Stepping Stones is a monthly column that breaks down seemingly daunting tasks into simple, manageable “steps” that any art educator can take and apply directly to their classroom. Stepping Stones will explore a variety of topics and share advice for art-on-a-cart teachers and those with art rooms.
RECHARGING YOUR CREATIVITY IN SUMMERTIME
by Heidi O’Hanley
Burnout happens to any teacher in every grade level and there are some years that push us so much to the brink, we feel a loss of control with everyday tasks at work and at home.
With political opinions, common-core push, testing, and teacher evaluations, many educators are feeling more and more helpless as the years goes on.
Many art teachers on a cart or traveling feel the burnout sooner due to physical exhaustion and balancing workloads from multiple schools.
Teacher burnout should not be a taboo subject. The reality is that we all face the low point of burnout at some point in our career, and once the exhaustion takes place, we need to find our ways to cope and keep moving forward. As much as we may feel isolated, we are not alone!
We enter our profession with a need to share our passion for the arts with our students, fellow staff members, and the community. Knowing full on that the arts are not considered a core subject in most schools (when it should be!), we take on the task anyway.
We walk onward with our head up high and our paintbrushes raised, advocating the importance of creativity in a child’s education. Many of us knew it was an uphill battle taking the job, but we were determined to share the importance of the arts in our children’s education.
As some of us feel like we’re falling backwards in our journey, we must first take the time to identify the triggers that cause our burnout so we can keep moving forward.
1. IDENTIFY THE TRIGGERS. Believe it or not, if you take a moment to “sit down” and write a list (yes, take a pen and paper) of what’s troubling you at work, you can identify the causes of your troubles. Don’t worry about complaining too much or sounding whiny, sometimes you just need to get it out.
2. YOU’VE IDENTIFIED YOUR TROUBLES, CAN YOU CREATE SOLUTIONS? For example, if you feel a lack of support from your administration or colleagues, find a way to open that door for communication. I find that over 90 percent of the issues I’ve faced have been due to lack of communication, as well as flexibility! You never know if someone else is fighting a battle we are unaware of. Be kind and try your best to work with your situations.
3. FOR THOSE TROUBLES YOU CANNOT FIX, FIND A CREATIVE OUTLET TO RELEASE THE STRESS. We are artists, so take the time to do something for yourself. Create art, write a story, or do a dance. Sometimes our burnout occurs from lack of our own creativity, so take the time to release your bottled up emotions. And since it’s summertime, now is the best time to recharge!
4. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Do you have a colleague struggling with burnout? You can take the first step to brighten someone’s day. We may feel that we are walking in a dark tunnel, but shining your inner light can help guide others along their path. Take time during the summer to go visit a museum or gallery. Sign up for a studio class. Even going out for coffee can help alleviate that yucky burnout feeling we could be carrying
5. TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. Get away from Pinterest and lesson planning. Close the laptop and go for a walk. Clearing your mind can help in organizing the multiple browsers in your brain. Exercise, go shopping, read a book, or take a nap! Do you have kids home during the summer like I do? Find a sitter and take time for yourself! My favorite time is when my children are in bed and I have my art studio to myself. Sometimes, I lose track of time and suddenly it’s one in the morning and the kids wake up at seven!
6. IF NEED BE, GET HELP. Burnout is not just a physical strain on your body. It takes an emotional and mental toll as well. Some of us fight so hard that we overdo it, and need to step back and recollect ourselves. It is not a bad thing to go and talk with a friend, family member, or even a counselor. Sometimes we need some extra support to keep going, no matter what anyone thinks.
For every art educator who has gone through burnout, depression, and high anxiety over our careers that we love, I wanted to say that I am very proud of you. Taking the time to identify your troubles is the first step in moving forward in a positive direction. It is very easy for others to say to “get over it,” but in order for us to “carry on,” sometimes we need a helping hand. Continue teaching your artistic passion!
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT) teaches art at Brodnicki Elementary School in the Greater Chicago Area. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.