Why Teachers Are So Tired

Are you tired after teaching?

Better question: When was the last time you weren’t tired after teaching?

If you’re like most teachers I know, including me and my wife, being tired at the end of the day is a way of life. We’ve become so used to it that it’s hard to imagine how it could be any different.

Our non-teacher friends have a hard time understanding how we could be so exhausted. After all, we’re not building houses, or working under tight deadlines, or competing with co-workers to sell the most widgets, or working in some ultra-competitive office with an unreasonable boss breathing down our necks. We work with kids! We work seven-hour days! We have a lot of control over our own schedules. We have summer vacation!  Some teachers have these thoughts themselves and wonder what’s wrong with them. How in the world can we be so tired?

There are three reasons.

Decision Fatigue and Willpower

Psychologist Roy Baumeister coined the term “ego depletion” after he found that humans have a limited supply of willpower.  He compares willpower to a muscle, which can strengthen, but also wear out with use. Ego depletion has a general effect, meaning that using self-control in one area of your life erodes your ability to self-regulate in other parts of your life. Baumeister found that exerting self-control results in a significant drop in blood-sugar levels.  Low blood-sugar leads to physical fatigue, which is why you’re so tired, even though the heaviest thing you lifted was a textbook.

As a teacher, think of how often you use willpower.  We censor ourselves all day.  We hold back a sarcastic remark, walk away from a lazy student when we what we really want to do is lecture her, keep our honest thoughts about the principal’s latest idea to ourselves, respond professionally to a disrespectful email from a parent, work with a student when we want to do anything but, plan the next day when we’d rather check Facebook, hold it in when we’d like to drop an F-bomb. Teachers use willpower constantly.

But here’s the real kicker: making decisions uses willpower.  Researchers call this decision fatigue. The more decisions you make over the course of the day, the more willpower you use. There’s strong research that shows criminals are far better off going before a parole board early in the day than near the end of the day. Similarly, there is research that suggests the student’s paper that gets graded first gets a fairer score than the one graded last. After a day of making decisions, we don’t have the energy left to make good ones.

It’s estimated that teachers make about 1,500 decisions every school day. When you combine those decisions with all the necessary self-regulation involved with teaching kids, it’s no wonder our willpower is gone by five o’clock. We are exhausted.

High-intensity emotions

A second reason teachers are tired is because of the effect of high-intensity emotions. High-intensity emotions like anger, frustration, excitement, and elation are physiologically taxing. Positive emotions arouse the same physiological response as negative ones: our heart rate increases, our sweat glands activate, and we startle easily. Since it activates our body’s stress response, high-intensity emotions–whether positive or negative–wear us out.

Teachers are instructed to be enthusiastic in their lessons. Many teachers believe that to be their most effective, they must be energetic. They have to bring it! That might be true, but just know that your excitement, combined with your moments of anger, frustration, and even elation, will tire you out.

Worry

Not surprisingly, worrying is linked to fatigue. When we worry, we imagine and anticipate negative events. Our stress level elevates and our body activates its fight-or-flight response. Our hearts beat faster, we sweat, and our immune systems prepare a response. As a result, we get tired.

Teachers worry for all sorts of reasons:

  • students aren’t learning
  • behavior problems
  • a lesson is bombing
  • there’s a sub tomorrow
  • a parent is angry
  • the principal is coming for an observation
  • the copy machine is down and what am I going to do now?
  • my colleague is mad at me
  • I showed a movie and a character said “hell” and now the kids might go home and tell mom and dad and they’ll call the principal and I never even filled out the stupid form I’m supposed to fill out for the movie and…I’m sure you can think of many more.

So that’s why we’re tired all the time: we make a ton of decisions, we cycle between high-intensity emotions, and we worry too much.

But there are some things you can do about it. Next, I’ll share strategies teachers can use to address each of these causes so you can go home with more energy at the end of the day.

What do you do to feel less tired at the end of the day? Leave your ideas in the comments (so I can steal them for subsequent posts! 😉

So what can you do about it? Try these ideas:

Fewer Decisions = More Energy

How Teachers Can Use Less Willpower

Why Teachers Should Almost Always Be Calm

One more to come.

