Everyone expects students to drag their feet in the mornings, forced to come to class when bodies and minds still want to be sound asleep. They get away with obvious lethargy. It’s expected. But teachers aren’t afforded the same allowance.

A teacher is supposed to set the energy level for their classroom. When that begins to break down, it’s obvious. And frequently, it is a symptom of a teacher on the verge of burnout.

There are other red flags. Sitting through meetings and conferences with nothing to offer or ask. A growing backlog of ungraded work. Rigid, repetitive lesson plans lacking in all creativity. Students left with no way to engage with the teacher or to expand on what they’re learning. Or worse, students afraid to try to engage with a teacher who takes their questions and difficulties too personally.

Kids might leave these classes with decent grades on their transcripts, but if they learn anything meaningful in them, it will be in spite of that teacher, not because of them. A semester in that classroom could damage a student’s trust in school for years to come.

You don’t want to be this teacher.

Remember that teaching is both art and science. Use both to keep your classroom flowing. Study trusted techniques but don’t regard them as iron-clad. A bureaucratic curriculum is not teaching a bank of input-only computers. Each class of children will have a balance point, and so will you. Find where you meet and teach there.

Listen to the advice you give your students, about motivation and organization and problem-solving. Apply it yourself. Establish a routine with space to flex. It should help you maintain a sense of control without controlling you.

Perhaps most importantly, find support. At home and at work. If you can’t find it at least at work, you are in the wrong school, and should seek employment elsewhere with all haste. If that’s not an option and there’s no one to support you but you, build walls. Find a sanctuary in your life or your hobbies and be your very best friend in that space.

Above all, know your limits, and know your strengths. Respect them both equally, and look for that respect from everyone around you.

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