In this episode, I’ll be sharing with you an interview between myself and my very good friend, Molly Wheatley - a 5th-grade teacher as well as the CEO of Literacy Fundamentals and MollyWheatley.com. I’ll be taking her through my entire 8-step Burned-In Process by asking her specific questions from each of the steps and she’ll share how each of the steps resonates with her and how she applies each step in her own life as a teacher and as a CEO of two online businesses.
Amber: Just for a little bit of background, Molly and I met each other on Instagram and I invited her to be on my podcast a few years ago, and our friendship has just blossomed over our multi-passionate passions. We both love teaching and are classroom teachers and we both have online businesses. One thing that we get asked a lot is how we manage it all - how do we balance work and life and teaching? And it’s hard, very hard and it’s something we talk with each other about all the time.
What we decided that we wanted to do is go through my 8-step process and talk about how we process balancing everything and our hardships. I'm going to be asking Molly a lot of questions, and I'll jump in and give my two cents as well.
We also want to make sure you understand that even if you're not a teacher-entrepreneur, this work-life-balancing is hard. If you are multi-passionate, you have passions outside of the classroom, and you're trying to figure out how you can balance everything, this is going to be a good episode for you too.
As we go through this episode, I will share the titles of each of the steps as I’m asking Molly the questions, and these questions are just small little snippets of what I would ask if I was coaching someone through this process.
We're going to start with B - B stands for “Begin Where You Are”. This step is all about identifying how long you felt this way and where you are literally in your life and your teaching career. We’re first going to talk about what Burnout Type you find yourself associating with the most.
There are three different burnout types:
Which Burnout Type do you find yourself falling into?
Molly: You helped me a lot with this because I didn't really know where I was and once I figured out my burnout type, then I could move forward with my next step.
Last year, I was Burned and Bored so this year I decided to make the change to switch schools and grade levels - I moved from first-grade to fifth-grade, and that has helped the boredom. I’m definitely not bored anymore!
But, I would also say that in this season of life that I'm in now, I can struggle with being Burned and Unbalanced. I want to be the most amazing teacher, but also want to keep that within my contract hours so I can spend time with my family. I’m working on honoring that as well as balancing a business, and I'm struggling a little bit with that right now.
Amber: I would definitely relate to being Burned and Unbalanced for sure! I definitely love to work, and I think that's both a blessing and a curse. I really have to align what I'm doing with my core values. I ask myself: Why am I doing this? I always have to come back to that and that helps me to focus my time and energy.
Molly: When I teach teachers how to start their own tutoring business, one thing that they will often talk about is how they don't want to trade all their time for money - they're already working so much in the classroom and they don't want to tutor a bunch of hours. So, we strategize and we talk about what it looks like to tutor pods where you can tutor more kids, but get more money.
I also teach teachers what it looks like to start a Teachers Pay Teacher's store so they can make money while you're sleeping. Sometimes that stressful feeling burned-out teachers are feeling in the classroom comes from money, and so having a little bit of extra money that you're making passively from TPT really helps.
I feel like that's worth mentioning because it’s 100% part of my burnout story - my car wasn't paid off and I was stressed out because I wasn't making the money I wanted to make.
Amber: The next question is from “Understand Your Teacher Brand”. We want to think about our brand as our predictable reactions - the way we talk about life and our attitudes. Our brand is not based on one interaction and judgment, It's based on repeated patterns of interactions with people and students and everybody in your life.
What adjectives do you want people to use to describe you as a teacher?
Molly: The first one I would say is I want people to know that I love my students, and they feel loved while they're learning and they're in a safe place, and they know that there's going to be consistent things every day.
For my next adjective, I'm going to steal one of yours - I want my kids to feel joy at school because I want to feel joy at school. I love that word. Amber told me this earlier, so I stole it from her.
Amber: That is my number one core value when it comes to being a teacher - I want to exude joy. I'm not like talking about like toxic positivity - I will embrace the suck and I have venting sessions as well. It's hard to be a teacher today, but I also know that my goal is to get back to that joyful place and find joy in the journey.
