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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

As we relax into summer, and hopefully feel less pressure than we did during the school year, it's a good time to check for signs of Teacher Burnout.

When burnout hits, you tend to feel very lonely. You think that you are the only person dealing with these feelings, and you're also embarrassed that you have "failed" by allowing yourself to get this way. In this post, I want to address these two thoughts.

First, you are not a failure for succumbing to Teacher Burnout. I know I went through the phase where I thought I was such a loser for feeling that way at the end of the school year. "I must not be a very good teacher if I get this way," I told myself. Those thoughts seem so crazy now that I understand what the problem was. One of the reasons I was so burned out was because I tend to put my all into everything I do, and I didn't know how to bring that passion in a way that saved some part of my mental health for June. Burnout can happen to anyone at anytime. There are ways to help prevent it, but nobody is completely immune to it.

Second, you are not alone. Every teacher deals with some form of burnout from time to time. You are not a failure if you go to a colleague and share your stress with him or her. In fact, sharing these feelings with other educators is crucial to your professional development. Teachers in your building can help you deal with some of the issues you are facing at the moment.

If you don't feel comfortable talking to your colleagues because the burnout has something to do with them, then reaching out to your PLN might be the way for you to go. There have been many instances where I have helped friends deal with their different levels of burnout through social media. I was just another set of ears to help them as they vented about their stress and considered the reasons for it. It's never bad to have multiple people to listen to your issues and offer advice, and social media can be a little less embarrassing than face-to-face.

I would never be able to make it through my instances of burnout if it were not for my network of friends and colleagues to help me work through the stress of my teaching life. Everyone talks about the value of being a connected educator to make you a better teacher, but these connections can serve to help you personally as well as professionally.

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Amber's picture
Amber
Soon to be Middle School Math Teacher

First of all, I want everyone to know that I have not yet taught, so I have not felt this burn out in the school environment but I have felt while working for my prior employer. I was a claims adjuster and every day I dealt with other peoples problems and I always gave 110% to every person. I did experience this burnout. While this is completely different, I think that I can relate it to this blog.
When I decided to go to school to become a middle school math teacher, I had to complete 25 observation hours as part of the career switcher program. I completed this all with one teacher and then after I began substituting at this school. After school or during planning I would talk with the other 8th grade teachers. I found many of them felling so over whelmed by the students and several first year teachers were leaving the teaching profession. I think this was due to the behavioral issues that were present in this school, but also that burnout feeling from working so hard all year. Some of the more tenured teachers told me that each year the students are getting more difficult but that there are many things that teachers can do to make their jobs easier.
1) Find a way to connect with the students. They said that when they feel a connection with you they are better behaved.
2) They said to use fellow co-workers as resources. They said to collaborate and share lesson plans and ideas. They said that if something works, then you can tweak it to make it better but that the wheel does not need to be completely reinvented unless it's not successful.
3) Work really hard during lunch and planning time so that you take as little work as possible. One teacher told me she has not taken home work in 15 years because she does not socialize during planning. This gives her plenty of time during the nights and weekends for her family. Making time for yourself she said is essential.
While I do not have tons of experience in the classroom except through observation and substitution these are the tips that I have picked up from fellow teachers.
Finally, one other that I thought was really neat is a way to get student attention. Anytime you say the words, "Red Robin" you want the students to say "Yummmm" And give their full attention. I have not tried this myself but have been told by many that it works great.
Good luck during the coming school year to all of you.

Mark's picture

James I could not have suggested a better solution. My issue was the work environment. The professionals I spoke to who I thought would be supportive were not, and in the school I teach in their are a lot of "self-important, the school would close without me teachers" as well as if you are not staying until 8 pm you are not doing your job.
I would like to add one more suggestion to combating burnout --- journaling. Journaling at home about the issues and positives of my profession have helped me avoid total burnout.
This year was a disappointment in the fact that no one really supported any
one else and unfortunately I am finding in education that those who run to the administration with gossip or complaints are beyond reproach and those they gossip about are guilty until proven more guilty. Black and white thinking no grey shaded areas.

Anna C.'s picture
Anna C.
6th grade teacher, GA (M.S. Ed. student)

In dealing with teacher burnout, we must look to the number one reason we became educators: to help students succeed. If we give up on our students, then who will be there to educate them? Daniel Leija created an empowering collection of statements that help teachers overcome burnout. His article, "I Am a Teacher" can be found here: http://www.texastroopstoteachers.org/docs/leija-teacher.pdf

Edward Butcher's picture

It's a real hoot to listen to teachers bemoaning their 'burnout' in midsummer.
Try working 50 weeks a year, give up the generous vacations, seasonal breaks, and early afternoon end to face time with your principal clients.
Try negotiating your contracts in terms of real tasks completed, rather than minutes of daily face time with students, for 2/3 of a full year. Be personally at risk for the outcome of your work.
Try working in the private sector for a few successful years before you have one iota of credibility.
If you are misfit for teaching, leave the profession, make room for those with fewer years stuck in the bubble that seems to protect the profession from the real world.
Not to deny the top teachers their due, but the entire topic of how teachers are overworked, underpaid, and too stressed by testing regimes - is so tiresome to those not sheltered in their publicly guaranteed tenure.
Get educated, learn how it works - outside of the education industry. That would be brave.

