Teacher Burnout: You're Not Alone | Edutopia
Edutopia on Facebook
Edutopia on Twitter
Edutopia on Google+
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

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.

Teacher Burnout Blog Series
Keep the flame alive!

Comments (18)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Todd Sentell's picture
Todd Sentell
Author of the hilarious schoolhouse memoir, "Can't Wait to Get There. Can't Wait to Leave"


I wish I could have talked to Lamar's parents before they got all squirmy and made him, but having a parent-teacher conference this morning works okay, too.

Come to find out, Lamar's mother doesn't have asps for hair, fangs for teeth, claws for hands, hooves for feet, or yellow eyes. She pretty much gave us the lowdown, in the calmest and most articulate tones, on Lamar from birth to today. She wasn't Jerry Springer material at all. She was about as far away from being on the Jerry Springer Show as Margaret Thatcher. Anyhow, after her remarks, I took in a deep breath and thanked whatever god Lamar worships for getting him this far. I don't know why Lamar's dad wasn't there. Maybe he was home hiding in a closet.

Once Mr. Squirm the science teacher butted in there was no subtle, or even obvious, gesture we made that would make him shut up, so we ended the meeting with Mr. Squirm still talking as we all stood up and walked out of Mr. Warbird's classroom. I was one of three other teachers ready to talk to Lamar's mother and start a plan to help Lamar get better and be happier. We never had a chance. Plus, Mr. Squirm's got a weird voice and he wears dumb shoes.

While Mr. Squirm was walking away ... through the commons room in his dumb shoes ... telling Lamar's mother how long he's been teaching and how he's working so diligently to apply all of his incredible knowledge of behavior and emotion management into the head of Lamar, Mr. Warbird said Mr. Squirm sure does know how to high jack a parent-teacher conference so nothing really gets done, doesn't he?

Miss Velvet said he sure does.

Mrs. Yinyang said he sure does.

I said he sure as heck does.

Then we went to our classrooms and started our day, without having gotten anything done in the important last hour of our lives. I thought if there's a time, however rare, that a teacher can disrupt the flow of goodness rather than the Satan-possessed kid we're there to help, it was the important last hour of our lives. Good manners ain't science ... rocket or otherwise.


Mark's picture

Dear Nicholas, as much as I appreciate your article I have been going through teacher burnout. What it got me was placed on administrative leave with pay as I was labeled the "Next Newtown Shooter". I had detectives investigate me, had to pass a forensic psychiatric examination to even have a chance to go back to teaching.

This is all due to my talking to colleagues about my burn-out and some past experiences that were causing me grief.

Thanks but no thanks. For those who want to talk to colleagues be careful of what you say. Mark

M. M.'s picture

Very important and brave post to make, Nicholas. What are some ways that teachers can combat this burn-out?

Vanessa Frazier's picture

Thank you for your post! As I read your post on teacher burnout I was reminded of this scripture from the Bible: "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair (2 Corinthians 4:8, NIV)." Yes, we can experience a number of emotions in education and it can be overwhelming!

I've seen a number of burnout examples along the way and they range on a scale of 1 to 10+++, from simple to hard pressed. Once a teacher was so stressed that blood vessels were bursting in his eyes due to an awful backlash by students and parents that were unhappy because of the language barrier that was making it difficult for the students to pass the class. I prayed for that teacher for Christ sake and his sake!

Lord have mercy on us all and He does! We're still breathing to share the blogs : )

Megan McNinch's picture
Megan McNinch
K-5 Technology Teacher in Fort Mill, SC

One book that helped me that I have shared with fellow colleagues is Angela Watson's Awakened. Easy read that I was able to connect with.

James Dunn's picture
James Dunn
Private University Lecturer and Masters Degree Student

Burnout can be a tricky thing to diagnose. A friend and co-worker was going through burnout and I, as his supervisor, didn't recognize it until it was too late and he was on his way out of the school. Education about symptoms and then addressing the person in a supportive, non-judgmental way (even surreptitiously helping or encouraging them) could go a long way to help those who may only be at the start of the burn and save a good teacher or two from doing things that can hurt their careers and the students they are responsible for educating.

Kathryn K Brown's picture
Kathryn K Brown
Consider me a community builder--a nurturer of learning communities.

Sometimes I think we get so work-oriented that we forget "to smell the roses." Sometimes that means planting the roses ourselves and allowing some free time just to be with people we value. It's amazing to me that brainstorming comes more powerfully in de-stressed time. It seems a natural thing to plan easy together time just to visit--even if it is to check on personal matters and interests. What if we lived more holistically in the school house and took care of one another like we take care of our students? What if we slowed the pace and took the tension off our faces to enjoy what we share together? How much richer we could be!

Shawndece's picture
Ed.D student in Higher Education and Adult Learning

I know that novice teachers can become a bit overwhelmed throughout the school year and can sometimes experience burnout a lot sooner than most. What are some strategies that could be used to keep novice teachers inspired within their school environment?

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.