Molly: Amber, this morning I don't think I even finished what I was telling you, but I had a student yesterday give a genuine compliment to someone and I almost was in tears. It was so touching to me. And finding joy like that and then letting your students know out loud, Wow, that was just the most amazing thing I've ever heard someone say, they light up because they are not complimented like that often in their everyday lives. And so that's the joy I'm looking forward to.
Amber: How do you want people to describe you as a teacher-entrepreneur?
Molly: I would say the same, that I love what I'm doing. I love helping other people and I'm finding joy in it while also embracing the suck because some days it's not fun to write the blog post. It's not always going to be fun, but I know that it leads to a bigger picture and it's going to help people down the road.
Amber: You definitely have to be productive, but you also have to be productive with purpose. For me, I built Burned-In Teacher because I burned out over and over and over again. And as a systems person, I wanted a path; I wanted somebody to say Here are the steps you can take. And I was looking for steps that I could really take, not just drink more water, but instead here are ways that I can come out of this rut. And that you can come back to it over and over and over again when life is hard. And at the time of my burnout, I couldn't find anybody to offer that to me and I kind of stumbled into it myself by diving into my self-help journey.
Molly: That’s how most businesses start, right? You have a problem and then find a solution to that problem. I think this is great for your listeners to hear - maybe your passion is going to be business or maybe you don’t know what that is yet.
Amber: Exactly. And when I started Burned-In Teacher, people would ask me what it is. And I’d say, I don't really know. I just really want to help people not feel as crummy as I have felt.
Molly: Same. Mine started out of burnout. I started tutoring kids and then it just blew into this thing where I was helping other teachers do the same thing because I could get results for them.
Amber: Yes. So this is a great transition into the third question which is from “Reflect on Your Challenges”. This step is really deep because you have to not only embrace your thoughts and pay attention to what’s challenging you but you also have to switch your brain from being hardship-focused/problem-focused to solution focused.
What are your biggest challenges right now in the school year?
Molly: So, it’s two things: learning fifth-grade curriculum and just being totally a newbie even though I feel like I'm a veteran teacher. Luckily, I have a great teammate that's been helping me along the way. Also, navigating some of these attitudes and behaviors of fifth graders that I'm not used to because I'm used to little kids. It's been interesting to see the drama of fifth grade unfold. And that's been a daily thing.
Amber: For me, it's been the behaviors in my kindergarten classroom. I'm seeing behaviors this year that I've never seen before in my 14 years of teaching, it's been extremely eye-opening. I've heard of these behaviors happening in other teachers' classrooms, but I've never had to face them in my class before.
Molly: I relate to what you’re saying perfectly because I was just in a Title building and the behaviors that I was seeing on a daily basis were extreme; we would honestly say sometimes it seems like a mental hospital. The things that kids are going through and what we are being asked to help them with do not seem normal at school. It's not what we remember from even 10 years ago.
Amber: Oh my gosh, no; not at all. I'm not going to lie, these last couple of weeks before this recording I've had a really hard time. There have been some personal things going on with my extended family, and then, of course, these professional challenges that I'm seeing in my classroom. I've been very honest and open about how much I've been struggling, I even did a live in my Facebook community that I turned into a podcast because I think these conversations are important to share because it reminds us that nobody has a perfect teaching life.
I also want to make sure that people understand that this hardship is happening; and while it is, I am embracing it. I'm here in the moment and I'm embracing the suck, but I'm not going to stay there, and I think that's my main purpose of the podcast and of Burned-In Teacher - to help burned-out teachers understand that it’s okay for things to suck and be challenging, it’s just a part of being alive here on this Earth, but we can’t just stay stuck in it, we have to glean some knowledge from the challenge to grow from it. And I've learned a lot about what true empathy looks like, especially when things are really hard because the behaviors are driven by something, right? And I have to remember that I'm on their team and that it’s not them against me. We are trying to work together.
So onto the next question. The next question is from “Nurture Your Habits and Strengths”. This is all about getting to know yourself better, maybe doing a few personality tests, and really getting to know yourself on a deeper level. I know after I did some personality tests, I learned that the things that I was getting in trouble for were actually things that I realized were strengths that I needed to harness.