Like what you see? Want more? Why not join the Teacher Habits Club? It’s like all those other clubs you’re a member of, except instead of 50 cents off a mug of beer or exclusive access, you get new articles emailed to you! Join here. 

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Note: Source material for much of the above comes from Emma Seppala’s excellent book, The Happiness Track.

123 Replies to “Why Teachers Are So Tired”

  1. I’m retired. Your article is the bullseye truth.

    I had my best energy when I attended water exercise 3 days a week. A massage once a week helps, too. You wouldn’t believe the amount of pain in the muscles that are accumulated.

    1. I agree so much about the massage weekly, I have so much tension in my muscles that my body is a mess and have been getting a weekly massage since November to try to repair my body. I am still a mess! Weekly massages, or at least monthly massages, should be included in a teacher’s contract! 🙂

      1. I am currently teaching in Paraguay. As part of our health program, we have been given 30 free massages a year. Each massage is 30 minutes. It’s wonderful! I agree that this is something teachers should be able to get regularly.

      2. I do this, too. Especially after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (a stress-related disorder, BTW). If I don’t get this done weekly, I’m a complete mess!

    2. Ditto on everything you said here, Carolyn. I’m also retired – for 12 years after a 30-year stint as a classroom teacher. Water exercise & massage are STILL essential components for therapy in ‘teaching detox’!

  2. Other reasons teachers are tired: they are overload with long hours of teaching, lots of unnecessary paper work, computer works, on line keying in n checking informations n attending too many meetings…..

    1. I read your article lying down in bed , after teaching in a developmental learning unit all day. It made me laugh….because I was so tired!
      Thanks for the article. It makes a lot of sense.

    2. Overload is a big issue. Constant changes in curriculum, too many initiatives that do not truly help the students, and let’s not forget the micromanagement of what, when, and how we teach even if it is against our better judgement all contribute to that breakdown of energy.

    3. Oh yes….you are spot on….the sad part is, that the computer and paper work, the endless meetings and the churning over of the curriculum doesn’t, in any way, make us better teachers. It just makes us more tired and less able to be brilliant, innovative and stimulating teachers for our students.

  3. Add in professional Development aka professional punishment. A nurse has to have 10 hours every 2 years, and they are working on bodies. We have to have 60+( that usually are not beneficial ). Exercise would be great if I could move at the end of the day. I love my job, but it is the nonteaching activities that wear me out.

  4. My grandmother just passed, and I had to prepare work for 4 days for 205 students in 6 classes. I prepared 16 different assignments with instrustions, and completed this after teaching a full Monday.

    1. Sorry for your loss. The worst about having a sub is what you leave doesn’t get done and they are not respectful of your personal property

      1. I take offense. I am the substitute. I have 25 different children, five different classrooms, five different schedules and five different ways of doing things, every week! AND I don’t know where anything is, often don’t have computer access and sometimes, not adequate plans. The only time I open a teacher’s desk, is to look for supplies. Usually band aids or tape. You think your job is stressful? Try mine.

        1. Right on! I hate invading the desk but it is sometimes necessary. I do try always to be respectful and do as much if not ALL the teacher has written.

        2. I am a sub & have taken a position to finish out the year for a teacher that retired. I am not as tired as I was before because I know where I’m going & what I’m doing everyday. Subbing is like being on call 7 days a week plus having a different schedule & location everyday. The kids are use to me now & can’t play the let’s goof off we have a sub today routine. It’s still tiring, stressful, & more responsibilities but I am enjoying it more.

        3. I did! Subbing is hard! Students do not respect you, teachers don’t leave adaquate plans, it’s boring because there aren’t adequate plans! I do this for 7 years and am now a teacher ! Guess what? Subs aren’t as good as you but treat them like gold and they do a great job! I was treated poorly by many teachers and told myself I would never be like that. I think all teachers should have to sub at one point in their career. Ps: I had one sub who ate all my food.

        4. Leslie, do not take offense. Please realize that when teachers talk about subs, it is the substitute that does not touch the work left. The subs that choose to listen to the students rather than reading the plans that are left. Teachers dread returning to the classroom after a day that you had a sub. Please remember we LOVE those special people that will come into our room and try to make our sick day a little better! And know that I and others appreciate all of your hard work and time you choose to spend in the classroom.

