Reasons Why You are So Tired After School

We all know that teachers go home exhausted every day and it is probably is just "the way it is" for all of us. At the end of last year, I was more exhausted than I had ever been and it took me a long time to decompress during the start of the summer. So, I've been thinking about why teachers are so completely spent at the end of each day. I decided to do some reading and personal reflection, and came up with five main reasons behind our fatigue.  Let's find out what they are!

When I was  a new teacher, a coworker told me "teachers make more decisions per minute than air traffic controllers" which definitely stuck with me, but this quote from Dr. Tina Boogren hits home too. Think of all the decisions you make in just a minute. Let's say it's arrival time, which in my second grade class is a particularly hectic time. In a one minute period I may have to decide the answers to these questions: "Where should I put this note from Tim's mother?" "Is Charles struggling with that math problem?" "Should I go to the hall and tell Skye to hurry up?" "Do I have time to get a cough drop?" "The school lunch calendar is not online. Should I call  the office and ask or just wait and see if they announce it?""The lunch sign up pencil isn't sharp - should I sharpen it, replace it, or get student's help?" and then, what do you know, the phone starts ringing or a kiddo asks you a question and the next minute starts! Just thinking about it all is tiring!

Sure, you might feel like  you have no willpower at all, especially when you  are shoving M&M's in your face during recess, but to be a teacher, you must use tons of willpower from the time your students walk in to dismissal time, and continue to do so even when checking email or talking with colleagues after work. A psychologist did research and found that exerting willpower results in a notable drop in blood sugar levels, which leads to feeling of fatigue. Also, it made me feel better when I heard that his research showed that using willpower in one part of your life meant a drop in willpower in other areas of your life. So,  what does that mean for teachers besides the exhaustion and an understanding of why we have trouble saying no to more M&Ms?  Well, it connects to what Dr. Boogren found - if teachers make upwards of 1,500 decisions a day, and many of them involve using willpower to decide to "stay strong" and keep to your classroom rules and guidelines and not give in to a whiny student or complaining parent,  or not check your phone in the middle of teaching, or not roll your eyes or have an cranky tone of voice when responding to an annoyance in class, it's a wonder we're just exhausted and not just flat out passed out cold on the floor!

I mean, I am a little biased here, but I think teachers care immensely about what they do and go to work each day hoping to do their best and help all of their students succeed. I don't have a research-based connection here, but I believe that brings anxiety. Most of the teachers I know are anxious about their job and their day in one way or another. I drive to school some days just trying to stave off the worries that Jake will act out, or that my principal will be critical, or that I will open email and have an angry parent message. I might be at school and worry that I didn't keep my face calm enough when that girl was irritating me. The most anxiety provoking situations for me personally are the big events, like conferences and open house nights. Not knowing what parents will say is scary to me, and as a teacher on a daily basis you never know what your students will say and do. Part of that is what makes it exciting to teach, but also anxiety is exhausting! Plus we have all been there where you are so tired but can't sleep because guess what  - you're lying awake worrying! 

 Since you started teaching, haven't you felt like the amount of tasks you are expected to complete just keeps growing? And it is even worst during the last month of the school school year when administrators and sometimes colleagues and parents add even more tasks you were not expecting to your already over full load. "Oh would you mind filling out this form for our pediatrician?" "We want Talia to go to private school in the fall. Please complete this recommendation", "Here is a new accountability form for special education. It is due next week". ACK! Just think about all you daily tasks that you don't even think about - they are so ingrained - checking your mail box, getting the lunch count form, writing the date on the board and then  the ones that take even more time - lesson planning, material prep, copying, laminating, setting up science experiments and math materials, replying to email, displaying the lessons goals for all your daily lessons, checking in with colleagues about something, collecting and checking homework, and that does not even include actually teaching the lessons and working with the students. NO WONDER we are like rag dolls by the end of the days. I worry that this kind of heavy load is related to why some teachers only last a couple years in the profession. More and more things that used to be administrator's  tasks keep getting passed on to classroom teachers and time to complete them is not added.

If we want to be mentally healthy, we can't be bringing home 50% of our work either. Teachers need time to rest and relax or just attend to family commitments and spend time with friends and family members. We take work home anyway because our work load is overwhelming , which is exhausting by itself, but we need to be careful to take care of ourselves too. I love Lindsay Paull's #okayteacher movement (her blog is Miss Johnston's Journey), which has made a lot of us feel better about not completing every single task perfectly or even completing every little things. Sometimes you have to let things go an be an okay, not a perfect teacher.  There is just too much!


When it comes down to it, we sometimes just  ignore the exhaustion and push through. Why? Teaching is worth it! When that student realizes they are able to solve that math problem, or that parent gets teary eyed seeing her child's reading progress, or you get a thank you note from a high school about what an impact you made... that's what makes it worth it. When you give a child positive reinforcement and boost up their self esteem and they finish the year feeling strong and confident, or when you finally get that little boy the academic support he needs - that is what matters.  Or when you talk with parents all year and in the spring they reach out to their pediatrician, or when that child who seemed resist your efforts all year hugs you on the last day of school and says "I'll miss you. You helped me so much", boy we forgot all that exhaustion and fatigue, don't we?

So what do you think it is about teaching that makes you so exhausted? And what makes it worth it to you? Feel free to comment below! Meanwhile, I will leave you will a couple of funny Pinterest pins for teacher tired!



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