So for you, what habits do you have that keep you going amidst all that there is to do?
Molly: I'm just like you - I'm addicted to working as well, so I can fall into that trap of being really unbalanced; so for sure, working out every day to have endorphins and feel good about myself to have mental clarity.
Also, my dad always said, as a retired teacher, to Pack a lunch, you look forward to every day, and - I try to keep it healthy - I pack something for myself in my lunch, even if it's like a dark chocolate almond, but that gives me something that I’m looking forward to during the day.
So, it’s just having those little habits every day that will set you up for success and joy.
Amber: Charles Duhigg calls those Keystone Habits. You're building the habits that are helping you to be a better person or a better version of yourself. Even making your bed is considered a keystone habit because you're tidying up your space.
Molly: Or putting your sneakers by the door to remind yourself to work out instead of talking yourself out of it because you know it's going to be really good for you even though it might feel sucky at the time.
Amber: You’re basically setting your future you up for success. The results you might not see right now at the moment, but you know in the end, or in the end of the day, or the end of the week, it's going to be good for you.
So a couple of things that I do that are exactly like you: I exercise almost every single day for 30 minutes, whether it's a hard-hit workout, strength training, or just a walk with my husband or daughter, or dog. I try to be active 30 minutes a day, no excuses.
I also drink tons of water every single day and I try to eat mostly healthy. We've talked about how our goal with our healthy habits is not to have like a smoking hot body, but it's to feel good I want those endorphins for my mental clarity and how I feel about myself, not about what other people think I look like. And we know that this is setting older versions of ourselves up for success too. I'm going to be turning 40 in November. And I know this strength training is something that's going to be very beneficial for me in the coming years of my life.
And then also, one more habit that I need to mention is my weekly planning ritual that I do every Sunday afternoon, I sit down with my paper planner and plan out what's happening in my week ahead, both personally and professionally, and in my business.
Molly: I love that you said that because at school, I was finding that my new team didn’t plan together, so I just reached out to one team member and asked if I could start planning with him every week. And so that's really setting future me up for success because I know what I'm doing on Friday morning.
Amber: I don’t have to worry about it over the weekend and Sunday scaries are nonexistent. My goal is by the end of the school day on Thursday that I have at least Monday and Tuesday planned.
We're going to go into the next step in the process. The next question is from “Extend Your Reach and Possibilities”. Going back to reflect on your challenges, it's really important that you switch from problem focus to solution focus. The fact is we don't know all the answers, but there are people out there that might be able to provide you with some guidance/insight. "Extending Your Reach and Possibilities” is about making the time to learn and use that challenge as an opportunity for growth rather than a way to victimize yourself and stay stuck.
Your question is, what podcasts books YouTube videos do you listen to for inspiration? And who do you follow on social media? Who inspires you?
Molly: I love The Minimalists Podcast, they helped me when I was really burnt out, and if you go back and listen to that episode that Amber was talking about you'll kind of hear that story. This podcast helped me with my personal life by clearing out the clutter, even the emotional clutter. My husband was already minimalistic, so this helped me align with him a lot more and our values sort of increased. Also, what I learned on this podcast really helped me as a teacher and in business life in so many ways. I can't recommend them enough.
As far as books, I love self-help books - I'm a self-help junkie. I can tell so many but if you ever want a personal recommendation, send me a DM.
As for the people that I follow on social media, they have to be funny and they have to be real. I love our mutual friend Alexis Shepard of The AfroEducator, she's hilarious. And also Naomi Meredith is also so funny and she gives really great tips. I just love that they both have their own niche, but they're helping people and making you laugh, and they keep it real.
Amber: You recommended The Minimalists Podcast to me as I drove here to visit you and I knew who they were because I’ve watched their documentaries, but their podcast was right up my alley! There were things that they were saying that I was like, Yes, this is exactly what this is the kind of inspiration that I love to listen to!
I also have some podcasts that I love to listen to The CEO Teacher Podcast with Casey Morris - I even had her on the podcast before and she has really great advice. Also, The Not So Wimpy Entrepreneur with Jamie Sears. And of course, our friend Alexis Shepard of The AfroEducator.