Edward Butcher's picture

"None of us teachers have hear those lame thoughts before!"
...your words. Try proof reading your comments before dismissing the legitimate observations of others with a simplistic boast.
Outside the educators' self indulgent bubble, they are well accepted concerns.

Edward Butcher's picture

I've been missing your reply in the edutopia site, I couldn't have made my point better myself, so include it here:

"I wrote it that way on purpose. You've heard of thing called ... humor?
Anyhow, you're knocking teaching burn-out on a educational site ... read by thousands of hard-working and hugely intelligent teachers and human beings? Did you all of a sudden think that folks on this site were going to agree with you and tell you how smart you are? You are messin with the wrong Indians (misspelling mine ... and on purpose, too!).
Sorry, genius, your thoughts really aren't legitimate. In the words of a great principal I worked for once ... I say to you: "Get over yourself." "
You are firmly in the self reflecting bubble, your attempt at humor pathetic, you attempt to refute factual points with unsupported diatribe; you agree your fellow educators won't listen, and you advise me to read your endlessly wordy, self flattering boasts.
All, while suggesting I get over myself. Really?
No one calls me Ed, Dix....

The Dixie Diarist's picture
The Dixie Diarist
Teacher, Writer, and Artist

FOLKS, WHEN YOU THINK YOU'RE BURNING OUT ... DECIDE TO HAVE SOME FUN.

From the archives ...

Times have definitely changed in the Bible Belt.

--Georgia Curiosities, by William Schemmel

Since the beginning of the year Spike has been pestering me about selling his soul. Not to Satan. To me.

I've been pushing him off. That's an important decision in a kid's life. I've been telling him to sell his soul to his parents. I said I bet they'd appreciate having you in their grips even tighter, but that suggestion didn't deter him.

The next couple of times Spike asked me I had some conversations with him about very strongly considering selling his soul to Satan and getting the inevitable over with. That Satan could probably offer some perquisites that I couldn't, me being earthly and all. This didn't deter Spike either, as attractive as selling your thirteen year old soul to the big mischief maker should be. Anyhow, Spike was even more glued to his belief that if he sold his soul to me that that would make him a better student and human being. I was deeply flattered.

So I finally told Spike I had some conditions for the sale, and if he agreed to the conditions, then he could sell his soul to me.

Of course, Spike was eager to know the conditions.

I told him that anything and everything I asked him to do ... then he had to do it without huffing or puffing or rolling his eyes or whining or moaning.

Spike asked me to give him an example of what I might ask.

I said sure. How about studying the material for my class, asking good questions, and turning your essays in on time? All of your essays ... on time.

So Spike sold his soul to me, and to commemorate the agreement I bought a five-foot long plastic skeleton in the Halloween decoration section at my local Wal-Mart and took it home and spray painted the side of the skull and some of the joints and a little bit on both shins with red paint. You know, to resemble the blood that he'll be shedding for me while his soul was my property and he was being a better student and person.

My youngest son, Ed, a ten year old fifth grader, helped me paint the skeleton and knew the reason why we were painting it. Ed said there ain't a freakin' teacher at his school who would ever think of something like this.

I told Ed to stay hopeful.

I put the skeleton, representing Spike's sold soul to his Georgia History and homeroom teacher, in a decorative wooden box that I have under a table in the corner of The Cozy Room of Learning. On the outside of the box are two, old-timey, mustachioed gentlemen looking at the flight of a golf ball one of them has just launched. Like they say, Every shot in golf pleases someone. Under the two golfing gentlemen it says: Hoylake 1928.

Perfect.

Today, I described to my guys in homeroom the new agreement between Spike and me. They were real excited. Then we decided to call the box ... The Box of Sold Souls. Instantly, Clark asked me could he sell his sold to me instead of Satan and for me to go to Wal-Mart this weekend and get another skeleton.

I gave Clark the same soul-selling conditions I gave Spike.

Clark said he really wouldn't be able to do most of that stuff.

For the rest of homeroom, Spike would jump up and open the lid and check on himself and tell everybody he was doing fine and sit back down. Then he'd jump back up and check on himself about ten seconds later.

As a fairly mature and responsible schoolteacher, it sure does feel wonderful to successfully motivate a student and to deny Satan at the same time.

www.actionjacksonart.com

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Community Manager at Edutopia
Facilitator 2014
Staff

This is a hot topic and one well worth discussing, but I'm going to step in and ask that people refrain from personal attacks. Please comment on the issue, not the people. Thank you.

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