        5. Being a substitute must be incredibly difficult and good subs are hard to find. I treasure anyone who will come in and take over for me when I am out sick. Thank you for what you do!

          1. Haha, a teacher knocking on the sub again. This is so annoying. I subbed too and a lot of the teacher’s were disrespectful and acted like they were better than the teachers. Real nice.

          2. Correction, I had a typo lol. I meant the teachers felt they were more important and basically snubbed the sub!

      2. I’m a sub full time but in Oregon all subs are licensed teachers so let me tell you I’m nothing but respectful of a teacher’s personal property. I do admit to away with a generic pen now and then. I’m so sorry this has been your experience with other subs.

      3. To Dee: I work as a substitute teacher. I am sorry you feel the way you do about substitute teachers. Fortunately, there are some of us who do follow the teacher’s lesson plan and do show respect for teachers’ personal property. Unfortunately, this is how some of us are perceived and what you expressed often gets passed on to other school staff which gives us a bad reputation. As Leslie implied, maybe you should try serving as a substitute teacher one day and you will understand what we have to put up with.

      1. Haha, I would rather have my arm cut off than take leave. Are you a teacher? Because another teacher would never reply in such a way. We know all the planning it takes just to leave one day.

        1. Absolutely true, Nola! We generally have to contact a sub ourselves from the system data bank and plan everything for them. Taking a personal day is a stressor.

          1. Yes, taking a day was insanely horrible. I would work deathly sick to save that day for my sick child. I could never have survived working in such a highly stressful school environment w/o my mother & mother-in-law helping me with my own sick children. It was a horrible situation.

      1. My last sub didn’t give the assignment to two of the 6 classes. I also am missing 3 calculators. My principal replied, We were having trouble just finding a “warm body”

  5. Paying attention to a hobby, conversation with friends not at the workplace, exercise (even a short walk around the neighbourhood), a good book, a new recipe to try, all these are ways to rejuvenate during the work week. On the weekend I try not to bring the job home with me.

    1. I wish I could not bring the job home with me! I spend 8-10+ hours every weekend lesson planning. I’ve become a runner, and that’s the thing that keeps me going. Taking a simple 2 mile run rejuvenates my soul.

  6. I walk in the evening. When I’m too tired to walk (just once this long winter), I don’t. I go to bed. I take 36 continuous hours off during the weekend — no work, just family (wife, daughters, granddaughters). The longer I keep these commitments, the easier they are to keep.

    1. As I’m reading these (on a Saturday) I’m dreading that I need to get working on my report cards because they won’t magically get done on their own. There’s no way I can take weekends off. I wish I could, I envy you, but I can’t.

  7. Your article makes total sense. I have so much less energy than I did when I had an 8-5 job. I just thought it was the extra hours, but the part about control and emotions was right on the mark. I spend extra quiet time in the school garden by myself when I can. I helps me decompress.

  8. We may not build houses, but the other challenges listed is something we do deal with on a regular basis. Other than that, this article makes complete sense. Most people don’t have any idea what we as educators go through on a daily basis.

  9. Come on. Draw such a high salary with the most number of protected time other jobs don’t offer. And still can complain. Then don’t be a teacher, become a cleaner then u will know what’s the real “tired”

    1. As I told a lawyer who said if I wanted to know what is wrong with teachers, just go to McDonald’s on Grand Ave., “you do not know what you are talking about”
      and hung up on him.

    2. There is always that one that has no idea what they are talking about. Interesting job recommendation to be a cleaner, guess who cleans my classroom, me, the teacher!

    3. Strider. You obviously have not been a teacher. I taught high school for 34 years. This article is right on. I spent 9-10 hrs per day in school, then
      2-3 hrs at home grading papers and preparing for the next day and also working many weekends. High salary? Time off / unemployed in the summer. A number of career changers in my school lasted between one week and one semester before quitting. I retired 14 yrs ago and have occasional bad dreams about the hassles from every side. Then
      realize I don’t have to put up with this anymore.! Try being a guest speaker for one day in a teacher’s class. One of my guest speakers asked me where I get the energy from to teach all day.

