I used to be the teacher crying in her car before school, feeling underappreciated and overworked. I used to constantly wonder... "Should I quit teaching?"
Thirteen years later, with lots of highs and lows in between, my passion for teaching has never been stronger.
Today, my mission is to help teachers like you (who are also wondering "Should I quit teaching?") identify what’s within your control and take consistent action that will lead you not only out of burnout but into a career that fuels your passion for teaching.
What does burnout feel like?
Burnout looks different for everyone. There isn’t a specific list of feelings or symptoms showing a perfect correlation to burnout. But here’s how it showed up for me and just maybe you’ve felt this way before too.
- Feeling emotionally exhausted—trying to meet a wide variety of needs and a neverending list of expectations.
- Constantly doubting yourself—it can be easy to look down on your abilities and strengths with little affirmation or appreciation for what you do.
- Not knowing who to talk to because you don’t feel safe sharing your feelings and opinions, and you worry about being looked down upon for not having everything figured out.
- Missing out on meaningful time with family and friends because you have so much left to do outside of school hours.
- Struggling to find the will to be creative when you have so little energy to go beyond giving the bare minimum.
- Longing to enjoy teaching again because you used to be excited about teaching your students, watching those light-bulb moments, and knowing that you’re making a difference.
This is my story of how burnout crept into my life, what I did to overcome it, and how you can do the same.
When I started teaching, I didn’t have the environment or the tools to help me develop into the teacher I wanted to be.
My team wasn’t fond of my enthusiasm and didn’t welcome my innovative ideas. My principal had a very hands-off approach to leadership, leaving me with no support to navigate the friction between my colleagues and me. And I had little to no knowledge of how to manage my workload, set boundaries, or collaborate with my team in a productive way.
I spent many mornings crying in my car trying to keep my mascara from running so no one would know what I was going through. I was deep in burnout, but I didn’t want anyone to know. On the outside, I had all my shit together.
I was an excellent teacher and my students were successful. My husband taught down the hall from me (I know, pretty cool right?), my girls went to school in the same district, and we had a wonderful life. I felt guilty for not being grateful and for constantly asking myself, "Is teaching really for me? Should I quit teaching?"
But no matter how much I tried to hide my unhappiness from everyone else, I couldn’t hide from myself.
I hit a breaking point one day when I left school during my lunch break to go home and let my dog out.
When I walked in the door, I discovered that he had shit himself. It was all over his kennel and all over him and the sight of it triggered a full-on panic attack in me.
After cleaning him up, I sobbed all the way back to school only to have a very public meltdown in front of my eight other teammates who assumed, based on my state, that my husband had died.
You can imagine how underwhelmed they were when they found out I was crying about dog shit.
But the thing is, it wasn’t just about my dog. I knew this was about months and years of overwhelm and bitterness slowly chipping away at my joy and today was just the tipping point.
I needed a change.
So after seven years of switching grade levels and experiencing some huge wins but also many difficult challenges, I quit teaching …for the first time.
Yes, I quit teaching…. and came back …TWICE!
Leaving teaching felt like the best decision in the midst of the conflict I was feeling internally and observing in my school setting.
Sometimes making a career change is the best way to tend to your burnout and make space for personal and professional growth. But usually, there are mindset and practical changes you can make first. I’d figure that out my second go-round with burnout.
After I left teaching to start working for an esteemed educational nonprofit in my community, an unfortunate chain of events closed the organization and brought me back to the classroom. Later that year, with feelings of isolation and sadness, I started experiencing burnout again along with depression.
That’s when I started learning everything I could about burnout and how changing my beliefs, actions, and habits could drastically improve the one life that I had to live.
From that point forward I took intentional steps to help me find a path that gave me purpose and fueled me with passion.
- I started paying attention to what I could control instead of focusing on the negative factors that were beyond my control.
- I became intentional about setting boundaries around my schedule instead of letting anything distract me during my work hours.
- I started setting professional goals that would affirm my strengths as a teacher and help me reignite my passion for teaching.
- And I made consistent decisions to prioritize things I wanted personally that would fulfill me as a person outside of my career.
Most educators will tell you that teaching is exhausting. But I believe that it can be empowering.
Yes, it requires so much of your mental and emotional energy, especially in the first few years. Yes, we face significant challenges as educators that are stressful and even heartbreaking at times.
But you shouldn’t be miserable at your job.
The good news is that there are steps you can take that have the potential to not only improve your experience in education but also rekindle your excitement for the profession you were once so passionate about.
Ready to reimagine what teaching can look like for you and reclaim your fire again?I'M READY
Here’s how my burnout journey led me to where I am today…
First Year of Teaching
- I had a lot of ideas and opinions to bring to the table.
- My team didn’t care for my enthusiasm or creativity.
- My administration had a very hands-off approach to leadership.
- I didn’t get the feedback or direction that would have set me up for success.
- Found out I was pregnant with our 2nd daughter in September of 2007.
- I had Avery in April 2008.
Had an embarrassing yet enlightening emotional breakdown in front of my teacher besties
- Realized something had to change.
- My answer was to leave the school/district that I was in.
- Began looking for other jobs.
- I quit teaching for the first time in December of 2014.
Left teaching for the first time.
- I left teaching to work for an educational nonprofit.
- Six months later, that same nonprofit closed down for reasons out of my control.
Back to the classroom.
- I got a position teaching first grade in a new district.
- I felt deeply unhappy with my situation, my location, and my satisfaction as a teacher.
- Depression started creeping in.
- Phase 2 of Teacher Burnout.
Changed my Beliefs, Actions, and Habits.
- I dove headfirst into finding clarity about what I wanted for myself, my job, and my life.
- I became more confident in my ability as a teacher.
- I was determined to never settle for the patterns that led to my burnout in the first place.
- I became a Google Certified Trainer and started teaching workshops.
- I started Burned-In Teacher to support other teachers going through the same feelings and experiences.
I left teaching…a second time.
- I booked more tech trainings.
- Began The Burned-In Teacher Podcast.
- Launched Burned-In Teacher University.
- Wrote my book, Hacking Teacher Burnout.
- Traveled to give keynotes at conferences and workshops about hacking teacher burnout.
- Missed being in the classroom and collaborating with other teachers.
- I remembered fondly all the parts about teaching that I’m passionate about and love.
Back to teaching… this time as a BURNED-IN teacher.
- I handpicked the school and principal I wanted to work for (yes, I know how lucky I am).
- Accepted a job in the same district as my husband, who’s an elementary school principal 🙌.
- Taught kindergarten with a team I adore.
- Continued to serve teachers across the country experiencing burnout through my course, virtual keynotes, and The Burned-In Teacher Podcast.
During the summer you'll find me...
Traveling across the country with my family of four—I’m fortunate to have married my high school sweetheart (who’s also an elementary school principal) and we love having the summers off together!
My favorite way to unwind…
Going for a run—I usually run 3-4 times a week because it makes a huge difference in how I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Beverage of choice…
Gingerade Kombucha, Green Tea, or Spindrift.
3 Books that changed my life…
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
13 Things Mentally Strong People
Don’t Do by Amy Moran Mindset by Dr. Carol Dwek
My current personal goal…
To visit Australia as soon as possible.
My current professional goal…
To become a certified health and life coach.
Ready to take your first step to find how you can become a Burned-In Teacher?
TAKE THE QUIZ
Learn about what steps you can take to beat burnout and create a fulfilled career and life by learning about your burnout type.
Burned-In Teacher is a resource for educators who are ready to look at burnout as an opportunity to create a life and career they’re passionate about.
Take the Quiz to find out your burnout type and get a roadmap for your next best steps.TAKE THE QUIZ