Sep 17, 2022

Today I'm going to share with you a Burned-In Teacher University Student Spotlight on Sandra and I'm so excited for her to share her story, her journey, and what it is that she is working towards in her own BURNED-IN journey.

Amber: Sandra, thank you for being in the podcast to share your burnout story. 

Sandra: Thank you for having me, I'm really excited to be here. 

Amber: Will you tell us a little bit about you as a teacher and as a human being outside of the classroom?

Sandra: I'm from a small town outside of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I'm living back here now after having spent the first part of my career in Northwestern Ontario. I have I've been married for 30 years, I actually just celebrated my 30th anniversary in Jul, and I have three adult kids; they're wonderful.  My son actually just married a fantastic young teacher a month ago, so we're happy to welcome her into our family as well.  And we're living about 10 minutes from where I grew up

So you know that that's the personal side, teaching wise, I did start my career in a bigger city, near Toronto, Ontario. And then I moved to the north of Ontario for about 10 years, and I worked in two small towns there.  Then we just decided our kids needed to be closer to family. So we brought them all back here. 

Amber: Wow, it, first of all, sounds like you have a lot to be grateful for.

Sandra: I totally do.

Amber: So let's, let's back way up. Let's talk about your burnout. What did it look like, feel like, or sound like for you?  I know you have a couple of different bouts of burnout to share with us.

Sandra: I think there were only two times that I recognized burnout as being burnout. However, I've had a lot of what I like to call "walking burnout" for several years.  During that time I was tired, Burned and Unbalanced, as we say. I felt like I wasn't keeping up. 

The two major episodes that I've had of burnout.  One was about three or four years ago, and one was just this past year. The one three or four years ago, I had a student with a lot of behavioral challenges in my class and a lot of students with academic challenges. And my principal and I were working so hard for this one student and the other kids that we sought advice everywhere, and we got a lot of advice from a lot of different directions - and it was just a lot.  I think we -she and I - were trying to everybody in that situation. And when I started to feel that feeling coming back this year I was trying to please a lot of different people, and it just was too much for me.  

Amber: Thank you for sharing your story. I know that burnout is very personal and it can cause some shame and, as you know, I'm all about stopping that shame. So I just really appreciate you being vulnerable and sharing about your burnout because it is it's such a hard place to be. We've had so many conversations inside of our group coaching calls that I have seen the growth in you and I'm just I'm so excited for you. 

When you enrolled in the Burned-In Teacher Mastermind, what was your process?  And I know you've gone through this process now twice. What changes did you see in yourself as you went through this process?

Sandra: There was a teacher that I had followed for a while, who did an interview with you - and I'd always loved her energy. But when I heard you in the podcast, I loved your energy. And then I started following you on Instagram and you had such positive energy, but you also weren't trying to show us perfection. And to me, the fact that you were talking about vulnerability, has gone through burnout before, and built a program based on overcoming burnout just made me feel like this is okay, this is normal, this is fine. And I thought to myself, You know, I want to do that, I want to go through that process.  It really seemed like something that was going to be helpful, particularly because you had built it yourself from a place of burnout. So that to me was very valuable.

Amber: I am so glad to hear that what resonated with you is that I'm not trying to be perfect because that's certainly not what I stand for. And I'm just trying to reach other people who are not seeking perfection either, that they're just seeking something other than burnout.  

In the course, was there a step that you've taken, or a place where you really recognized - or had that light bulb moment - that what you were learning about in the course was helping you make changes?  Or was it after you went through the whole process? 

Sandra: I think it was a little bit of both. The second part of the process - which is Understand Your Teacher Brand, really hit me because I realized that I had a teacher brand that I wanted, that I THOUGHT I was projecting, but that wasn't at all what other people were seeing. There was a part of this step where you encouraged us to ask friends to provide some feedback on our characteristics of us as a teacher and I had one friend in particular, who's a very straight shooter. I realized that my brand is the helper, the helper of all - I'll do anything to help you. And in fact, my friend shared that she valued this, she said, I value it for myself, but for other people, you go way too far. It was so interesting, I want to have this image of being a professional who was willing to be there for other people, but this process made me realize I was being there for everybody and it was taking away the energy from who my people - my students. 

Also, I have done work with self-talk before but realizing the impact my self-talk has on my teaching was something really came through in doing the Burned-In Process. I  came to understand how my negative self-talk affected the decisions I was making in the classroom.

The other part of the process that really inspired me was  Determining Your Long-Term Goals.  When my children were little, I told myself that I can't really set goals for myself. And then the kids got older and they have activities and I got to put them first. Then I got to the point where I was why bother even setting long-term goals because I'm in the later part of my career. And through doing this part of the Burned-In Process, I realized how goal setting (or lack thereof) was contributing to my burnout. I had a little bit of hopelessness.  So although I was unbalanced, I was spending way too much of my time working which got worse when my kids moved out, but that was not the biggest problem. The biggest problem was not looking long-term and thinking of goal setting. I am stuck in Okay, well, this is where I am and who I am. And this is what there is. 