    4. I came from my country 22 years ago, and I worked in anything I could from restaurants to offices, even distributing Phone books, and yes I was tired some days. I have been teaching for 15 years now I some days I go home like if I was in a bull fight. The stress is real and the pay is not that high. Teachers are the lowest paid professionals in the U.S. In my district our salary was frozen for 8 years. We have the choice of changing careers but at this point we will be rookies in their forties,if we get hire at all.

    5. Having been a cleaner to put myself through school in order to become a teacher, I can assure you that I did not know what tired was until I taught in a classroom. The Tired that I experienced as a cleaner was a physical exhaustion and enabled me to sleep very well at night. The tired I experience as a teacher is far more complex and far and away exceeds the exhaustion I felt as one who cleaned for a living. Do not dismiss the tired you feel as a cleaner, but do NOT presume to understand the exhaustion that teachers feel daily.

    6. You don’t think teachers clean too? Hahahaha. Custodians are great, but teachers also have to clean their rooms! If I want my class rug vacuumed, I do it. If I want student desks wiped down to kill the flu, strep, stomach bug germs, I do it. If my sink is a mess and needs cleaning, I do it. If my room needs dusting, I do it. If desks needs to be changed due to student behaviors, I do it. (And so on) Then, there’s planning, grading, creating resources, locating resources, meetings, professional development, observations, seminars, interventions, data tracking, conferences, parent phone calls and emails, student counseling due to family problems, and don’t forget teaching WITH enthusiasm! No one has time to plan for a sub! Nonteachers have no clue!

      1. Yes! I was told by a parent that it was my job to make his child do his work! His responsibility? Nothing . A student bigger than me- 7th grade with no aid and autism. Because he is bored, it was my fault. Never mind the fact that ALL he does at home is play video games to keep out of mom and dad’s hair. What a daily stressor with this student! The other students even realize the travesty of this situation. They are sooo tired of a class devoted entirely to managing this student. Oh but that’s just 1 of my 120 students I see daily with problems galore….

    7. What high salary!? I teach in Florida and believe me, our salary is not high!!! That is exactly what people think…. I invite you into a classroom for a week at our salary and see how stressed and tired you get!

    8. Do you understand we are only paid for the days we work? We don’t get paid for our summer, winter, and spring breaks! We also aren’t paid to work before 7:45, past 3:00, on weekends, or holidays…but we do! Give me a break.

    9. Oh, wow! Just an average: 9 hours per day (with students) + 2 hours per day cleaning our rooms, getting ready for the next day + 3 hours speaking, texting, emailing parents per week, + weekend hours, a minimum of 1 hour after we get home to continue grading, reading students’ work + lesson planning that can take a few hours depending on your campus and district expectations for that + 20 hour of professional development that is required on off clock time. We also have to complete online testing for security, testing standards, English Lang. Learner training, etc. all on our own time. And we musn’t forget all of the new technology we are required to learn, bring to our classroom, and teach the kids. Then of course there are the student’s home lives that break our heart and we carry that hurt home every night trying to figure out the best way to teach them. Summer vacation for most teaches is a joke. Many, many teachers take second jobs partially to make up for the money we spend on classroom supplies, snacks for hungry students, student supplies, etc. “The Education Market Association says that virtually all teachers wind up paying out of pocket for supplies, and it’s not chump change, either. On average, most spent nearly $500 last year, and one in 10 spent $1,000 or more. All told, a total of $1.6 billion in school supply costs is shifted from parents — or, increasingly, from cash-strapped districts — onto teachers themselves.” So just a very rough estimate of my time and money spent to do my job, I make about $12 an hour. Plus we still have family and life issues just like any other human being. You dear sir are an ignorant man.

