May 27, 2023

Ask BIT: How Can Teachers Burned Out from Teaching Prepare for a Fresh Start Next School Year?

Teaching is a noble profession that demands dedication, passion, and resilience. Yet, even the most devoted educators can find themselves feeling burned out from teaching. The endless hours, heavy workloads, and constant demands can take a toll on their well-being and enthusiasm. As the current school year comes to a close, it's essential for these teachers to take a step back, rejuvenate their spirits, and prepare for a fresh start. 

In this episode, we delve into practical steps that educators can take during this transitional period to set themselves up for a successful and burnout-free next school year. So, if you're a teacher feeling the weight of burnout, keep reading as I guide you through a transformative journey of self-care, reflection, and preparation. 

But before we dive in, I want to remind you that next Saturday (June 3, 2023) begins the Hacking Teacher Burnout Summer Book Study Series!  In this series, I’ll be taking you chapter by chapter through my book Hacking Teacher Burnout using the Hacking Teacher Burnout Book Study Guide.  

This will be taking place all summer long here for FREE on the Burned-In Teacher Podcast, and all you have to do to prepare is going to Amazon or and order the book Hacking Teacher Burnout, as well as head on over to my TpT store and get the Hacking Teacher Burnout Book Study Guide. We are going to go through both of these things together, step by step, chapter by chapter, all summer to set you up for success next school year, which is actually what this episode is all about! 

As we approach the end of the school year, many teachers, including myself, start thinking about how to prepare for the next one. But when do you start preparing for the next school year? Do you do it all at the end of the year? Do you do it during the summer? Do you wait until you go back to school?

This is a very common question, and it’s one that a teacher inside the Burned-In Teacher Membership asked as well.  To answer this, I’m going to answer using my own experiences, but also share with you all an answer this teacher received from another teacher in the Membership (I love how this community supports each other!) 

So first, here is the response to this question from inside the membership: I make a list of things to improve during the last five weeks. And then I make a plan for how to use some of my summer break to prepare. I leave plenty of time for family and relaxation, but it helps me to find peace at the beginning of the year if I do some work over the summer. I have a couple of things to say about this response.  I totally agree with taking time during the last 5 weeks of school to reflect and write down things that you’d like to improve for the upcoming school year. I do the same thing, but I actually extend that to the whole school year. Over the entire school year, I'm constantly taking notes and thinking about ways that things can be even better and be improved for not just the next school year, but the current one as well. 

For example, I have a classroom library that’s a work in progress. I started teaching kindergarten last year, for the first time ever, and my classroom library is not impressive. In fact, that’s probably a nice way to put it. If I'm being honest, It's not even being used. I was given tons and tons of books when I started in 2021, and I know what classroom libraries look like -  I've seen lots of pictures from other people and I have years of experience of having a classroom library -  but I didn't really know how to efficiently and effectively use one with kindergarten students who can't read.  Back in November/December, we fully transitioned the students' book boxes that they read at their seats to decodable books. Since then I've not used my classroom library at all. And when I say “at all”, I mean it has been sitting there gathering dust. I did have a practicum student go through the classroom library and organize the books by fiction or nonfiction as well as sorting them by grouping all the books marked B or C or D so I could get a full spectrum of what I have available. And that’s as far as we got, and you know what, I'm okay with that because really, my goal this year was just to get a vision for what I want my classroom library to look like for next year. And really, that's been my attitude since I've come into kindergarten, which is so different from my attitude when I was a first-year teacher! When I started teaching, I told myself the story that I had to have everything all together all at once, whereas my attitude since I started teaching kindergarten last year has been I am going to do a little bit at a time every single year, and if something's not working - like if something's literally like a dumpster fire every day - I’ll take the steps that I need to to change it. But in terms of things like my classroom library, I've put that on pause and I'm thinking about ways to improve it for next year.

The next part of the response was to intentionally schedule time over the summer to tackle things in preparation for the next school year.  And if you want to use some of your summer break to do that, great! I don't plan on doing that. I have not worked over my summer break as a teacher for years. I leave plenty of time for preparing for the upcoming school year while I'm currently teaching and in the days leading up to the first day of school. As I’m recording this episode, I’m three weeks and three days out from my last student day, and I've already started to clean out and organize drawers. Last year on Instagram, I shared pictures of multiple rolling trash bins of stuff that I pitched after my first year of teaching kindergarten. Anything that I didn't use from the previous teacher that she left me got pitched. I don’t keep things with the intention that “someday I might need it”, I keep what I need and I know I can find it again if I need it badly enough. 

