overwhelmed teacher

Overwhelmed Teacher Strategies

Teachers, we have a hard job! And sometimes regular life isn’t so easy! If you’re like me, you definitely have times when you’re overwhelmed and need some strategies to cope. You just can’t do it all because you’re run down, you’re worried about a family member, you have a sick pet or you’re going through menopause and aren’t sleeping well!

Teachers have to be “on” all day, every day. But we are human, and sometimes we don’t have the same energy as we normally have. One of the many great things about working with older kids is that, they get it! There have been times over the years when I was honest with my students about where I was that day. They are overwhelmingly kind and cooperative! Here are some strategies for when you’re completely overwhelmed!

Have a Go-To Self-Directed Activity Ready

There are many ways in which you can engage your students in high quality and valuable learning even when you can’t be “on”. Here is one of my favorites, and it can be adapted to any unit or any class length!

I call it Write/Speak/Listen. Give students a topic and an amount of time they have to write. Giving a few parameters that you can write on the board is fine too.

Ex: Topic: A disastrous vacation Time limit: 15 minutes Parameters: 10 sentences, past time frame, 3 sequencing words

When their time is up, ask them to write 3 basic comprehension questions.

Next, ask students to record their story and their questions. Try Speakpipe or vocaroo.

Then, students will paste the link to their recording in a document.

Finally, assign each student another student’s recording to listen to. Ask them to answer the questions that went with it!

If you need to stretch this activity out over a longer class period or over a few days, increase the amount of time they have to write!

This is my go-to Write/Speak/Listen template.

Games for Overwhelmed Teachers

Sometimes it’s just a game day! Here are 3 online game sites that I find easy to use and have prepared.

  1. Quizlet: If you are like me, you have one of these for every vocab and every grammar point from each unit. If you do, no matter what day it is, you can just call up the website and have the students play all kinds of games. There’s no reason you can’t go back to a unit from earlier in the year, or from a previous year!
  2. Blooket: This is another website that will allow you to import your vocab terms from a spreadsheet or from Quizlet! There are lots of types of games and my students BEG to play them! High engagement for everyone!
  3. Kahoot: I find that creating your own Kahoot game can be time consuming, but there are so many free, shared activities that can be used! If you’re having a tough day, there is sure to be a game for something related to your unit, and if not, pick a cultural topic!

Task Cards

I can’t say enough about the versatility of Task Cards! I have seen task cards that vary from very structured (great for Novice students) to more open-ended (great for Year 2 and up!). When you display an open-ended task card on your board or pass them out to students, your options are endless!

  1. Students can write a story based on the scenario.
  2. Students can record a story based on the scenario.
  3. Students can tell their partner or small group a story based on their scenario. Peers can use feedback forms to give compliments and suggestions to their classmates.
  4. Students can create a cartoon strip based on their scenario.

The list could go on and on! Here is another post about the ways you can use task cards. Below you can find some ready-made task cards! You can make them yourself too, and for me, just like Quizlet, task cards are something I create to go along with every unit!

Ask A Colleague For Help When You’re Overwhelmed

I hope you are fortunate enough to have some excellent colleagues that support you. If you are as lucky as I am, if you are facing a day when you just can’t think or produce the amount of energy you need for the lesson you planned, phone a friend!

Ask a trusted colleague what they are doing in class, and ask if you can have a copy. Teachers, we have ALL been there. There’s no shame in admitting that you’re physically present, but you’re not here. Being vulnerable with a colleague and asking for help will build trust, especially if your ask comes with the promise to return the favor.

And please sign up for my free resource library! Plenty of resources to support busy teachers!

Take A Mental Health Day

Before the pandemic, I may not have included this idea. Our teacher’s association leader has said it to us time and again: if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t be the teacher your students need you to be.

It happened to me for the first time this year, after 22 years. I knew that I was not in the right mental space to be at school. But I didn’t want to call out because I knew that would mean one of my colleagues would likely lose their planning to cover my class. I came to school, couldn’t control my emotions, and realized that I had to leave. I couldn’t be professional.

It’s ok to take a day when you need it. I will NEVER suggest taking every sick day and personal day that your contract allows. But I WILL say that we need to recognize that being unwell does not always mean that you have strep throat. Sometimes we need to gather ourselves and it is OK to listen to our body and our mind to take care of ourselves.


  1. Expect that you will have days where you are not showing up as your BEST self.
  2. Plan ahead: if we know these days will come, have a list (mental or written) of things you can do with your students that will allow you to get through the day.
  3. Give yourself permission to not be well enough to go to school once in a while.


Free Resource Library

Travel and Vacation Task Cards

Accident and Injury Task Cards

Write/Speak/Listen Activity Template

How To Make the Most of Your Planning Time

Work-Life Balance as a Spanish Teacher

overwhelmed teacher