    10. Strider – I challenge you to teach (you can pick the grade level and/or subject) for a week. By yourself. Then tell me about “protected time” (certainly not prep time which gets eaten up FAST during the day), or days off (we only get paid for the days we work), or the days we spend cleaning up (yup we do that) when there’s crap all over the floor, sticky desks, messy coat closets. Custodial services have been cut waa-ay back, friend. I kept a vacuum in my room and vacuumed every morning, as well as mopped the tile and scrubbed out the sink. With all due respect, anyone with a college degree has already “cleaned” their way through a 4 yr degree and could do it in their sleep.
      I retired from teaching last June bc of stress.
      I wish I’d taken a daily kick boxing class instead. Yes, I love yoga & massage, but sometimes one needs to kick the sh*t outta something, and scream LOUD bc you’ve been censored and mashing down your feelings all day. It takes a toll. It cost me my vocation.
      So, anyway, I have $100 that says you can’t make it a week in a classroom. Lemme know when you have that lined up, ok?

    11. “such a high salary?”
      Are you serious?

      If I became a cleaner, at least my work would be done when I left work. Teachers not only have a stressful day, but they also have to bring work home. They are accountable for standardized testing (which a cleaner is not) . They have to parent (which a cleaner does not). They have to be accountable to parents (which a cleaner does not).

      I don’t think I need to go on further.

  10. During my lunch break I look at pictures of adorable bunnies and other cuties, then I go home to the real thing. Pets always understand, and who doesn’t feel better petting a bunny?

  11. Thanks! This article made me feel better. Because after I had finished checking papers and planning the next day’s lessons, I would just go to bed. I received my elementary/middle school teaching degree at the age of 51, after my farmer husband died. I would have been financially better off getting a business degree because of my past work experiences. I had been a waitress, worked in a factory, worked at a grocery store, worked in direct and retail sales, managed an advertising company and owned / managed my own retail shop. I loved my retail shop but knew that it was not realistic since my health insurance was through my husband’s job. Besides I wanted to make a difference in young people’s lives. I received my ideal teaching job as a middle school social studies teacher but my rural school closed after a couple of years. I now substitute teach and find it just as exhausting. And unless I have a long term substitute position, I do not even have to bring home paperwork. Because of the public’s judgmental attitude toward teachers, I am considering looking for another job. Public schools need the public to support teachers not denigrate them.

  12. Exercise is best. A colleague and I used to walk everyday during lunch, but since we are now in seperate buildings we sent supportive messages via school mail and we share chocolate.

  13. Exercising and cooking listening (…and dancing !) to your favorite music helps a lot!
    My little Susie became my student when I was the only Algebra teacher in her campus. That school year, she became my defender at all cost. She realized how much I enjoyed teaching, but also she noticed all the paper work and duties I am responsible for at the same time. The moment my husband said: “I don’t understand why you come home so tired!”, he got a good lecture from my daughter.
    Yes!

  14. I teach exercise classes three times a week and take tai chi twice a week. I play piano and sing songs that make me happy, I stretch 4 or more mornings a week. I also sing in the choir and am a deacon at my church. All of that helps me find balance and let the stress go!

  15. I have been a teacher since 1974. Your article is spot on. Paradoxically, teachers look younger than their peers in other professions. I wonder whether it is because we spend so much time around youngsters or because we rarely sit down. Sure, kids can be trying sometimes, but dealing with bureaucracy is what really tires me out.

    1. I hear you. And as tired as we are, there are a lot of benefits, especially to our health. On our feet all day, busy, even our short lunches prevent us from spending an hour at a restaurant a few days a week.

  16. One thing I do sometimes is come home from work and take a nap before dinner. I live by myself so I have time to calm my nerves and relax before I have to eat. Nights are long as I have papers and tests to grade, so this helps me have more patience when grading and to stay awake.
    Thank you so much for the article today. It was so encouraging and helped me to feel better as a teacher. I often feel exactly as you described with your words today and too often feel like I blew it or the day was a bomb.

    1. Any day I feel like I bombed (and it happens quite a lot), I remind myself that I did more for my students today than most adults will do for kids who are not their own in a month.

      1. So TRUE! As teachers, we should rest our minds each evening, knowing that we have impacted at least one young mind in some positive way. I try to remind myself and coworkers that what we do for the students is the real reason we keep teaching. All whimsical new incentives can make us crazy, but keep your mind and heart on the real reason you show up at school each day – the kids – you ‘ve got to love them!