We find people intentionally out there who are helping to solve a problem that we have
And of course, you have your YouTube channel, I have my podcast - it’s our goal is to inspire people and help to move people forward when they're stuck in a certain rut.
Molly: Yeah, we spend a lot of time making content to help people so it's out there for you to find, and you're probably going to get the help you need if you find us or other people like us.
Amber: Yeah. And we actually have an example of how she and I have helped to extend each other's reach and possibilities. We Marcopolo all the time, and one day, she was talking about that challenge of the curriculum and the planning and things like that and she said, I think I'm going to have to end up getting one of those carts. You know what I’m talking about, the proverbial teacher cart. And as she was talking, I was like, No, girl. Absolutely not! I really believe that you should rethink getting this cart.
Molly: That’s really what I needed to hear because I don't need to spend all my weekend hours prepping and taking home giant books, and teacher manuals.
Amber: I do remember saying something along the lines of, Just because you take it home, does that mean that you're actually going to do it?
Molly: Honestly, no, but it would torture me that it's there and then I'll punish myself that I didn't work on it. I don't know what narrative I got stuck in my head that I needed that thing. But I'm so glad you talked me out of it!
Amber: And I have those moments with you too, but “Extending Your Reach and Possibilities” can also be just reaching out for help from anybody, it doesn't have to be a podcaster or YouTuber, it can be a teacher down the hall who's leaving at their contract hours where you, instead of judging them, you ask them how they are able to do that.
Molly: I’m so glad you said that because I leave on time, but I get there early and people don't see that. And I don't care anymore - they're not in my room, they're not doing my job. It’s really about letting go of judgment of yourself and that shame of not having it figured out. Remember, you don't have to do this by yourself.
Amber: You know, there are people out there that are going to be willing to help you and they could start out as perfect strangers and end up as one of your best friends.
Alright, we are going to move on to the next question, and this one is from D - “Determine Your Long-Term Goals”. We always want to be moving forward, and these goals don't have to be to climb Mount Everest or to run a marathon - unless that's really what you want to do. These can be any goals that are helping you to move forward in your life, whatever that means/looks like for you.
What goals do you have for yourself as a teacher? And then part two? What goals do you have for yourself as a teacher-entrepreneur?
Molly: For my goals as a teacher, I would personally like to make it to the 20-year mark. I can see myself retiring a little bit early. My husband will be able to retire before me and we just want to do things like travel, and I can see myself doing other things. And it's not because of not loving teaching, it's just wanting more freedom.
And that’s connected with my business goals, I have numbers in mind that I would like to hit on a monthly basis so that I could do things and have a little bit more freedom that teaching doesn't always give you. My husband has six or seven weeks off every year from his job, and I can only take certain times off. So, it's kind of those things that are on the more glamorous side, but that's where I'm headed.
Amber: I think I'm right with you about the 20-year mark. I guess I had never really thought about the total amount of time that I want to be in education, but I've said recently that I’d like to be in the classroom for five to seven years at least. I'm in year 14 right now and my goal is to retire as a teacher, I don't have the desire to be an administrator in any capacity.
As for the teacher-entrepreneur side, you and I talked about our monetary goals as well. And that's not in a selfish money-mongering kind of way. It's more like when we're able to make this much money, we're going to be able to hire more help impact more people and get our services out there in front of more people so that they know that there's hope for them.
Molly: Yes. And that's part of what we were talking about with being a minimalist. I'm not trying to have more things, I'm trying to help more people, and more money usually means you can hire more people and impact more lives, just like you said,
Amber: You and I are both on the same page when it comes to that minimalist idea. We just talked about this last night - I don't want more things, I would not buy a fancier car, I would not buy a bigger home. I really don't think in those terms, I think about the experiences that I'm going to be able to offer our daughters and my husband and me.
As we continue to move through this process, the next step is I - “Initiate Lasting Change”. Once you have your long-term goals, we need to break those goals down into manageable tasks and steps that can be done either monthly, weekly, and daily.