Amber:  And it doesn't have to be a long-term career goal, right?  No, it can be a long-term personal goal, that gives you a purpose to leave school at a decent time, because you've got this thing that you're working on or this thing that you're planning.  Or maybe your long-term goal is to be able to say that you've met your friends more often, or that you spent more time with family.  It can be whatever it is that you want, but whatever it is, it ignites and feeds that part of your soul that's consistently growing.  Everything about us is growing all the time - our skin is growing, our hair is growing, our nails are growing - and we forget to feed that part of us that our brains need to grow, and our souls need to grow. I feel that sometimes when we get on that hamster wheel and are on autopilot where we just keep doing the same things over and over and over again, we don't really have the foresight to think about what our possibilities are for the future.  So, I'm so excited to hear that that really resonated with you.

Sandra: I could see and feel myself growing as I started going through the Burned-In Process while we were still in school. And then the second time burnout hit was during summertime, and what I found was I would stand in front of my students and give them sort of growth mindset messages, but I wasn't internalizing them - I wasn't giving those to myself. And this also helped me see that the things that didn't seem to be goals to me - for example seeing your friends more or being able to connect more with family, or just having a chance to sit and read a book - can actually be goals.  And to me, that was a very foreign concept.

Amber: Yes, like we set goals for ourselves when we hit a milestone birthday.  For example, I'm going to turn 40 in November and I know better than to say, Well, I have this goal that I want to reach before I turned 50.  Or The only goal I can ever set is on New Year. Do you know, what I'm saying? And that doesn't have to be your experience with goal setting. You are worthy of setting goals for yourself.  

Sandra: Right. There's a section where we did personality assessments, I realized that, when it came to goal setting, I'd tell myself that other people are worthy of this, and not me.  But by looking at my personality assessment, I realized that the ways I think are because of who I am, and that is really okay. So going into the piece about setting goals, I understand that I can set goals that are for me - I don't have to want a master's degree just because that's something that a teacher does to advance their education. But I do like to learn so I can learn other things. 

Amber: So where are you now in your Burned-In Journey? Do you know what your Stage is? Where do you feel like you are in this on this journey?

Sandra: I actually did the Stage Tracker yesterday, again, just in preparation for this interview, and I'm at a Stage Four, but I started at a Stage 1. And I really feel like my Stage One is my dip and I get to this place where I tell myself that I never want to be a teacher again. But to be here now and to be excited about the next school year is I mean - I'm I love. I love planning and I love getting ready for things. But I know that I'm hitting a burnout wall when I'm not excited about the planning part. And now I'm in this, oh, yeah, I could try this, I could try that - it's all very exciting to me and I want to stay here and go up, obviously. That's my one thing, I don't want to experience a dip when I go back to school.

Amber: Yeah, you don't want to experience a dip, but the reality is that you might.  You might go to that place, but I know that you know exactly what your process is for if you start to go to that place of burnout.  What many people decide to do - because it's just the easiest thing is just to say - this is just the way it is, this happens every year at this time, every year I get to this dip, but then it's just a struggle for the rest of the year. And I've heard from so many teachers for this coming school year say that they're not excited like they cannot get themselves motivated to get in their classroom to get set up, they can't get themselves motivated to think about what the first day is going to look like or to do any planning. They're already in survival mode and we haven't even started yet, and that just breaks my heart. That's no way to live - to not be excited about what's to come in your life. 

So when you think about where you were a few years ago when you had your first round of burnout, what would you tell yourself? What would you want yourself to know? 

Sandra: I would say Stop, just stop. Say it's Wednesday, take Thursday and Friday off work, and really revisit what is important to you.  

Now, I am doing the Burned-In Teacher University a second time but this time I have a Burnout Buddy.  Having a Burnout Buddy makes a lot of difference because we are able to bounce ideas off of each other.

Burned in Teacher University will guide you to rediscover who you are because that's what I lost - I lost who I was. And I had a wonderful administrator who was trying to be supportive, but we decided other people knew better than we did about what should work in, in my case, my classroom, and in her case, her school.  We took wonderful advice from wonderful people, but we weren't applying things based on our values and our roles. And so if you don't stop, you won't gain clarity.  

Amber: As you go into your upcoming school year, starting at the end of August, tell me what would you tell somebody who is struggling? 

Sandra: I would tell them to do it.  I would tell them that it's a good use of their money and good use of their time. 

When I started Burned-In Teacher University, it was in late March or early April and I started to set boundaries around my time so I could leave at a certain time.  I pretended the videos from Burned-In Teacher University were live and would tell myself I have to be home by four to do my BITU. And I don't have small children anymore, I have the luxury of that, but you can do that with any kind of timeframe. I just put it in my schedule, and I came home, and I did a video and I did the journal reflection for that day. And that was so helpful. I can't even tell you it because it gave me something that I had to go home to do.  