  17. Honestly I feel like teaching in an Elementary School is for the young! The older I get, the harder it is for me to keep up! I literally put in 10 hour days , commute an hour each way and bring work home! Most days I can’t eat lunch! I would love to be able to manage the stress better….if only I wasn’t so tired, lol. Oh wait, that’s where I was supposed to give an idea…..I’m coming up empty-handed!

  18. I got my degree in Early Childhood Education 4 years ago. I have been working as a substitute because I have had anxiety about everything in this article. I worked so hard to get my degree and somehow I have lost my confidence in my ability to take on teaching full time. I am great at subbing and have gained the trust and respect from other teachers who personally request me to sub for them. Now I am telling myself I am too old to be a real teacher, 57! The real teachers need to have a great , supportive substitute that follows their lesson plans, loves their students, and leaves detailed notes about how the day went, and also leaves a clean and organized classroom. Am I selling myself short or being realistic?

    1. I think it depends on how much you need a pension! You might surprise yourself by taking on your own classroom. Once you bond with those children, it changes everything. At least, it did for me.

    2. Mary…I am blessed to have a couple substitute teachers who do love my students and go above & beyond majority of subs would even think of. They may not be certified,; however, these Supportive subs ARE real teachers! Thank you for being a supportive sub!

    3. Oh, God bless you! An excellent sub – one who “gets it,” one who can step in seamlessly to the classroom while the “regular teacher” is home sick, etc., is a gift from heaven!! If you are most comfortable subbing, then stay with that. You will be in high demand, receive high praise and our undying gratitude. p.s. Age doesn’t matter. Professionalism does! xoxoxoxo

  19. It is Friday night. I worked until 6, yet the kids left at 2:45. Same all week. I could work for 8 hours x four days to get ready for Monday, but…that until I can warp time, that is not going to happen. Not counting getting ready for Tuesday. Thank you for this article.

  20. If “something” needs to be fixed (changed and controlled by the administration). It is always teachers because we are controllable. Parents, students, and/or school boards cannot be controlled. Teachers are like caged animals with all outside poking at us.

  21. Your article was spot on and I think there was so much more you could have even added. I’m teaching 31 years and It’s a struggle to balance teaching and family. So often our families and personal relationships are impacted when we are always so tired and it shouldnt! On my way home in the car I reflect, pray and thank Our Lord for giving me the strength. When I get home I play some feel good music that makes me happy. I’m also guilt I’d so times pouring myself a glass of wine, but just one!

  22. This article is very insightful. Over the years different things have helped me. Exercise, hobbies, singing, prayer, Bible study- doing something not related to school that helps others also helps. Thanks for taking time to help an important segment of the population.

  23. This article is very insightful. Over the years different things have helped me. Exercise, hobbies, singing, prayer, Bible study- doing something not related to school that helps others also helps. Thanks for taking time to help an important segment of the population.

  24. As I took off one day for a wedding in another state for my brother in law and returned late at night (airport misplaced a bag so an extra hour later than planned) then had my co teacher call at the airport to let me know she had a doctor appt the next day so I wouldn’t be able to see the student receiving FAPE services until my planning period. I was assigned coverage for another class during planning and then taught my two self contained spec ed history (govt/us history) in two different classrooms. Then had to start reviewing data for the iep team and RTI on failing students. This week was also parent conferences in Thursday from 5-7. I still haven’t finished analyzing the data for the two SLO (student learning objectives) I needed to submit yesterday. Yep my weekend is booked.

  25. I am working with many teachers pursuing National Board Certification. One candidate, completing her last entry this year, and who will surely pass given the scores of her first three components, said to me that she thinks she has two years left of teaching. She is exhausted. The work itself she loves, and she is good at it. But the hours she spends outside of the classroom planning, giving feedback to students on their work that can be used to strengthen learning, and the many additional requirements that have been added to her list, has become overwhelming. She is not alone. In this country, our teaching schedule and load has beecome overwhelming. In this country, teachers spend 80% of the time in the classroom with students. In other countries, this time is much less. The time not in front of students is used to collaborate with peers, analyze student work, plan for engaging lessons and activities, communicate with parents and learners, and so much more. I believe that if the educator schodule was more aligned to the actual job, we would have teachers that are less tired at the end of the day, which would improve the quality of teaching, and encourage more bright young people to pursue teaching as a career choice. Public school education is one of the foundations of this country and we need to advocate for working conditions that allow our great teachers to stay in the classroom throughout their careers, and not burn out through exhaustion.

