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Solo teacher burn out?

  • 1.  Solo teacher burn out?

    Posted 10-25-2018 01:00 PM
    Hi all,
    I'm currently the only teacher in a room of 6 two year olds. I love my class to pieces, but they're a rowdy bunch (because they're two!) and some days I feel so isolated and burnt out. It's like a one man show, all the time. I do all the meals, all the diapers, all the planning and circle time and books and etc. I've also been having some challenging behaviors arise when they know I'm busy, i.e. when I'm up to my elbows in a dirty diaper or washing paint off of someone. I've asked supervisors for help and advice, and most of the tips I've gotten don't work particularly well with one teacher. Things like minimizing group sizes, shadowing the child exhibiting behaviors, etc. I feel terrible because when I feel burnt out, I know I'm not showing the kids my best. Does anyone else feel this way, or has anyone ever been in the same boat and have any advice? Thank you!

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    Olivia Schaffer
    Teacher
    Bright Horizons
    Atglen PA
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  • 2.  RE: Solo teacher burn out?

    Posted 10-26-2018 08:05 AM

    Olivia:
    Of course you're burned out--this is not a good situation for you or the children in your care.  First I would check your state regs for teacher-child ratio for toddlers.  In Mass. it isn't legal for one teacher to be alone with 6 Toddlers.  If it is in your state, it's still not best practice. It sounds like you're doing all the right things. You may want to simplify your activities as much as possible.  I often think that when a classroom has a lot of stress it helps to get back to simple basics. You aren't at all to blame here.  Every teacher needs support and it doesn't sound like you're getting it.  I wonder if there are any centers in your area that you could visit that are caring for Toddlers in a way that is more supportive of teachers and children.  It may be time to look for something else, if that's possible.



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    Aren Stone
    Child Development Specialist
    The Early Years Project
    Cambridge, MA
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  • 3.  RE: Solo teacher burn out?

    Posted 10-26-2018 09:03 AM
    Good for you to reach out for support.  I agree with comments about group size and ratio!  No one thrives in a 1:6 with two year olds very easily!!

    I've been in similar situation and what finally helped my feelings of burnout shift was the ability to see each of the challenges as but a "moment" that would pass.

    My friend with a Buddhist meditation practice coached me on acknowledging the moment was DIFFICULT - even saying this out loud to the children, "Hang on friends, I'm really busy and feel overwhelmed!  I'll help you as soon as I can!"  More importantly, accepting that in the moment I would feel all sorts of upset and failure, that that those feeling too would pass!

    While this is more of an internal measure, I also doubled up on games that support children in learning to regulate themselves.  Movement games that include "stop and go" or " sleep and wake " or "fast and slow" etc.   I helped the children learn signs and gestures that mean "wait" or "be right back" or "slow" and could use those from across the room in support.

    Finally, at meal times or as I eased them into nap, I would retell the story of our morning- warts and all (ruptures and the strength in our repair attempts!). "Remember when you cried and I couldn't hold you?  You waited for me to help your friend with her diaper then I held you.  Thank you for learning to be patient.  I hope you feell better now!"

    Describing the challenges and how we met them or were learning to meet them, was a way to repair any ruptures in our trusting relationships and to calm the higher cortisol levels in my own body!

    Hoping your program finds a way to support you and the children (and their families) more fully and that your days are filled with more MOMENTS of fun and joy and ease than not!!!

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    Dylynn Robertson
    Early Head Start Education Specialist
    Portland OR
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  • 4.  RE: Solo teacher burn out?

    Posted 10-26-2018 10:40 AM
    I suggest talking with your administrators about bringing in an additional staff person to help out during your routines, i.e. changing diapers, helping with family style lunch, giving you a break, giving you time to away from the classroom to plan. The person can be a full time floating assistant or the facility can hire and train some part time staff to fill the role during peak times of the day. We find having additional part time staff hired and trained really helps with a lot of situations like staff being out because of illness or vacation.

    Teachers of two year old children really need support with an extra hand to help out. It is very difficult to work alone 8 hours a day with a group of 2 year old children.

    Another solutions would be to increase your group size to 12 and have two teachers in the same classroom so you can support one another. We find a group size of 12 two year old children challenging because of the noise level and activity level of the children. So we have a group of 10 with 2 teachers in the 2 year old class. We also have part-time floating staff to give breaks and help out if they need to shadow a child struggling with biting.

    Chris Webster
    May Children's Center
    Lake Jackson, TX

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    Christine Webster
    Director
    Brazosport College
    Lake Jackson TX
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  • 5.  RE: Solo teacher burn out?

    Posted 10-26-2018 12:54 PM
    Thank you all for the awesome alive and support - it means a lot to know I'm not just overreacting. We are a fairly new center (almost 3 months old) so enrollment and hiring has been a somewhat slow process. I was previously at a center with 3 teachers in a room of 9 one year olds, so I'm accustomed to having that back up and support when I need it. I am currently working 4 ten hour days which also contributes to that mental and physical exhaustion factor. I love the idea of recapping the day with the kids, and I'm planning to implement that one! I really do need to shift my thinking as well. Hopefully the weekend will serve as a nice factory reset for my brain and Monday I can start the week right!​

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    Olivia Schaffer
    Teacher
    Bright Horizons
    Atglen PA
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  • 6.  RE: Solo teacher burn out?