But in doing the “pitching” and organizing now, I am saving my summer for my personal life, and of course Burned-In Teacher! I've already looked ahead to next year's calendar and I know that I will not be returning to my classroom until August 1, which is our first teacher workday and back-to-school night; my school batches those two things together in one day, which I actually love! In planning ahead, I know that those first three days of August will be spent in my classroom setting up the physical space and preparing for the first week of school. And after those three days, I don't plan on returning to the classroom until August 8 to do any last-minute prep for the first day of school on August 9th. 

I have this vision and a plan to make it possible.  So here’s how I make this possible: 

Number one, there are certain things throughout the school year that I fix immediately if they aren’t working. I spoke about this on social media, but around Thanksgiving, I listened to the podcast series called “Sold a Story” - it's a podcast that will change your life! If you are a Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading teacher, I highly suggest you listen to this podcast series!  

After listening to this series, I graciously and calmly changed the way that I was teaching reading in my classroom by switching to the Science of Reading. I had multiple conversations with my teaching partner, my principal, and our school instructional coach as I worked to make a lot of changes to my guided reading groups, which also meant that I had to change the way I was offering reading materials to my class. To me, this was urgent. We still had over half of the school year left and I was not going to waste any time getting decodable books into my students’ hands and changing the way that I was approaching literacy instruction. I'm not going to force it on anybody else. but I knew what I wanted my literacy instruction to look like, so I changed that immediately.

Number two, I make a plan for things that I want to change in the future. I already shared about my classroom library and how it's not serving my students or me right now, and how it’s sat pretty much unused since November, but I've been spending this school year strategically thinking about what I want my classroom library to look like next year.

Number three, I don't plan on spending time on school stuff this summer, unless there's a PD Day, which I get paid for.

Number four, I work hard throughout the school year to stay on top of always planning in such a way that sets future Amber and her future students up for success. I’m very disciplined and intentional about the way that I use my time at school. I'm not perfect, but I am very intentional about spending my time on things at school that are always going to help me to be and feel prepared for the next day, the next week, the next month, and the next school year. 

I hope that that gives you a little bit of insight and reason for not spending these last few weeks of school scrolling through Instagram and dreaming about sitting by the pool with a nice drink in your hand or whatever you're doing over summer vacation. There's a time to do that, but right now it's time for you to think about what you want. So whether you plan on coming in over the summer or waiting until August/September, what do you want those first few days that you come back in to set up your classroom to look and feel like? 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Jump into the Burned-In Teacher Podcast Facebook Community and tell me how you prepare for the end of the school year and the upcoming school year, and whether or not you plan to do any schoolwork over the summer.  I would love to hear your thoughts! 

Next, I want to go a little bit deeper into this conversation about how/when to start preparing for next school year because so often I hear teachers say: If I can just make it to summer, I’ll be fine and I’ll get out of burnout. This statement just breaks my heart. This “surviving until summer” mindset is working to keep you stuck in burnout. When you are just “making it” until summer, your burnout will come back come August and September. By putting that negative, scarcity-focused mindset into the universe and believing that your everyday life is something to escape from, you will be met with exactly what you expect: misery, frustration, exhaustion, etc… 

Then, the Sunday-Scaries start, and that first Sunday before school starts you're going to sleep horribly and you're going to have anxiety because that's what you experienced during your previous school year. 

I am here to help you to stop this cycle

When you feel the need to escape from your everyday reality without making changes to the things that are within your control today, you are releasing your power for anyone and anything else to take. When you do that, you're leaving the door wide open for burnout to come back, even during those few honeymoon weeks at the start of the school year, because you’ve built a habit and a belief that you only teach nine/ten months a year to escape from the misery for two months a year. 

This breeds a continuous lack of clarity about what you should be focusing on instead of how miserable you are. There is a solution. Here are a couple of steps that I want you to start thinking about not this summer, But right NOW so you can live and feel differently starting right now:


1. Get clear on who you are now. 

The first step is to get clear on who you are NOW and if you want to continue to be that person, or if you want to change who you are and how you feel, what you think about, and who you want to become. Take time to reflect on your current situation, and where you want to go:

  • What are your values? 
  • What are your strengths? 
  • What are your weaknesses? 
  • What are your goals? 
  • Do you even want to come back next year? 

I do understand that, for some of you, you live in a rural community where there are not a lot of options, and even if you wanted to leave you literally can't because perhaps you're the one who carries your insurance or there really is no other job that's close by. And maybe you have terrible Wi-Fi so getting an online job is just not in the cards for you. In that case, you need to think about how you want to feel about your current position right now.


