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a small brook in a park

September 6, 2023

Teachers: Keep Your Bucket Filled Throughout the Year


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As a new teacher I was warned about teacher burnout, and after these last few years I can understand why. I am about to start my fourth year of teaching, and I am exhausted. I could blame it on the pandemic, getting ready to learn a new curriculum and a new grade level for the third year in a row, or maybe it’s just switching careers. I am also a wife and mother of a high school student, but my exhaustion is more than this. Every day of the school year, I pour my heart out, and every day I come home more depleted. It wasn’t until I attended AFT’s Summer Educator Academy this past July that I figured out what was really causing my bucket to feel so empty. One of the trainers shared that when he started teaching he noticed he had been neglecting other areas of his life—the areas that filled him up and made him who he was. I poured everything into being the best teacher I could be, but I was losing the other aspects of what make me who I am—the aspects that fill my bucket back up. It wasn’t all at once, but a little at a time. This summer, I have spent time recollecting the breadcrumbs I had dropped along the way to becoming a teacher, and made time to rediscover what fills my bucket. As I get ready for another school year, I would like to share a few of the things I plan to do to make sure my bucket continues to stay full.


Before becoming a teacher, I was an artist; and for whatever reason I dropped my creative side. My studio (pictured below) has been completely unusable, stacked with things for my classroom. I spent a week cleaning it up and making it usable again. I immediately started painting, and I realized how much I missed doing what I loved. Not sure what your love is? Try something new. Take a class, watch a video, play a game, or read a book. The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection by Colby Sharp is a favorite of mine for getting the juices flowing when I am stuck. I just finished reading Phaedra by Laura Shepperson, and I am finishing all the books on our summer reading list for our fifth-grade students. I also loved reading The Secret Battle of Evan Pao by Wendy Wan Long Shang and A Different Kind of Normal by Abigail Balfe so far!

tamara's studio
artwokr by tamara peterson

Artwork by Tamara Peterson

Go Outside

There is something to be said about being outdoors. Whether you love the mountains, the beach or just sitting in your backyard, get outside and soak up some vitamin C. Use your lunch period to take a walk with a colleague. Stepping away from frustrations can help give you some perspective, plus exercise is a great way to get out of a funk. 

A photo of Tamara's backyard.

A photo of Tamara's backyard.


Take a few minutes to write about your day. Reflect on what worked and what didn’t and why. I also like to add a picture of a highlight. I either draw this or print one from my phone. You don’t like to write? Use the notes app on your phone, and just speak about your day. The most important thing is to make sure you take the time to actually go back and read or listen to what you thought was important.

Stay Connected

Don’t just check your social media and make a comment, but actually make plans with your loved ones. Grab a coffee or a meal, visit a museum or take a walk; whatever you do, do it with those who fill you up. Make sure your biggest cheerleaders don’t fall by the wayside because you are too busy or too tired.

Be Intentional

The most important thing to remember is to be intentional with your time. It’s one thing to say you are going to do things differently. But we all know that once the school year starts, our best intentions will fall by the wayside. So sit down before school starts and mark up your calendar with your fill-ups. Fill up your bucket and continue to keep it filled throughout the school year.

Do you have other ideas for keeping your bucket filled? Share them in the comments below.

The most important thing to remember is to be intentional with your time.
Tamara Peterson

Tamara Peterson followed her heart and made a courageous decision to transition from the world of graphic design to the nurturing environment of education.

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