 2 of 2

Use Your Creativity to Find the Beauty of Burnout

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4. Meet your new favorite kid. You've probably guessed who I'm talking about — that child who drives you crazy with behaviors such as yelling, fighting, whining, tattling, and so on. Decide that this is now your favorite child. Notice her positive behaviors (when she responds to directions, spontaneously shares with others, waits for their turn without complaining) and compliment her. Then tell another teacher about the positive behaviors you saw (and not in a "I couldn't believe it" kind of way). Decide that you will never speak about your new favorite child negatively. This trick really works wonders to brighten your attitude.

5. Write your "Teacher of the Year" nomination. Imagine someone (an imaginary director or colleague) is nominating you for Teacher of the Year. What wonderful attributes would they ascribe to you? What special moments would they cite to describe your dedication, caring, and talent? Be detailed and specific. Remember, this is someone else nominating you, so now is not the time to be modest!

This exercise will help you to remember what a special, excellent teacher you really are, and what's important to you as a teacher. The next time you walk into the classroom, I guarantee you'll feel more confidence and enthusiasm.

6. Be your own best friend. If you're feeling overstressed and unmotivated and no shoulders are available to cry and/or lean on, imagine how a best friend would counsel you. I bet they'd tell you not to take children's or co-workers' comments personally; that you may have just had a few bad days in a row; and that you shouldn't be so hard on yourself for making mistakes. They'd probably also ask you if you've been eating healthily and getting enough sleep. So tell those things to yourself.

7. Be an observer. Study yourself and your students as if you were a scientist. When do children get rowdiest? When are they quietest, most engaged, most cooperative with others? When you stand back and look at these things, it may suddenly seem obvious that some changes in environment, timing, facial cues and other nonverbal communication, when you introduce novel and/or challenging experiences and when you do easier, more confidence-building activities may make a huge difference in children's behavior and the general atmosphere in the classroom.

8. Lose your lesson plans. Uh-oh! Everything you've ever done in the classroom has disappeared. Pretend you have to plan a week's (or month's) worth of completely new activities — games, songs, crafts, writing, dance, stories, everything. For your new lessons, look at books and websites you've never checked out before. This challenge can bring new life and energy to your teaching — and a lot of fun, too!

9. Keep a journal — even a mini or micro-mini journal — of Good Stuff. A day in the life of a teacher can zoom by, and the good moments can easily be forgotten. When a child finally "gets" a concept, writes his name for the first time, tells you she loves you, or spontaneously helps a classmate — when a colleague, director, or parent compliments you — write it down. Make a special effort to remember these great moments and jot them down in a notebook when you get home. Then look at that notebook frequently! It can remind you what a wonderful teacher you really are.

10. Don't forget to be grateful. You truly have one of the best jobs ever, the opportunity to change the world, one child at time. Every moment of your day can brighten a child's life. The children may not remember your name forever, but they'll remember the world of stories, songs, art, and laughter, the safe and supportive atmosphere you created for them. Your work is important and meaningful.

It's too easy to sink into burnout like quicksand and let it become your everyday state. It's also too easy to deny its importance and take a "band-aid" cure, a day off or a bit of relaxation, and declare the problem solved. Let burnout be a welcome mat. Step into a new world of possibilities, for your teaching, your students, and for yourself — to rediscover the joy and fulfillment in teaching young children. •

© 2012 Abby Connors. All rights reserved.

Abby ConnorsAbby Connors is an early childhood music educator, author, and presenter. Her books include “101 Rhythm Instrument Activities for Young Children”, “Teaching Creativity”, and “The Musical Toddler.” More »