    Posted 10-28-2018 03:35 PM
    I have been in your shoes. I did a lot of narration throughout the day. I would talk about what I am doing and what was going to happen next. During diaper times I would bring out a special set of toys-Loose parts type of things, and set them up near me so I could keep track of what was going on. I did A LOT of singing, too, especially of their names. I was lucky that the director or office people would come help me when I needed it the most. I still had many days where I went home exhausted and frustrated. Have faith that you can handle it, and know that you are not alone.

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    Catherine Roach
    Milwaukee WI
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  • 7.  RE: Solo teacher burn out?

    Posted 10-29-2018 10:27 AM
    Rest assured, you are not alone!  Many, many teachers (of ALL ages and grades) are the only adults in the room, and it can wear a person down. (Is this why lots of teachers don't stay in the business?) You are wise to reach out now.  Others have given you good advice, and I just want to add that getting another adult to help you, even if for a short time, will give you the break you need.  That will help change your perspective of the situation.  Keep up your courage!

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    Jean Valdenegro
    Katy Adventist Christian School
    Katy TX
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  • 8.  RE: Solo teacher burn out?

    Posted 11-06-2018 09:18 PM

    I happened to notice your page said Bright Horizons. I was curious if that was a corporate entity that runs early childhood? I ask because I've noticed a trend that many early childhood centers are ran through a corporate company, and sadly it seems like there's not enough support for the teachers because the goal is to maximize profit. 

    In any case, don't beat yourself up. You're doing the best you can, and are actively seeking support. You do what you can, and take care of yourself! 



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    Rhiannon Jester
    Teacher

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  • 9.  RE: Solo teacher burn out?

    Posted 29 days ago
    Yes, I've noticed that a lot of corporate chain type centers have similar tendencies. They staff exactly to enrollment with no extra teachers or staff to cushion the strain on teachers or sometimes even to provide planning time. One of the hardest things is we are continually losing teachers we hire due to the lack of support from administration and lack of support staff. I'm hoping the sun is just on the other side of these clouds!

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    Olivia Schaffer
    Teacher
    Bright Horizons
    Atglen PA
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  • 10.  RE: Solo teacher burn out?

    Posted 27 days ago

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who's noticed that. I was wondering if my perception was skewed. A bunch of stuff happened at my last corporate chain job that ultimately led to me putting in my notice a few weeks ago. I'm trying to find a better position in ECE that's not ran by a corporate entity, but it's tough, especially when they keep asking about my last job && there's a lot of negativity towards it. My last center had no support from administration, no support staff, and the staff we did have were low quality due to the state having lax standards to become an ECE teacher in the private sector. I am sending you all my good thoughts and vibes that things get better for you. You can do this! Take care of yourself and know at the end of the day you did what you could for your littles! 



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    Rhiannon Jester
    Teacher
    Murfreesboro TN
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  • 11.  RE: Solo teacher burn out?

    Posted 25 days ago
    Olivia,
    Good for you for reaching out!  Your message brought back memories when I was working in Florida many years ago - alone with 10 three year olds (yes, it was legal!).  I had the energy to run a one women show but, I often cried on the way home from work! These experiences are difficult but they can teach us what we value and help us articulate why we do this work and they can propel us to look for organizations that are aligned with our values.  Keep a journal. Use the contrast you experience now to describe your dream job. In your next interview, don't complain about the negative experiences you have had, but envision the kind of teacher you can be with the support you deserve.  You do this work well because you have a caring and compassionate heart. Be sure to include yourself in that care so that you can sustain this important vocation of early education. The profession needs you.

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    Carol Murray
    Bard Nursery School
    Annandale on Hudson NY
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  • 12.  RE: Solo teacher burn out?

    Posted 24 days ago
    Our center has the same staffing ratio in our toddler room, but we have the day split between two teachers (one lead who works early morning to mid afternoon, and an assistant who does breaks and then is alone with the toddlers the last two hours of the day). I can't imagine a ten hour day SOLO with toddlers, though- that is very intense!!

    Aside from getting support (which you definitely should have!!), here are some tips and strategies we've used during solo toddler time.

    - I used to open the sensory table during diapering. It made a mess, but the kids who weren't on the potty/diaper table were occupied while I was changing people. Then we can all clean up together after important potty times are finished.

    - Getting the toddlers to "help" as much as possible! We have kids moving chairs and tables all over during transitions, because it "helps get the room ready" for snack or nap or whatever, but actually it helps with the big body movement and getting some of the energy focused and working! Our kids are VERY into wiping off the table.

    - When I used to feel overwhelmed in the toddler room, I played the nap game. I asked the toddlers to put me down for a nap, and then I got to lay down, get covered in stuffed animals and blankets, they'd read me books, and usually many of them would join me in quiet resting on the floor because it was so silly.

    These tips will be no substitute for back up in the classroom, though!! I hope there are options to get you some assistance during your long days!

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    Lily Crooks
    Seward Child Care Center
    Minneapolis MN
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  • 13.  RE: Solo teacher burn out?

    Posted 18 days ago
    During the summer I work at a different center than my normal place and I am in the 4 year old room with 12 children by myself (the ratio for this age is 1:12) At first it was really hard for me to divide my attention between all of them, I had a few with behavior issues.  But what really helped me was focusing on making the classroom a little community where everyone had a voice and an important role to play.  When I started giving them jobs and having them help me and each other the classroom environment changed.  We kind of worked like a well oiled machine and I ended up loving being in there by myself with the children.  This might be a little harder with 2 year olds but they are still able to take some direction so maybe try giving them more responsibilities.  Good luck and I hope you get some help soon!

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    Ashley Byers
    MCC
    Flint MI
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