  26. I am only 29 and for years I worked 10 to 12 hour days and still took planning and correcting home. Not to mention the growing emotional needs of my students who come from low income families. I also. Out burnt out,sk I changed a few things. I know go in a little later and leave earlier. I try to devote 1 or 2 nights to planning/correcting and a few (1-3 hours on the weekend. Otherwise I devote my time to reading, writing, time with my husband, music, or something that makes me feel good. It has helped a lot, but I am still tired, just not as stressed. I understand there are difficult times for every job. However. Teachers seem to be looked down upon as if our job is easy. Compared to other jobs that need similar education we really don’t make much. My mother makes more than me as a factory worker with no college experience. I also do not get paid over the summer. I buy many of the supplies needed for my lessons and while I could take a leave it’s easier not to.

  27. I love what I do. I’m a K1 Special Education teacher. I also know that I need balance in my life. It’s something that my first principal shared with me, and it’s stuck with me ever since. Some days I leave right on time, and my desk is a mess but I know it will be there tomorrow. I go on short trips with my family. My hobbies also help me unwind. There are a lot of outlets that we as teachers use to find our “happy” My students respond to a happy teacher, they don’t care if my lesson plans are perfect or if my desk is clear.

  28. I love to cook. Trying new recipes relaxes me. Of course, I have to cook with my music blasting and a little dancing around my kitchen. After the mental break from school, I can sit down and return to lesson planning and grading with a clearer mind.

  29. Very insightful article and so true! Our teachers work and worry all day.
    Add 25 classrooms, teachers, and parents. Principals are tired too.
    To rejuvenate I spend downtime with family, friends, and golf with my hubs.

  30. You have to take care of yourself. Drink as much water as you can. (Yeah right, and not be able to leave the class for bathroom breaks.) Move your body. I wear a Fitbit that reminds me to get up and move. For me, I work out before school so I can get it done. It helps to have a partner or friend you can trust that will let you vent. Take vitamins to keep help your immunity. Teaching is a hard, exhausting job although it can be highly rewarding. Great article!

  31. Very insightful. I taught high school mathematics for 38 years. I stayed at school until everything was ready for the next day, plans made, papers graded, handouts printed, etc. I also taught an Early Bird Class before school. I am now retired. When I was teaching, I came home every day exhausted. If I sat down (which is what I needed to do), I was gone… asleep. If I needed to get things done, I had to stay up and start working. I would get so upset with myself for not feeling like getting things done at home.

  32. For a few years, I filled in for a janitor position in another building of my school, about 3 hours each day after teaching first grade all day. Whew, talk about tired! The extra income was nice, but I was exhausted.

  33. I taught for 35 years. I retired because “I had other lives to lead.” I had a purpose in my teaching of English, Each generation must work toward its end. I graded millions of papers, listened to the same in discussions and I continue to enjoy students and their insights to today’s world. Teaching others is never easy and the quest to do it best is always a quest to celebrate happiness in our lives.

  34. I feel so much compassion for teachers’ plight and know that most teachers work tirelessly, pay for many of their own materials and ache with worry about the children they can’t reach, the parent who is angry at them for any number of reasons or the unsupportive administrators that too often have either forgotten or never had to manage the stream of consciousness called teaching. We need you- our children need you- but self-care is critical to mitigating the cascade of stress. Check out mindfulness- those of us that advocate the work are making some big differences for teachers’ well being. Take a look at what we are doing in Michigan at http://www.mc4me.org or at this recent publication about how teachers and their students are helped by the work:
    http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/when_teachers_get_mindfulness_training_students_win

  35. Huh now know why I am so tired at the end of a day there are reasons behind it other than I teach kids, young ones at that. To feel less tired I exercise, I can’t say I enjoy it but it does switch my mind to something else other than the 100 things I should have done differently that day at work.