What are you doing monthly, weekly, and daily to keep yourself motivated and focused on your goals?
Molly: We talked a little bit about Asana. I have a few people that work for me as well, so that system really helps because I have tasks ready for them so that they can do their job. And the same goes for teaching. it's just all about planning for me and just knowing what my end goal is.
Amber: 100% Absolutely. I think it's giving yourself the time and the space to dream big, but then planning for how you're going to get there. Tony Robbins says “A goal without a plan is just a wish”, and I believe this so deeply because we can talk about all the things we want to do, but if we put no action behind it, then we're just wishing our life away.
On Sunday I set aside time to plan by re-evaluating my goals, determining my highest priorities, and deciding how I’m going to get to my next “goal-post”.
Molly: And as you said, you need to determine your highest priority. I think people struggle with that by getting stuck in the weed and not really knowing what's going to move the goalposts forward. Until you really figure that out, it makes everything hard,
Amber: All right, the next step is N - “Never Settle”. This is not only the last step, but it’s the most important step in really understanding what the Burned-In Process is. The Burned-In Process is not linear, it's actually cyclical because you may not always have your life altogether and nothing's perfect.
What is your plan for when things go wrong, or just don't go the way that you planned?
Molly: I used to really struggle with this. When things didn’t go the way I wanted them to, I would feel like my whole day was ruined and I would make other people miserable.
Amber: I am totally guilty of this too. In the past, and sometimes now even, I go to that place because I have built a habit over my entire life of 39 years on this Earth. It was a big habit of mine to fall victim to make myself the victim, and these challenges or problems - when I reflect on them now - I understand that was a part of creating that problem and I've taken ownership of that. It was a really big step in me realizing that I get to choose if I want to victimize myself in this in this hardship, or if I'm going to use it as a learning opportunity and move on.
Molly: I had to learn how to move on from looking at it negatively and instead ask myself what can I grow from this?
Amber: Going back to The Minimalists Podcast, when I was listening, they were talking about outgrowing, and I think that idea is a huge part of being able to use the challenge as an opportunity to grow. If you're Burned and Bored or Burned and Over-It, you may have outgrown a certain situation and you're ready to move on to something different. Your challenges are an opportunity to really think about what your core values are, where the misalignment is, and what your next step is going forward, rather than just saying, This is just the way it is.
When you experience feelings of burnout returning, you start at “Begin Where You Are”, again and ask yourself: How long have I been feeling this way? What has been the trigger for me feeling these feelings? Where and what is my next step after that?
Then you consider your teacher brand again and ask yourself: How would somebody with the brand that I want to have act/react in this situation?
And then you just continue through the rest of the steps.
One thing that people ask us often is: How do you do it all? And our answer is, we DON’T! We hire people - we have little by little brought people into our teams that even do the smallest things for us, and that gives us that freedom of time to focus on other things.
Molly: I think people get like kind of starry-eyed when you say you have either an integrator or virtual assistant, but it's worth the money. Let's say you only make $200 a month, what if you could take 100 of that and repurpose it back into someone that can help you get things done? The same goes, even if you're not an entrepreneur, let's say you're a busy mom, and you're teaching, what if you could pay someone to come to your laundry every week?
Amber: Just imagine the possibilities - look at where your struggle is and determine if there is something you can eliminate or if it is something you can delegate to someone else to do. Or perhaps there are ways you can simplify tasks and make them easier.
You and I go through that all the time, and that comes from several steps within the Burned-In Teacher Process that I use daily when I have so much to do and I don’t know where to start.
Molly, thank you so much for joining us! I’m so happy that we got to do this interview live side by side - it's been so much fun!
Molly is the founder of Literacy Fundamentals and creator of the Tutorpreneur Academy™ where she helps teachers build a profitable tutoring business using skills they already have so that they can make money on the side without quitting their teaching jobs.
She discovered her passion when she reached the 5-year mark of teaching and felt completely burnt out and realized she could use her teaching strengths to make money on the side which created her unique approach which is the Tutorpreneur Method™.
Since then she has worked with countless students and it’s become her mission to empower every teacher to start earning great money on the side.