2. Get clear on how you want to feel daily. 

The second step is you've got to get clear on how you want to feel daily. Not just on breaks. Not just on weekends. What kind of emotions do you want to experience on a daily basis? Do you want to feel energized? Do you want to feel fulfilled? Do you want to feel joyful? Are you feeling grumpy and intolerable to the point where people don't want to be around you because you're so frustrated? We all know teachers like that, but is that you? Do you want to continue to feel that way? 


3. Write down who you want to be and how you want to feel.

The third step is to write these things down! Write down who you want to be and how you want to feel. What are your goals? What are your strengths? What are your values? Write these things down and make them visible to yourself every day. Use this clarity to guide new beliefs, to guide new thoughts, to guide new actions, and the words that you use daily. Remember everything you think, believe, feel, say, and do is putting out energy into the world and into the universe, and what you put out you get back. 


Overcoming your burnout is not a sprint, it really truly is a marathon and it's going to take longer than the summer to create these new habits and these new beliefs, but you've got to take care of yourself. And this is truly the way to begin to not just avoid burnout next year, but prevent it from coming back every single year that you do this work. 

So this summer is the time for you to join Burned-In Teacher University. In this course, I lay out my entire path for you and I tell you exactly what you need to do to not just get out of burnout, but to stay out of it and how to live a happier and more fulfilled life because you guys, this is the only ONE we have. We can get new jobs down the road if we want to, but this is so much more than being happy and fulfilled in your job. I want you to be happy and fulfilled in your life.

Teaching is taxing and teaching is so hard, but you know what, so is being a mom or a dad. So is being someone who's just started this career who is single, and wants to hang out with their friends and pursue their hobbies. No matter where you are in your career or who you are outside of being a teacher, you deserve to enjoy this life that you have. And if you're not, if you have reached the point where I was, when I hit what I call my “Ollie moment”(you all know what I’m talking about if you've listened to Episode 1), and you've reached that rock bottom moment and you feel like there's nowhere to go so you just stay where you are, I want you to know that there is hope

So inside Burned-In Teacher University, you will learn the practical strategies that I guide you through, step by step, to help you to take control of your mindset, your emotions, your habits, your schedule, your goals - everything. I put it all into a step-by-step success path for you. You're also going to get that personalized coaching experience and support from me to help you stay on track if you want to come back to these lessons and modules later. 

So if you're tired of just surviving until summer and you want to start living a happier and more fulfilled life both as a teacher and whatever and whoever you are outside of being a teacher - because you are not just a teacher, you're a mom, you're a dad, you're an ant, you're an uncle, you're a friend, you're a daughter, you're a son -  then it's time for you to take your power back and avoid burnout for good. That's what I've done in my life. That is why I decided to go back to teaching in 2021 after taking three years off to do this work. I am living proof that all of the research and all of the things that I have learned through my own burnout journey, everything that I've put in a step-by-step path for you, works and I would love to see you enroll in Burned-In Teacher University this summer. 

As you know, I'm an open book, I answer my own emails and I answer my own DM, so send me an email at [email protected] If you have any questions about anything that I've said today. You can also find me on Instagram  @burnedinteacher and send me a DM and out my stories and you will see that I am living a very happy and fulfilled life as a full-time kindergarten teacher in a title one school who is facing a lot of the same challenges that you are. Now, I don't know the exact path that led you to feel the way that you're feeling and I don't know your story. I don't know your family life. I don't know if you're married with seven kids or divorced or single with no kids. I don't know what you're going through in your personal life. I don't know what you're going through in your day-to-day teaching life, but what I do know is you have way more control and power than what you believe you do. 

So go to This is the time!  We're sitting at the end of May and we have so much opportunity this summer to turn things around.  Things can look so different next year, and I want to be there for you, so let's do this together.

Whether you are ending your school year at the end of May, or maybe you’re already done (I have to go back for a few days so I'm jealous), or maybe you teach through the end of June and maybe you have to teach summer school, no matter what your story is this summer, I want things to look differently for you in the fall. And I'm here for it and I know you are too. 

So I will see you next week as we kick off the Hacking Teacher Burnout Book Summer Book Study Series and I hope to see you inside of Burned-In Teacher University.


Call to Action: Things You Can Do Tomorrow 

  • Get clear on who you are and who you want to be now. What are your strengths? What are your core values? What are your goals? 
  • Decide how you want to feel daily. 
  • Write these things down and put them in a place where you can see them daily. 


Resources Mentioned in This Episode 






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