  36. I think on of the new term I hear now is that more and more teachers are unable to retire in this profession. When I was you and fit thru my 40’s I survived, but once I hit my 50’s it was a game changer. The new demands of teaching with age took its toll. I quickly understand why teachers can’t retire anymore. Teachers that move into administrative positions can retire with much higher retirement returns. The majority left to compete with all the new demands of teachers today really need to prepare for a tough road as you age. The stamina needed is just not there no matter what you do. I love my children, look forward to the everyday. They are not the problem compared to everything else. Parents are getting savvy to working the system too. They know public schools and administrators are becoming more aware of satisfying them, and teachers are about the only scapegoat right now.

  37. I’m a PT art teacher at a private school. You’d think my day would be filled with fun projects, and hey, I ONLY work 30 hours per week. At a swanky private school no less (really, no, a broke Catholic one). I actually make $10,000/year (yes, you heard me right) and I work from the moment my own two pre-teens get on their bus until they are in bed each night. If I am not prepping for art projects, I am researching ideas. I teach PreK – 8th, which even thinking about the age switch is exhausting. Being the art teacher I am expected to maintain anything remotely creative in the school (signs, bulletin boards, theater sets, helping prep for other teachers’ projects…) and am asked for time-demanding favors on a daily basis. I spend way too much of my own money on art supplies each year, as my yearly budget is near nil. Along with the various duties I am required to help out with (recess, lunch, bus…), a huge yearly art show is expected, which usually takes up both of my after-Christmas “vacations”. Too, I provide our local library with art showcases four times per year, which are a huge endeavor on their own. To top it all off, I am usually not thought of when teachers do their teacher thing (unless it’s totally unrelated PD I have to participate in). Many teachers consider my class “fun” or “easy”, and I am merely a supply closet to them. I share my art room with a math teacher, so prep and clean-up need to be done each day with little storage room for on-going projects. Our floor is concrete…my back and bones are aching all.the.time. (and I’m only in the start of my 40’s). I go home each evening to make my family dinner, listen to their days at the table, then clear it off to start my art prep for the next day. I feel like I can never get ahead. As much as I love my students, and am fortunate to work with ALL of them each year, I truly don’t know how much longer I can sustain this career. Physically and mentally I am drained and have no inkling of creative anything left for me.

    1. Unfortunately, your story is identical to many. We teach because we love the kids. PERIOD. And we do the best we can. It takes a special person to be a teacher year after year! Thank you!

    2. So now we’re supposed to feel sorry for you because you have to make dinner for your family after work?

      WOW! The stress of being a teacher! No other job on the PLANET is busy all day and then has to make dinner for their family AND listen to them talk about their clearly inferior day.

    3. You give too much and it’s burning you out. It won’t solve all of the problems above, but you have to start telling people no. They might be surprised at first, but you will gain their respect when you set boundaries.

  38. I try to walk 20 minutes in the halls before I leave school. This helps me wind down and make that transition from “school mind” to “mom/wife mind”. If I can’t walk right after school I try to do some exercise as soon as I get home. This has helped me a lot this year. But, to be honest, there are some days where that doesn’t help. I think finding some time to just be alone is important also. That is hard with little ones!

  39. Commuting to work 30 minutes each way was a stress reliever. In the morning, I organized my thoughts, gave myself a pep talk, and sang along to the radio. On the way home, I was able to decompress. I would not recommend this to people in congested traffic areas or longer than 30 minutes because that causes more stress. I also know several teachers who lived close by who walked to work. This allowed exercise plus time alone to decompress. From experience, the “30” in the 30 minute commute is the Goldilocks number, not too long, not too short.

    I also spend lots of time “doing nothing” on the weekends which my family members do not understand. They don’t understand why my favorite thing to do on Friday night now is simply to go to bed (and not be woken up early on Saturday morning) . I think because I don’t have to make any decisions, don’t have to protect anyone from bullying, don’t have to be “on stage” making content edu-taining, and don’t have to critically read and make constructive feedback on essays. Of course, I still have occasional dreams about school situations and some are nightmares.

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