The other thing is, the course is broken down into such little pieces that make the lessons easy to fit in.  You can find 15 or 20 minutes, and I started doing big university instead of doing other things that I realized afterward weren't serving me very well.

Amber: I gosh, I am so glad to hear you say this because a couple of things that I can tell that you've pulled from the course that I don't even think you've realized is you blocked out and you made time to become a Burned-In Teacher, right? You made time; you didn't find time, you made time, and this is what I tell people. I told some teachers yesterday in a breakout session that I did at a conference that when you set a boundary, you're saying to yourself this is my time allowance, this is what I'm budgeting for this day. And you say at this time I'm drawing a line in the sand and I'm done, but yet that part of your brain is saying no, you can't you still have all these things to will be there tomorrow.  It's in setting that boundary and leaving and moving on to your next block of time, your next priority, that you really do realize that what you used to tell yourself is so important and so urgent, is really not. It's in the act of beginning to tell yourself a different story and setting those boundaries and realizing your potential that you realize, wow, I told myself for years that I had to do this thing this way and I really don't.  I'm so glad that you shared this because that boundary setting is so so hard. And it's so different for everybody -  what type of boundaries you need to set and how you're going to go about it is a very relative and very personal part of your Burned-In Journey.  I'm really proud of you.  That's, that is an absolute model example of what I hope that other people do. And with the platform that I use for the course which is Kajabi, you can get the Kajabi app, and then you can actually listen to the audio of these videos in your car.  I'm a course junkie - I enroll in courses all the time - I will listen to and/or from work to so that's an option as well. 

Sandra: And that's another thing I actually started doing since starting Burned-In Teacher. I have an old car so I've got a little aux cable and I plug you in or some other podcasts and it just it helps me to decompress. More often than not, there's a teacher speaking who's had a struggle, or it's some kind of inspiration or both, and it makes you feel like you're not alone. When you are at the end of a hard day. You're like, oh, okay, somebody else had the same difficulty or something similar or, or I've lived through that too. And we're both here, you know, coming out the other side. And so that's just a little piece that makes a big difference coming home as opposed to listening to the news. 

Amber: You just went exactly where I was going to go. And it's what's most important - knowing that you're not alone in your journey.  You're not alone in your current reality If you're feeling stuck or you're feeling miserable or you're feeling burned out. But you're also not alone in the fact that you know that there's hope. We're not going to drag you down further into this misery because there are a lot of people that are very happy to have miserable company and just talk about how terrible things are and how hopeless everything is. But in this community, you're not alone in that you are miserable, or you are burned out, or you're so frustrated that you don't feel like there's hope, there are other people out there like you that want to do something different. You don't want to stay in this space of misery, and that's what we're all about.

Sandra: Right? And the community is fun - it's fun in the Facebook community to connect with people. One day it'll be someone being a little discouraged, and someone else answers with some encouragement. And the next time it flips, like the person who was the encourager, is now the discouraged. And that's also great to see because it doesn't mean that you do a program and come out and everything now your life is perfect, and you don't need it anymore. That's not how it works.

Amber: The Membership Community is not a toxically positive community, it is a place where you can go to share, or you can go to vent, and even ask for help. Being a Burned-In Teacher, like you just said, is not about having everything figured out, you don't have this perfect life, but you have strategies, and you have a process to help if you need it.  When you're part of the Burned-In Teacher Membership, then you are able to have these people surround you who are to be able to speak that same language because as you probably know, or you will notice this more than ever going into this coming school year, how you're kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum of isolation from your colleagues because it's really hard when you're feeling so good, and very proactive and very prepared, and you're mentally strong, when other people aren't and are not where you are. You almost feel that other side of shame like well, I can't tell them how awesome I'm feeling because then I'm going to make them feel bad. I've seen that happen, I have felt that myself. And the community is a place where you can really just shine. And that is what's so important to me. 

So Sandra, is there anything else that you'd like to share with the audience today before we sign off?

Sandra: I just think that I really believe that the universe sends us where we're supposed to go and, and the fact that I found you through someone else that I found I know that this was meant to be and it was exactly what I needed. And I'm, as you say, I feel like I still will need the community and I can always come back and do a module again, or there's always someone to talk to. I just I really feel supported and I thank you for that.

Amber: Thank you so much for investing in yourself and believing that Burned-In Teacher is here to help you that's why I built it. I never wanted anybody to feel as isolated and ashamed and as horrible as I felt.  I went through all of that alone and I just don't want that for any of my people, which are people like you teachers, administrators, counselors, coaches, and anybody who's working with kids in any capacity. So thank you so much for spending time with us today. I'm so grateful that you're part of the community and I'm so excited to see how your year goes for you.



  1. Determine long-term goals - both professionally and personally - and make a plan to reach them. 
  2. Stop, take a breath, and pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. 
  3. Reassess your boundaries.  Are there boundaries that are continually crossed or ones that you need to create? 



Episode 65: Get Happy and Healthy with Holly Thompson




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